This week I achieved something that has heretofore eluded me: I threw out mementos that have followed me around for a lifetime.
Gone are the scrapbooks started in nursery school.
Gone are the letters from Girl Scout Camp.
Gone are (most of) the illustrated stories I wrote, scrawled in pencil by a child’s hand.
Gone are the diaries of junior high, high school, and college.
Gone are the angst-filled poems of my teenage years and letters of love and suffering (some exchanged with boys I can’t remember in the least)
Gone are the stuffed animals, the dolls, the miniature toys, the board games, the souvenirs, the bangles and bobbles, the trinkets, the treasures.
A moment of nostalgia, and then gone.
My life is passing before my eyes in the Great House Clearing Out. Every paper, every memento, every gift, every tchotchke, every household item, every toiletry — every last thing must be touched and evaluated. Does it come along in the move or does it finish its life now? It is Judgment Day for the stuff of memories and life’s stories.
I’ve written about my battle with belongings many a time before, about clutter and cleaning out, about my desire to hold on and my resistance to letting go. I’ve mentioned clutter in 38 posts, yet it remained in my home, a stubborn landscape laying claim to space and emotional energy. Yet suddenly all is changing, and I am filling up bin after bin with refuse. How did this happen? How did I become able to release the accumulations so deeply connected to family, friends, and fables?
It’s easy to point to my pending move to a new home as the impetus for this clearing out. After all, what better chance is there for reducing one’s belongings than being required to pack up everything and transfer it to a new location? But the move, while important, does not tell the whole story. Of course I want a more tranquil physical space, but my new-found ability to let go of endless stuff comes as much from internal change as the external opportunity.
Prior to my transitional period this summer, I found myself (re)discovering patterns of thinking and acting that were sadly familiar and unquestionably detrimental to my daily satisfaction. Recurring themes are not new for me, but I was startled by how unnecessary and silly the old patterns seemed. “What on earth is this about?” I wondered. Then, in a fleeting moment that was a mix of frustration and lucidity, I thought, “This seems so vestigial. This feels like a vestigial organ.”
Thus began an exploration of my vestigial skin: what remains as a remnant of the past, long beyond its original purpose or necessity but still existing within. I understood that my need — and my desire — was to step out of my vestigial skin. The ensuing story, the story of stepping out of my psychological vestigial skin, helped me see the external vestigial all around me. Finally I am releasing the houseful of vestigial keepsakes (and junk) I have been lugging around for a lifetime.
Vestigial skin has become something of a passion for me! More to come in future posts.
Questions for Reflection: Are you a “saver” or a “releaser”? What does it mean to you to let go of things associated with the past? Do you have any old, recurring patterns that feel vestigial to you?
Writing Prompts: “The mementos of the past that are most important to me are ______” (then keep writing); “I know that I tend to hold on when it comes to _____, which is a problem for me because ______” (then keep writing); “It would give me a sense of freedom to let go of ______” (then keep writing); “When I read about vestigial skin, I immediately begin thinking about ______” (then keep writing).