My husband and I spent the past few weeks cleaning, organizing and purging our house.
It was an instinct that struck us both after Christmas, and so we went with it.
My theory is that if we clear our physical space of clutter, old items that no longer serve us, things we’ve held onto that are not at all beneficial to our daily lives, we clear our minds and hearts of those things too.
His theory is that the messes are driving him crazy—but we’re on the same page and that’s what counts.
Sometimes in marriage it’s the only thing that counts.
We’ve methodically gone through closets, drawers, and forgotten corners stacked with boxes full of things. You know the things—we all have them. The random assortment of items, when we put into said boxes, we were sure we could not live without.
Now a near decade later, this seems strange. How could items that could be stuffed away in boxes in forgotten corners be so important?
I did find some things that held meaning; letters from faraway friends, my flute music, poems I wrote as a kid, pictures of friends, my graduation announcements, pressed flowers from my first garden, a speech I wrote and delivered at my college commencement.
The things you find in your grandmother’s scrapbook. The kinds of things that strike a sentimental chord in the heart.
The kinds of things I can understand why my 10-years-ago self wanted to keep.
But then I found a few things that struck other chords too—these ones ring out in minor keys.
The ones whose notes bring up pain and fear and anger and regret.
I don’t want to go into sordid details, I’m not about to air all my dirty laundry here. But among those things I found:
A stuffed bear with a crying face that I still can’t look at without feeling lonely.
A poem I wrote (age 10) called “The Outside.” The last line: “Sometimes I don’t think I belong anywhere.”
Another item, an essay I wrote about a time I was fired from my job. It’s theme was centered around having compromised my personal values. And the way I paid for it, which was not in being fired, but hating myself for not trusting my gut.
Why would anyone keep those things?
What made me decide years ago, maybe even multiple times, to not let go of these things that summon bad feelings? To store them away somewhere dark and deep so they were not in my daily vision, at the same time knowing someday I would find them and face them again.
I don’t know, exactly.
But I do know this. I, having grown and aged and experienced so much more of the world now than I did at five when I stuffed that crying bear under my bed, or 10 when I felt I didn’t belong, or 28 when I was hit with the first major pain of regret, I have a better understanding of the world around me. Of others. Of myself.
I am softer, stronger, lighter and darker. More authentic and more raw. More forgiving and more mature.
Ten years ago, I put them in a box because I needed to let them go, but I was not ready. Some part of me knew the important part of these relics from the past was not the events they represented, but that one day I would be ready, and I would let go.
Today was that day. I found them, touched them, fingered the memories as a waves of old emotion swelled inside me. And then I let them go.
Go find your box. You know the one. Uncover it, rediscover it, open it up and spread its contents across the floor at your feet and feel all the things they make you feel.
Because the only thing better than relishing in a sweet memory is letting go of one that no longer serves you.
Clear your physical space of clutter, and free your heart and mind too.
Author: Cindy Jones
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: via the author