Joanne and I are preparing to go on a mission for our Church; so, we are attempting to de-clutterize our lives, mostly by selling or getting rid of most everything we have, except those things that we deem precious to us and what we might need when we return. This past week, our daughter, Anna Rose, drove from Provo to stay with us for a week to help us with some of the sorting—thankfully. She is truly a great motivator.
When you have lived as long as we have, you tend to collect things that have more value in your own eyes than in the eyes of others. As we sorted through various items, we had to determine whether we would sell, keep, or throw away. Amazingly, we didn’t want to give away or sell much. Our major comment was this: “We bought this in 1980, and it has been with us for a very long time, and it means so much to us.” Enter Anna Rose. She was persistent, actually a bulldog about de-cluttering. We labeled boxes:” to give away, to keep, to one of the girls, and to toss.” Anna Rose’s mantra was this: “If you haven’t used it in a couple of years, why do you need it?”
Well, there are just some things you keep, even though you don’t use it. For example, what about my very first computer: a Kaypro 10 with the first hard drive with 10MB of memory that still works? And what about all of my dissertation stuff carefully stowed away in boxes? Yes, my dissertation has been published. I have earned my doctorate. The data are out of date. And the research may be old and outdated although some of the articles could be used in future papers. Perhaps.
The other challenge with going through things hinges on reliving some of our experiences. That’s the problem with me and some of the “papers” that I encounter. I have to re-read them to remember what I wrote about. Instead of just throwing them away, I have to go back in time and remember what I was doing when I wrote something and the feelings attached to it. Consequently, the process of sorting becomes, unfortunately, a process of defying nostalgia and trying to disconnect yourself from it while simultaneously retaining some of the vitality you felt when you first wrote it. There is something about that first empowerment from writing, don’t you think?
Our youngest daughter was quite funny when she received her boxes full of goodies. There is tendency among some young people to leave all of their stuff at their parents’ home forever or until they need it, which is usually never. So, it sits in closets and beneath the stairwell, tucked away quietly and never giving anyone problems until it has to be moved to a different place, which, in our case, has happened several times. Well, we boxed most of it up and sent it home to her with her older sister. When she talked to her mother this evening, we asked her if she had received her boxes. She said yes, but she also lamented: “You are erasing my memory from your house.”
We tried to assuage that thought process. We don’t think we are erasing anyone’s memory; rather, we are merely cleaning out stuff that we don’t need and giving back the stuff that belongs to them. Surely they can keep it stowed away someplace until they need it. Seriously, who could erase the memories that we have of our daughters when they lived with us?
For the first twenty-eight years of lives, we thought about nothing except our daughters, when they were actually going to arrive from Heaven; their lives; their grades and teachers; what their friends were going to be like (thankfully, they have incredible friends); their challenges; their T-ball games; their on and off dirty-clean rooms; how we were going to get them to all of their games, plays, speech tournaments, etc., etc., etc.
I have journal pages full of these memories, etched indelibly in ink and in 11 pitch type. Some of them still bring tears to my eyes, no matter how many times I read them. Once you write something with that kind of emotion, the pages tend to store it until it is read again. Then, that same emotion erupts through the words and the memories, only to bushwhack you once again with tears of joy and sorrow, often simultaneously. Joanne and I have said over and over that we would love to have our girls return to live with us because they were wonderful—and they still are and ever will be.
So, as we dejunk our home, we are actually entering into a new phase of our lives, one that we really don’t know what it might bring. We know this, though: We will be serving the Lord some place and in some wonderful capacity. Elder L. Tom Perry said this evening during the Church Education System (CES) broadcast that one of the four ways of returning to Christian faith is to engage in daily acts of service. I agree with Elder Perry and the great King Benjamin: “When you are in the service of your fellowman, you are only in the service of your God.”
Thus, instead of erasing memories, we are going to be creating more memories that we will cherish for an eternity. By the way, we still have more junk, lying quiet beneath the stairs.