50 Thoughts: Simplify, Simplify … Save It

Originally published October 1, 2018

So I’m a little bit of a hoarder.

Not in an “It’s time for an intervention” sense – I am not surrounded by stacks of newspapers and travel size toiletries. I just have a hard time letting things go.

My cedar chest is full of the kids’ schoolwork. And their artwork overflows from my closet. I still have a small but respectable pile of ’80s clothes for those requisite “80s Day” celebrations the kids had at high school. But those days are over. Can I kiss the clothes goodbye? Should I? Do I have to?

I crave organization. I feel it in my bones – that ache to have everything have a place. My reaction to clutter is visceral. But at the same time, the emotional connection to a Holly Hobbie mug I have from my childhood is inexplicable. I can’t imagine a better place for it than with me. It wouldn’t even make it to the pawn shop if I donated it. I put that in a bag for Amvets and I might as well just throw it in the dump.

I can’t put Holly Hobbie in the dump.

I fear that one of these days, I will surrender to my latent OCD tendencies and actually throw everything I own into the street, with the promise only to bring back into the house the things that bring me joy. The things I really, truly need. And that then I would end up bringing everything back inside. “But I neeeeed this souvenir glass from a restaurant that I once visited 23 years ago. What if we get a lake house someday? I could use it there!”

I will never have a lake house. I think I can get rid of the glass and the mixed set of 13 mugs. Unless the kids need them for their first apartment. Yes! A reason to hang on.

What is it about the letting go? Why does the heart so often overrule the head?

The nice thing about getting older is that in some ways, you find you don’t need as much. You get the urge to simplify. You’ve come to embrace the people, places and things that you really appreciate, so it’s easier to define what means the most to you. And honestly, this time of year, I am all in on converting to the Hygge faith and wearing nothing but black and swaddling myself in magnificent scarves.

Maybe it’s easier for some people than others. I spent a childhood moving around every few years. Maybe one of the lasting effects is not wanting to get rid of anything because it may fit better at your next address. Or maybe it’s an enduring sense of tradition. Using the same advent calendar and holiday decorations, year in and year out. Saving your childhood mementos to pass on to your grandkids someday.

And of course, there are the people and things that are worth keeping. I’m all for purging third-hand acquaintances from your Facebook feed, but even if I never see my elementary school friend in person ever again, i still love seeing pictures of her and her husband and knowing she’s living her best life. And maybe that Holly Hobbie mug will stay in a drawer for the foreseeable future, but it will make a spectacular pencil holder for that granddaughter down the road.

And don’t even get me started on my books. Back away from my shelves. All mine. Forever. Because someday I will have that house with impossibly high built-in shelves that require a rolling ladder set into a brass track in the floor.

I’m not giving up on a little organization. I do crave it. I just crave connection even more. I have a feeling the universe will let me know when it’s time to let go.

Today’s recommendation: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. It’s just kind of mesmerizing.

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