The Things We Leave Behind

“Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.” ~Dalai Lama

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

There are better things ahead than what we leave behind, C.S. LewisOwnership is a funny thing. A person owns a home, a car, clothing and, of course, things. So many things. They continue to amass until one day it’s time to downsize and those things are suddenly liabilities that must be let go. My husband and I have arrived at this stop on our journey.

When death comes, we take nothing; every material thing we own is left to fend for itself.  I periodically say I will be buried with all my jewelry in preparation for the afterlife or, if I go first, to make the new wife dig for it. But the reality is most of our things are not moving with us and must find new homes above the ground.

Sorting through a lifetime of memories I am learning to say good-bye to the things I leave behind.

The Clutter of Feelings

The objects themselves have limited value, but memories connected to them are filled with feelings. Letting go brings each one to life again, making it hard to simply set an item aside and say “not going.”

For the past seventeen years these items have had a place in our household. Familiar and comfortable; they are my visual reminder of the home we’ve built. I’ve grown used to their presence and their place. As we take down pictures and sort through cupboards and drawers I struggle to keep my goal in sight; instead remembering how each of these items came into our lives.

A tea-light holder purchased with a small child’s allowance, a beloved stuffed lion named John from Grammy, and a handmade rocking horse from England tucked in away in the attic—all of these make up the person I became.  A wife, a mom, a business woman and a friend are just a few of the memories I hold in my hands.

The box filled with cards given to me over the years by my husband and kids is a testimony to the passing of years. The childish printing in block letters and stick figures depicting my likeness make me smile. Did I really have that many birthdays?

Sorting Through Things

I begin the bittersweet task of sorting through bins of school papers, report cards, photographs and artwork. I find a folded note written years ago by an eight-year-old for a long-ago transgression:

Dear Mom,

I am very very sorry for my attitude. I know you will never forgive me or even want me in the house.  You can take all of my toys and give them to the poor kids.  Even my skateboard and anything else you want. 

P.S.  The remote control to my TV is broken.

I select a very small plastic bin and place this and other treasured items inside and say “keep.”

Moving is An Emotional Journey

A move is the next step forward in our lives and I am finding parts of the process easier than I thought, while others are extremely difficult. At the core of our decision is the desire to do this now, so our children don’t have to.

The things we leave behind, moving, moving day, emotional journeyI am nearing the end of my business career, so parting with my work wardrobe has been very freeing. My office is casual, and business clothes have found new homes in organizations helping women get back on their feet and into the working world. I keep one suit just in case.

Kitchen and craft items have been offered up to friends and it’s comforting to know my favorite pastimes will continue in someone’s home.  It feels like I’m leaving a bit of me with them. Our kids selected things that mattered to them with the understanding that if it’s not worth space in their homes, it’s not worth space in ours.  

A phase of our lives is ending and the next one is on the horizon. Our lifestyle will be different, the climate warmer, the space smaller. Hanging on to things we no longer use is a connection to who we were then, not who we are now.  That part is hard.

All That Remains 

The cold truth of moving day is approaching.  Freshly painted walls, empty drawers and spaces where furniture used to be are my new reality. A junk and trash removal company will be here next week, along with an antique dealer to appraise items for sale.

moving boxes, moving dayWhat will remain I think, is a rainbow of emotions. Holidays, birthday celebrations, emotional breakups and high school proms have been absorbed into these walls. The joys and sorrows that filled our lives have also been felt by this nearly 200-year-old house and become part of its character.

My perennial herb garden and flowers will greet new owners as the seasons change and when the hummingbirds return in the spring I hope they use the feeder we left in the garage.

But my biggest hope is that the love we have for our home and each other will be felt by the family that comes next as they continue to add to the history and good karma that is here.

The personal memories are ours to keep; they are our history.