By Pamela Noel
Special to Plumas News
My father used to tell me that a person spends the first third of his/her life wanting things, but doesn’t always have the means to acquire them. The second third of life is spent acquiring and “satisfying” that need. Finally, we reach the point where we want to let go of what we have acquired, purging ourselves of that accumulated weight.
I am at this purging stage of life. I think I have been here for the last decade, making a lot of noise about getting rid of things, but rarely reaching the point where I am satisfied. (Why am I still carting around those two 24-inch ceramic parrots?) There are still more things to let go.
Having much more than I need includes a basement full and a house full. If I had an attic, that would probably be full as well. All this “stuff” once had a purpose, a function. With family and the raising of children, strollers, car seats, bicycles, and other kid paraphernalia came with the territory of parenting. Then, on their own they become their own little clutter magnets, going off to school or moving out on their own. But, you can guess what happens next. They also have no room in their dorm or apartment for all they have acquired. So mom ends up with all their “stuff.” (“ But, mom, Uncle Bill built me that doll house, and I can’t move it all the way to Louisiana…and I want to save it for my kids.”)
How much do we hold on, in order to give the sentimental things or legacy to others? I would like my children to enjoy some of my things. My mother gave me her china, her cutlery, certain treasures that she acquired during her lifetime. And I have cared for them. But when I ask my children what they would like from this accumulation, they answer unanimously” “Nothing,” stating that they don’t live the kind of lives that requires china, and crystal and silver. They want nothing to do with any of it.
The Swedish have a tradition they call Death Cleaning, which starts long before death, gently and easily giving things away to those who might appreciate them, making it easier for one’s family to deal with the grieving process without all the clutter creating more of a challenge. I do not want to leave a mess for my family to clean up. And I am craving minimalism at this point in my life. My ping pong table is now groaning under the weight of my personal belongings that I would like to pass on. Even looking at the mountain of clothing, hats, and other accoutrements, I feel like I want to go deeper…throwing out more.
In addition to wanting to have things tidied up for my family, I am feeling that I will be able to travel more lightly in my own life. Taking a lot of mental energy to deal with a growing amount of material things wears me down, draining vital energy I want for living and enjoying the intangibles—friendships, visiting places I haven’t yet seen, expressing myself creatively, spending time plumbing my own depths. I can’t do this fully, if I am constantly taking inventory or trying to remember where I stored something.
Letting go of the mountains on my ping pong table are a little like emerging from the ocean depths to breathe oxygen. So, I’ll continue bringing out the hefty sacks, stuffing them full, and moving them along, in order to travel lightly, and create the space for me to more fully live.