Is it Okay to Forget?

Are you the  family archivist or do you curate your own private museum of memories? Only you know what everything represents, but you can’t bring yourself to discard to things because of the meaning your mind has given to them.

You know it’s just a worse-for-the-wear ice cream spoon, the flat wooden kind you’d get when you bought the smallest tub at the ice cream counter.

Every time you see the spoon, you’re leaning over the counter again with the cute guy who’d grow up to become your husband and then your ex, choosing your favorite flavor and wondering if he’s ever going to reach out and hold your hand. Your mind has paired the spoon with the memory and the scene plays over and over again like a movie clip in your mind every time you see the spoon.

There’s a very real fear that if you throw out the ice cream spoon, you’ll forget the incident. That you just won’t think of that time without the mental jog of the wooden spoon there to bring it back.

Decluttering makes us face up to how much of our everyday life is actually spent effectively living in the past. If you’re continually wandering down memory lane as you navigate your stuff, there’s a danger that you’ll end up there permanently.

If high school was the pinnacle of your life, holding onto all those yearbooks and dessicated prom corsages is a way of keeping that feeling alive, whether you graduated last month or fifty years ago.

Your mind keeps reliving those times, prompted by those things, and it’s like you’re back in high school. Except while your mind hangs out in the past, you’re getting older in a house full of clutter, stuck and frustrated.

It’s a vicious cycle. The clutter is so debilitating, it’s easier and much more pleasant to wander back to memory lane than do something about the mess. It takes some guts to pick up that decrepit wooden spoon and challenge yourself to trust that you’ll remember that sweet first date. And to be okay with the possibility that you won’t.

Are you ready for that? Send it away Saturday awaits. You don’t have to back up a dumpster to your house, just have a look around and see if there’s something you no longer want, love or need.

If you find yourself trying to shoehorn everything you own into your sentiment box, it’s time to feel the fear and let the past stay in the past. That was a sweet date for sure, but let’s face it, he became your ex. Time to let that one go already.

Need some help getting free from the clutches of your past? Contact Joyful Surroundings LLC for compassionate, creative, and totally nonjudgmental decluttering & organizing services.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda says:

    I have two strategies that helped me. First, when we were getting ready to paint the living room, I boxed up everything and set it aside. The job took longer than expected (paneling was under the wallpaper, had to texture the walls after removing paneling) and by the time we were ready to move things back in, the attachment had lessened and I was able to give away or sell many items. Those that remain “spark joy” for me instead of guilt (over getting rid of family heirlooms). Second, I now take photos of all items that are sentimental before I part ways with them so I still have a way to jog my memory without keeping all the stuff. It’s a work in progress but every step lightens my mental load.

    1. Those are both awesome strategies Linda. Boxing things up out of view is such a great step, as long as they’re out, we keep being reminded of those memories. And photos are definitely a “lighter” way to store the memory triggers. My condolences on the unexpected panel removing project, how frustrating! Bet it looks wonderful now though 🙂

  2. Kathleen Henningsen says:

    Lucy, your writing is so poignant….My 12 year relationship broke… and I’m living in a new mountain house but still sorting out those memory hooks, as I repeatedly push the restart button on my life. Your spoon memory gives me initiative to tackle those last four boxes and three bags between walks.

    Kathleen in the aspens at 9,100’

    1. I’m so sorry the relationship broke Kathleen. LOVE the image of pushing the restart button on life, so true. When you get through those last boxes and bags, it’ll feel like a weight has lifted <3

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