Back in 2008, my grandparents had moved into an assisted living home. Someone needed to go through their small, rambler home and put on an estate sale. I think it was too painful for my aunt to go through her childhood home, so I offered to do it. My grandparent’s home had always been the one place that actually felt like a home to me. I moved around a lot as a kid and the one constant I had was that tiny little rambler. Just like when I was a kid I loved digging through my grandma’s drawers. It felt like a treasure hunt. That’s why I was kind of excited to be the one to go through everything. I couldn’t help but wonder what treasures had been hidden there for 50 or so years.
1 month of decluttering
In the span of a month I sorted through nearly 50 years of memories, keepsakes, and accumulation. I slapped price stickers on each item and held an estate sale.
Let me tell you, this is something that requires a certain amount of detachment, a little bit of awe, and a big awareness for the bigger picture.
I loved looking through old trunks, finding vintage programs for football games, black and white photos my grandfather took during the Korean War, my aunt’s hand-made clothing from the 60’s and even my favorite pair of high heels.
My grandma always let me wear her high heels.
Just like that, it was gone.
Within 30 days (or so) the entire contents of my grandparent’s home was gone. Wiped clean. Like none of it ever existed.
The walls were given fresh coats of paint and soon a new family began their life there.
Fifty years of accumulation gone in 1 month and let me tell you, while this was a very surreal feeling…I have still never spent a single moment missing any of the stuff and I’ll tell you why…
It was never about the stuff.
The memories that were held within those walls would have happened whether or not those vintage magazines stayed stored in the basement.
My grandparents would still mourn the loss of their son, my dad, whether they held onto his Boy Scout uniform or not.
I will forever cherish bringing my grandma fresh daisies in the kitchen, even though the vase she put them in is no longer there.
So often we trick ourselves into believing that the things are the valuable items, but really, they’re not.
You see, even if the house never became empty. Even if each item remained in it’s proper place…we would still fin find ourselves longing.
Longing for something more than any item could offer.
Even in a full house, I think we all know, what truly fills a place is presence. Presence of the people. The love. The laughter.
It was never the kitchen table that brought us together. We would have gathered anyway.
It wasn’t the couch that brought closeness and cuddles. We would have snuggled anyway.
It wasn’t the old clothes and photographs that help us remember those we’ve lost. We will cherish their memory anyway.
What that one month showed me was what it was like to stand in a house filled with 50 years worth of stuff and still feel alone. The presence was gone.
So today, as you get ready for the week ahead let me encourage you to live with presence.
Instead of browsing Amazon when you’re feeling less than, try finding laughter with someone you love instead.
Let new trends pass you by.
Let little messes happen without stress.
Let go of your desire to have all the right “stuff.”
A well lived life is never about the stuff.