Do you have a collection of items that you've thought of getting rid of but just can't bring yourself to do it? From old books to trinkets to photographs, many of us have certain belongings that seem much too personal and sentimental to part with. In our book about embracing the joy of less, Louisa Rogers describes how she was able to let go of some things that she once considered very much a part of her. In her story "Farewell to My Diaries," she shares:
I received my first diary when I was 9. It was pink and pocket-size, with a gold latch and key. I started writing in it right away.
Fifty years later, I still keep a journal. On its lined pages I plan, dream, storm and mull. Journaling has been my partner all my life.
Over the years I amassed cartons and cartons of journals that I schlepped from town to town, state to state, and country to country. The journals are the record of my life. They're "me."
Once in a while, I would think of the dusty cartons taking up more and more space in one basement after another. Then I would imagine them gone, and a sense of freedom and weightlessness would come over me. I mentioned this to my sister, who has planted herself deep in the same plot of North Carolina soil for 35 years. "But you can't throw your journals away!" said Jane. "You can't! I'll store them for you!"
"What, ship them all to you?" I said, idly wondering which would be cheaper -- USPS, UPS or FedEx. Any way I did it, sending them all the way from California would be an expensive embarrassment.
Keeping a journal is one thing; revisiting it is another. On the rare occasion when I descend into the cave of an old journal, I usually surface feeling morose, relieved to be back in the sunlight. All that drama! All that venting! True, every 30 pages or so I'll come upon an absolute pearl, and I'll think, "Gosh, I was brilliant!" But then, along with that comes, "But where did that brilliance go? How come I keep forgetting?"
I debated for years (all the while accumulating yet more journals) whether I should let them go. Always, I hesitated. I respect the value of documentation. Where would history be without records? And who knows, maybe 100 years from now someone might come upon my journals and read with rapt interest what life was like in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, just as we read diaries of the pioneers, or Civil War memoirs.
Plus, who would I be without my journals? On the other hand, letting go of them might set me free.
Back and forth I went. In one stage I tore out random pages from old journals and collaged them. But that only took care of a few pages.
Finally, somehow, I decided: For now, I'd keep all the journals up to age 30, and out of the rest, pick 15 to let go.
I gave my husband the 15 journals, with the agreement that if within two months I had not asked for them he would "release" them (the phrase "throw away" made me wince). Out of respect for my earlier self, I tore out random pages and collaged them into my art journal. So who-I-was-then is grafted into my current life.
I never did ask him for the journals. I forgot all about them. So they have met their maker. Fifteen journals lighter, 15 pounds lighter. Now I only have another 60 or so to go ...