To Toss or Not to Toss?

Last week, after cleaning out our house of thirty years, we loaded up the truck and made a visit to the Goodwill. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the long line of cars in front of me since it was January and most people begin the new year with a good purge. I also should not have been surprised that there before us lay an enormous mound of couches, dressers, desk chairs, bags of clothes and toys.  Rain had been pouring on and off for days, which soaked this expansive pile as well as the workers.

Yikes, I thought, what a mess!

My house looked like a similar mess, truth be told. The contents of every closet, every trunk, every cupboard and drawer seemed to have been upchucked into the living room with no rhyme or reason. We mulled through keepsakes and photos, children’s finger-painting and half -century of birthday cards. Which mementos should be kept for another ten years? Which should be tossed?

Suggestions ran the gamut from each of my millennial children—1) take a picture of each item and save it in the cloud so it doesn’t take up valuable real estate 2) rate each item by the joy sparked from feeling it in your hands, then only save those that rank highest 3) toss everything; nothing matters and 4) buy new trunks and make room for more!

The words of Shakespeare via the overly romantic Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow…” come to mind. But the sweet becomes bittersweet when I know I may never again even remotely remember the pieces before me. My memory is limited, after all. Indeed, that there is a word for feeling good and bad at the same time offers me relief that I am not alone (like the line at the Goodwill).

Naturally, I am well aware that this act of reflection is highly Creative because I deem myself a Creativity expert! Going through old photos and diaries connects me with my past. Reflection is the final stage in the Creative process and one that is overlooked much of the time. By connecting with our past and thus our inner realm, we are engaging Creativity, ultimately bringing depth and meaning to our daily life instead of operating on a superficial level. We learn from our reflections, too, which helps us in our self-development (and yes, I’m still self-developing in my mid-fifties). All of this Creative activity whilst cleaning up a huge mess is overwhelming.

There is an old saying that requires a hand motion. If I make a fist and hold it tightly, I cannot open my hand and receive anything new. There’s a funky play on opposites at hand (no pun intended).

Holding on and letting go mirror the idea of the word bittersweet. Married opposites.

Opposites are everywhere in art, Creativity and life! Heraclitus, the great Greek philosopher suggests “harmony consists of opposing tension like that of the bow and the lyre.” The tension between opposites seems to actuate us—even though these tug-of-wars are unseen, hidden, they often drive the world of the seen.

So, for me, I had to 1) destroy the house before I could organize it. 2) emotionally re-connect with some items before I could disconnect myself from them. 3) save some mementos via digital photography so that I could release them to the trash. 4) drive to Fillmore to buy more trunks for whatever is coming next.

The bittersweet nature of life with all of its changes is nothing new. I realize that I’m a part of something greater than that of my little daily life, as is evidenced by the myriad of people and their trunk loads full of donations. The unity of opposites is an activating force and helps me feel less overwhelmed by the mess I seemed to have made.

Incidentally, after my drop-off, I parked and then scoped the inside of the store, scoring a perfect black bookshelf for my studio. Someone else’s discard became my treasure.