Leaving Stuff Behind You

As I wake in a new house today,  a mess filled with boxes, I’m reminded of a punishment I used when my kids were little and couldn’t keep their room clean.

Once when the battle lines blurred with the war, I slipped into their room at night. While they slept, I scooped up all their stuff for them.

I remember asking my daughter when she woke if she liked walking across her floor without a mess everywhere.

She said she did, but I’ve had enough conversations with her as an adult to know she might have been afraid to tell me what she really thought. She sometimes says, “That’s not how I remember it.”

I then told her that all her toys and clothes were packed up in the garage. I wanted her to enjoy living in a clean space before I reintroduced anything. Neither would I give it all back at once, since the care and maintenance was so overwhelming. I also told her that as she remembered specific things, I’d go get them.

I reasoned that she couldn’t remember something, it had no value to her. (I must tell you that Marie Kondo did far more for my daughter in this area than I did.)

I was excited to move this spring because it had been a long time since I purged on a large scale. I had done a room or two, the homeschool closet…but not the whole house at once for more than a decade.

I started with the stuff I wanted to keep but didn’t use regularly. That went to a storage shed so we could show the house. Since we’re downsizing, the fun came after it sold.

It was strange how trips to the dump or the second hand store were painful in one direction–but on the way home I couldn’t necessarily remember what I’d taken. The same concept happened with our yard sale.

I took a picture last week of my favorite spot in our old yard.  Mr. Po is running because I called him.

What you can’t see is what he had just turned his back on.

A squirrel had been tormenting him, chirping and even throwing stuff at him. He had been having the most fun he’d ever had barking and chasing, vigilantly fighting back.  Mr. Po is kind of a jerk so I think an angry squirrel is “his people.”

He did not want to stop answering his tormentor, but when he finally relented–he ran away with abandon.

When I went to Israel last year, our tour guide told us that as the Jewish people walked in through the Western Gate they had to turn their back to the east. This was deeply symbolic (as everything pertaining to Judaism is) to turning their back on the sun: the eastern gods and sun worship.

The all-consuming things–our stuff, our tormentors, the weirdly obsessive control of sin, our favorite spots, and the eastern gods–they all fade when we physically turn our backs to them.

It’s just when we are looking directly at them that it seems impossible.

Maybe this is why The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up helped my daughter. She was the one to turn her back on her stuff instead of me making the decision.

And now I’m off to unpack boxes filled with stuff I can’t remember…

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