Not everything can be important, and not always,” I said. “That would be awful.” ~ Pascal Mercier Night Train to Lisbon
We started our married life in an 800 square foot cottage with three kids. We were going to build a larger home, but we built a larger family instead and then we were too busy to think about building a house.
The gift of that time together was that it completely changed our relationship to “stuff.” My rule was that it had to have a place. If it did not have a place, something had to go to give it a place. We have all heard something similar but I understand now why it was so important. It wasn’t lack of space for stuff, it was out of respect for the stuff we say is important enough to have in our lives.
A few “springs” ago, we sold almost everything we owned in our preparations to wander the world for a while. We displayed it all nicely and people came and left and all the stuff went with them.
I was stunned at my lack of attachment to things that had so many memories attached: the chair where we rocked our children to sleep, the collectible dishes that marked their births, the china we received as wedding gifts that symbolized our right of passage into adulthood.
As I told stories to strangers who were leaving with our stuff, I felt lighter. I know that it was not the chair that rocked my babies, it was me, and the dishes did not commemorate their births or our wedding but it was the people who gave them to us. All of these stories made me feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for where we have been and the people and experiences that are giving us the courage to go where we have not been before.
The “stuff” we choose to surround ourselves with deserves a place:
- If you care enough about something to put it away carefully, when you take it out again, you see it in a new light. Your appreciation for what you intentionally keep will be enhanced exponentially more than if it lived on the floor or slung over the end of the bed year-round.
- When it becomes a burden to re-wrap breakables every holiday season, or to put the summer clothes in the attic, listen to that voice that says they don’t have a place in your experience anymore. Give thanks for the memories the “stuff” helped you create and pass it on.
- It is when we keep too many things unintentionally that they lose their significance and their splendor. Putting things away, even if it is the dishes in the cupboard, makes them shine the next morning when we are ready for coffee.
- It is not about the stuff, it is about home, and the things that we surround ourselves with that make us feel loved. Our definition of home is not static, even if we stay in one place, so our stuff needs to keep flowing as well, or there is a sense of misalignment.
As you approach spring cleaning this year, think of it in terms of clearing what no longer serves you and curating treasures with greater intention and purpose. This is your time to be the curator of your collection. If you don’t winnow through the memories and experiences, you are in a sense saying, “just put whatever you want in the display, I don’t really care.” But you do care.
What you surround yourself with not only reflects the past but communicates your thoughts about your envisioned future. Take this time to sort, clean, frame, and line with velvet, each pedestal that holds a moment worth savoring from this wonderful life.