For years, I kept a collection of so-called treasured possessions in a plastic trunk in the loft. ‘So-called’ because if these were really loved and admired belongings, then why weren’t they being used or displayed in my home? This was a classic case of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ With every house move (four different homes over the last 20 years), along came my tidy but bulky red and blue trunk. It was almost like I was carrying around physical representations of my childhood, teenage years and early 20’s.
This year, as part of my final push towards true independence from ‘stuff’, I cleared and emptied the trunk completely. What did I find in there? What did I do with it? How did it feel to let go?
In the trunk:
Photo albums, scrapbooks, toys, a school report book, some trinket boxes, a decorative plate, a book of Rupert Brooke poems, my undergraduate dissertation, some greetings cards… and a few other things that now I can’t even remember.
What happened to the things I had?
My soft baby toys were so dirty and worn that they went in the bin.
A decorative plate I had acquired on a trip to Canada in 1990 went to a car boot sale to support a local good cause.
A wooden lidded box that had belonged to my grandmother is now playing a useful role as a place to store chargers for our various devices. It conceals their messiness and looks good on my shelf.
A Wedgwood 1953 Coronation souvenir (another lidded container) is home for small bedside bits and pieces, such as lip balm and emery board.
The photo albums are now on the shelf with my small collection of photo albums and books.
And so on.
The point is that by unearthing these old possessions, I have been able to create more space in my home and make use of things that I owned but which were hidden from view. I truly don’t miss the things I let go, but the memories from that time persist. The reality was that I was holding onto this stuff, as though my memories were bound up in these physical artefacts. By letting go of these material goods, I am not deprived of my past because I no longer have the mementos. Rather, I am unburdened of dust-gathering, yellowing and use-less items and freed from the tyranny of being defined by what I possess, rather than who I am.