Too Much Stuff!


Attachment = connection

From their hands to ours: it's why we wear our mother's jewelry and use our father's key chain, putter, and lucky hat.  We play lottery numbers using loved ones' ages or birthdates.  I have my mother's license in my wallet.  Why, you ask?  I don't have a good answer.

In my experience, some of my attachment came from the family legends and folklore surrounding certain objects.  I was told we don't use the china that came with my great-great-grandmother from Ireland because it is "too precious and may break."  There was furniture that didn't get used for similar reasons.  We hold onto these items because they embody memories.  They're physical, tangible pieces we can see, touch, and know because others who have seen, touched, and known these objects, are no longer here. 

The attachment spectrum

Our experience with attachment varies from very attached to not at all.

Members of the same family can see this issue of "holding on" very differently.  I've seen what I consider family "treasures," baby books, family photos, letters from those gone... all thrown away. Part of me seems to disappear with the relinquishment of these things, or so it seems. 

After the loss of my mother at age 77, I was cleaning out her home.  I fell apart at one point in the process and heard myself yelling, "I can't throw one more thing of my mother's life into a trash bag!"  It was cause for thought.  On one level, it made complete sense, and then again, it was mysterious. 

Many of our clients and their families face "downsizing" as part of the aging process and relocation.  Leaving a family home, where everything is neatly stuffed (oops, I mean packed) into eves and crawl spaces, not accessible, but we could get to it if we needed to… yikes.  Whether moving to an assisted living, smaller home, or going to live with a family member, some stuff HAS to go. 

If we take a minute to examine our attachment, what is it?

My money is on the Kentucky Derby entrant, Cyberknife.  Parting from these "treasures" feels like a knife, like separation from what is sacred.  Is there a gentler process than "just toss it" so we can declutter in body, mind, and spirit? 

I've successfully worked with various organizing professionals around office management of "collectibles," but files and charts don't hold the same grip.  A Nurse Case Manager who works with me at Aberdeen, Kerry Wynne RN & Certified Wellness Practitioner, suggested that there is indeed a "kinder gentler" way to approach this.

Most of us, according to Kerry, don't hang onto things because we want to. Instead, we hang onto things because we feel we need to; that there is some invisible value to objects that sit in boxes or storage units, and we are safer knowing we have access to these items.  It's a bit of "magical thinking," and we take comfort from it...until we don't. 

Consider this method when it's clear we can't hang on to all of it.

Emotional fragility is further complicated by not allowing "choices" when it comes to separation from "things."  Ask yourself: 

  • What do we need and want?
  • Do these objects support my life?
  • Do they have a function?

Feeling pushed to do the cleanout and the black and white choice of keep or toss can feel like being on a ski slope covered in ice—it's hard to know what direction to go and feels out of control. What if, instead, we evaluated items following a three-tier system?

  1. 1.      I have to have it.  Ok, it stays.
  2. 2.      I don't need or want that. Ok, it goes.  Where?  Family, donation, sale, but it goes. 
  3. 3.      I'm not sure—all shades of grey.  Dependent on time and circumstances, you could delay final decisions.  If you don't have that luxury, you may need help. 

There is great strength in the "permission" to part with possessions by someone who understands the conflict of the relinquishment.  Storage options are readily available but setting realistic goals for making the final decision and not just relocating the conflict is the key. 

Taking photos of items we are letting go of (kids' school/artwork, family documents, trophies, and awards) can be an aloe on the wound.  We capture what we need and want: the memory.  We don't need the actual object to evoke the emotion we seek to preserve.  We are not the archives, and we don't need to be.

There are many creative ways to honor these objects with special meaning without putting them in another box.  Moving them home to home might not be in anyone's best interest.   Wish me luck. I'm bad at this.  I'll let you know if my own medicine works. 

aberdeen, the kentucky derby, kerry wynne, philosophy of love, evolutionary psychology