When we moved two years after Jeff died, I was forced to go through many of his things. At first, it truly saddened me. I stared at the mass of accumulated items that he had kept for sentimental reasons....sometimes I scratched my head. Sometimes I cried. Often times, I was furious. Why the hell did he keep this collection of bottle caps and an assortment of baseball caps from seemingly every godforsaken place he had ever visited. I was appalled by the amount of "life dandruff" he had accrued that had no meaning to anyone who would be left behind. This "stuff" certainly wouldn't have told a stranger anything interesting about Jeff aside from the fact that he liked hockey and drank a lot of beer. I told myself that he was a bit of a pack-rat and that I would never have so much "junk".
Last week a friend of mine dropped off a trunk of mine that had been stored in her basement since a move five years ago. We hadn't been able to fit it on the moving truck or in our little house (I can't totally remember why now) and had planned to retrieve it soon-ish. Life has gone on. Our son, Briar, was born. We have since moved twice. Jeff died. The trunk was essentially forgotten.
When my wonderful and funny friend dropped off the trunk, I was at work. She left a note saying, "Jeff was not the pack-rat. You were!" I scoffed thinking, "All the stuff in that trunk is IMPORTANT! She just doesn't know...." But then I took a look inside. Sweet love of all that is good and holy. I was a pack-rat. A bad one.
That night, I removed every item from that trunk. Sorted every letter, toy, item of clothing, and set of seagull wings (yes, sea gull wings. I don't get it either). What I found was a realization that not only had I changed over the years since Jeff's death but that my ideas of importance and sentimental significance have changed dramatically.
Since cursing and sorting Jeff's stuff and realizing that much of the "stuff" has no relevance to who he was and his journey as a person....at least from a separate person's eyes, I realize that the majority of items I have retained over the years will have absolutely no significance to anyone after I die. It will be a pain in the heart and the ass to my family, children and friends to have to sort one-eyed dolls and broken clocks when I die. But the old journals and handwritten letters from friends were interesting and certainly chronicled my life and my being.
From now on, I will turf anything unimportant. A few letters, many photos and special cards can stay. Drawings from the kids and one or two special items can stay. But everything broken, unused, or forgotten for sometime will be sent to the secondhand store or the dump. I now know that just as Jeff left everything behind, I will as well. The detritus from his life is just stuff. And mine is too.
This week, I have let go of about 75% of the stuff in that trunk. And I feel better. Lighter. And more aware of what I will leave behind and the snapshot of the person it leaves.