LETTING GO OF STUFF
by Raniele Jago
I was raised as an Army Brat. Moving from place to place every three years. My roots were not in the ground but firmly planted in my immediate family. My sister, brother and I didn’t have the friends that we grew up with since first grade—we were our own best friends—still are. We could move from one side of the world to the other and adapt without problem simply because we had each other. I wouldn’t change that for anything.
But I now know there was a price. We formed a bubble around our family that was as impenetratable as the Berlin wall that we visited in 1984. To this day, I can say good bye to people in my life and be ok with the knowledge that I may never see them again. To this day, I get a bit anxious about being in one place or situation for more than 3 years. After 3 years, something must change.
My family hasn’t lived that life since my dad retired in 1990. I now know that there were other things going on inside my family bubble: a sense of loss that was never articulated or maybe not even understood and we learned to fill that empty space with stuff.
We have a hard time of letting go of physical stuff. Relationships—easy to say goodbye but stuff—not so much.
My father died on March 17th. He and his wife rented a house from me for ten years. When my father died, my daughter and I reclaimed our house and became the benefactors of my father’s stuff. I have spent, and am continuing to spend, countless hours unearthing my basement. I haven’t even gotten to the garage yet! In my basement I have found multiple VCRs, TVs, WebTVs, computer components—anyone need a Commadore 64 or an original Atari from the 80’s? My father seemingly kept every lottery ticket he ever played. There were bags and bags of them—pounds of them! Why? 1979 AMC Spirit, miscellaneous car parts, shoes, cigarette UPC codes, bills and papers from last century and all the furniture from my family living room 3 decades ago. I am sure that my father saw value in all of these things. And he also had the philosophy that, “if it still works, why get rid of it?”
My father left all of this stuff for me to deal with. It is causing mental and financial stress in my life. I have given lots of this stuff to others…donated it to charity or simply thrown it away. Things my father spent years and years to accumulate, I have discarded without a lot of thought. I imagine that a lot of what we think is important to hold on to may not be of much value in our lives.
I have learned over the years that the stuff that clouds our ability to love and live freely isn’t always physical stuff. They are often things that clutter our hearts and our minds. When you have non-value added stuff filling your mind and holding on tightly to stuff, it makes it that much harder to be open to the really important things that feed your spirit.
Now, when I decide to keep anything in any personal space of mine, heart, head or living room, I have to ask myself, “Who will have to clean this up stuff when I cannot.”