Monday, October 09, 2006

The Stages of Letting Go

This is to all you fellow downsizers: It gets easier.

When we first started downsizing two years ago, our first task was to go through all our hundreds of books. They took up a whole room in the attic of this Victorian, and we knew our new smaller house would not have space for them. My first blog post ever was about the angst of having to get rid of our precious books.

The first part of choosing which books to purge was not as difficult as I thought. I could easily see several books that were out of date for the subject, or books in which my interest had waned. Those I weeded out quickly without remorse. Apathy was the theme of the day.

The second round of elimination was harder. The easy decisions had been made, and now we were down to the group of books that we might have liked to have kept, but knew we wouldn't have room for. The books in this category were the "might" books. "I might read this again one day..." I auditioned each book, just like a game show contestant. Each book had an opportunity to present its case to me. I tried to be fair, but I agonized over letting go. We ended up selling some and giving away even more, but each one was a piece of us that we couldn't take with us. The only way I could get through the whole paring down situation was to consider the fact that we are only caretakers, not owners, of things in this world, that we had had possession of these books long enough, and it was time to relinquish them to others who will also enjoy them. It was difficult, but doable.

Today was the third round of elimination. Now, think about it. This is the group of books that have made through the first two rounds. They are the creme de la creme. Did I waver? Did I stall? Did I approach the boxes with trepidation? Surprise! I was ruthless! "You're all winners," I said, surveying what could have been a group of pageant contestants. "But, alas, some of you are moving on to the yard sale. Thank you for your service. Goodbye."

Then I tossed. And tossed. And tossed some more. I did not weep - I actually relished the cleanout. For you see, the ensuing two years since the initial decision to downsize have changed me. In that time, I have learned to let go. I have learned more of what my priorities are. I have learned the value of things replaceable and things irreplaceable. I have learned what "cherish" really means. I have learned how not to keep things just out of habit or convenience. I have learned not to buy something just because "I want it."

I still can't complain. Even with the number of yard sale items growing every day, I still am keeping a lot of books - Lincoln books, Agatha Christie books, books that were given to me as gifts by people I love - so I really feel I'm not sacrificing that much. I'm just weeding the garden so that the true flowers can grow and be appreciated.

Of course, after I gave an emotional speech to Ed about what I've learned about simplicity in the last couple of years, he just grinned. "Nah," he said. "It's because you finally realized how little our new house will be!" OK, that too.

As time grows nearer to hand over the keys, I will soon be facing the greatest obstacle to my emotional stability - the turning over of the house itself. I fear the books pale in comparison.

1 comment:

RJB said...

And I thought was hard enough for me to throw away the roller skates I bought with my own money 15 years ago!