Cleaning Out the Rooms
“I’ll wake up in a new life, ship shape and shoe shine”
On the last day of holiday break, my wife wanted to spend some time cleaning out the attic. I suggested having the whole family participate. What transpired ended up being some surprisingly excellent family bonding time. We went through lots of our old belongings and made decisions about what to keep, throw away, and donate. Each belonging had a memory or a story attached to it; whether it was a wedding dress, baby clothes, Christmas ornaments, an outfit, or some random piece of paper from college. As we went through our old stuff, my wife and I got the chance to relive bits of our lives and tell our kids a little bit about who we were before they came along. The outcome of the activity wasn’t just an attic with less stuff in it; it was a stronger bond between us that you can’t get from sitting on the couch and watching a movie.
In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo talks about throwing all of your worldly possessions in a pile and only retaining the ones that spark joy (everything else gets thrown out). It’s been a very long time since I read the book, but remember being initially struck by how long it was. If her main idea was just to throw everything in the middle of the floor periodically and get rid of stuff, why did she need 100+ pages to explain it? I remember her spending a lot of those pages reflecting on her own experiences tidying up her stuff, so that the reader could have some insight into what they may experience when they tidied up their own lives. I think she talked about memories and how those memories attach themselves to possessions; but that the two don’t really have to be attached. Yes, physical things help us recall specific times in our lives or experiences. But I didn’t need to see my wife’s wedding dress in the attic to be reminded of our wedding day. And I didn’t need to see some random winery flier from Napa Valley to remember our trip there.
When we tell the story of our lives — whether it’s through storytelling or rummaging through boxes of our old belongings — it’s inevitably a story of change. It’s a window into who we used to be. We can remember so many details about our lives that haven’t been top of mind for a long time. We’re able to glimpse who we once were.
Sea Power — “Cleaning Out the Rooms”
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