Several years ago, sitting at the kitchen counter with my dad, I asked him if some of my childhood books were still at our house. I had moved out to live with my mom when I was 18, and he had moved in with his girlfriend a short time later. I never gave a second thought to all the stuff I had left behind because I assumed it would always be there. When dad decided to rent the house, he put everything in bags on our back porch and shut the door. As time wore on, the back porch, which was neglected by all of us, gave way to leaks and started falling in on itself. When I asked my question that day at the counter, he seemed surprised and said, “No, kid. Most of that stuff was damaged by the weather when we moved it on the porch. We burned it all.” I was only slightly disappointed. It would have been fun to go through it as an adult, but by burning it all, he released me from the burden of holding on to things for their sentimental value. There wasn’t anything for me to get upset over because I didn’t even know what the burn pile included. It was all stuff I’d left behind anyway, which meant I could live without it.
I’ve been thinking about this because we’ve spent the past week packing up the house, and I can’t help but wonder how two people can accumulate so much crap. And I can’t get over how difficult it is to willingly get rid of something that has sentimental value—which means we don’t get rid of it—which means we’re packing it all in boxes and taking it with us—which means we have a shit load of boxes with a shit load of stuff that we probably wouldn’t know was gone if some neutral party came in and put it on the burn pile. God knows it would be easier than the tedium of sorting through stuff I haven’t looked at in eight years, and then deciding I can’t possibly part with it (granted, I’d forgotten all about it until now). Of course, there are the unexpected delights of coming across cards my grandmother sent me—she and I used to write cards to each other all the time. And when I read them, I can hear her. And if I can hear her when I read the cards, I’m keeping the cards. But, the truth is, I have nearly every card I was ever given since I was eight-years-old. If you’ve sent me a card, I probably still have it. I may not know where it is because my organization skills are worthless, but it’s in a box somewhere. And the only way I’m parting with them is if someone comes in and burns them without my knowledge (and the fact that they are in a box I can’t pinpoint means I may as well not have them at all…except for the delight that comes when I stumble across them).
I’m a little cranky from all the packing and learning that DS and I are pack rats (he has newspaper clips going back 20 years! From his first job!). So much stuff I’d forgotten about, and don’t really need, and haven’t looked at for years, but I pack it anyway.