Letting go of Collections, to Make Room for What Matters

Don’t hate me, but I can’t stand collections. Multiple pieces of the same item lined on a shelf, like dusty soldiers waiting to attack, give me the heebie-jeebies. I hate clutter, in both my house, and in my mind.

I blame this hatred of collections on all the collectors I’ve known in my life.

My mom was a collector, albeit not an extreme one. Still, she owned thimbles, vases, cups and saucers, and tiny spoons from each state she visited. I wrote a story about her here.

My dad was a collector, too. In fact, his collections multiplied like evil bunnies. If there was anything to collect, my dad found it. He collected keys (here is a story about my dad), half-used paper, little nibs of crayons, and even old Pringles containers.

My dad’s brother was a collector, and so was his wife. Together, their home was piled with toys, books, stuffed animals, those weird little ceramics found at card stores and tucked in the back of thrift stores, brass elephants, and old papers and magazines they piled high in their living room, hoping to one day read. Their house, quite literally, was a hoarder’s house.

My husband was a collector, for a while. Though if you asked me what he collected, I couldn’t tell you. It seems anything, and everything, made its way into our garage, shop, and outdoor shed. Maybe he wasn’t a collector, as much as he was a non-tosser. (Thankfully, he’s changed.)

I once knew a woman who collected Beanie Babies. (Remember those?) She was obsessed, as many collectors are. She’d call every store in town until she found the Beanie Baby she thought she needed. During work one day, she spent an hour on the phone, then took off in the early morning for another hour to pick up said Beanie Baby. If the boss would have known, she would have lost her job. I wonder if it would have been worth it.

I look around my own home, which some might consider bare, and am thankful for all the collectors in my life. My home is simple and neat, and quite easy to clean. Just the way I like it.

But it makes me wonder, why do people collect? What is that makes them fill empty spaces in their homes with needless items?

For some, collecting fills a void, like mindless shopping. An emptiness that won’t go away. A hole… Click To Tweet

For others, it is boredom. Without knowing how to spend their time, they spend it shopping, collecting that which isn’t needed.

For many, it is a demonstration, to the world, and to themselves, that they are rich.

Most of us collect something, knick-knacks, dishes, shoes, clothing. I’ve even known people who have collected cars.

I have had my own set of collections in the past, like old Christmas ornaments, cookbooks, and I still own plenty of novels. Craft items once filled an entire room, paints, clay, beads, and leather goods. Hobbies once provided hours of joy, and perhaps then, they were collections that were worth my time and money. But one day, it was taken away, and I could no longer do that which I loved. That part of my life is over, and all my collections are gone, something I never regret.

Because it seems, when I let go of my collections, when I stopped buying and spending time on needless activities, I found something greater. I found Moments.

Moments walking, meditating, practicing yoga, and reading. Moments with my husband, and my family. Moments I will never forget. Moments that matter.

I can’t say collections are always bad. They can preserve memories, or provide a way for us to escape after a long day of work. Collections, for some, are dreams in the making. And if collections truly make us happy, perhaps we should keep them.

But often, collections gather dust and dirt, sit tirelessly on an old shelf in the corner, and take away time and space from what really matters.

I wonder if it’s time to let go of too many collections, to reduce our lives to the important stuff. I wonder if it’s time to stop collecting needless things, and start collecting Moments.

Do you collect? What? And why?

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Time Lost

I was the girl who spent hours of her life cleaning, sorting, and rearranging. Everything in little boxes, labeled and neatly displayed, placed back on the shelf, in the drawer, or corner of the closet, knowing I’d be pulling it out again the next season, and doing the same thing all over again.

Such mindless activities. Such wasted moments. I wish I had those hours back. But they are gone, swept beneath a rug, placed in a box, tossed in the corner of some unforeseen dump.

I look back and wonder if my time was invested wisely. I’m thinking not. Because things don’t matter. They are just possessions that one day will fade away.

I think of the time I gave up talking to a friend on the phone, playing a game with a child, watching a movie with a spouse. Hours I stayed up late, just to sort and re-sort, and sort again.

But if anything good has arrived from all the needless cleaning and caring of material possessions, it is this: I learned how precious each moment of life is.

I’ve learned that twice now. The first time was after my brain injury. Trauma does that, makes you look at life like you’d never seen it before. Makes you realize how incredibly fragile breath is.

Trauma also made me see how little I needed, and that ‘things’ are just ‘things,’ and nothing but life itself matters.

After my injury, I gave away thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff. My husband did as well. Our lives changed. We changed.

No longer do we spend endless hours cleaning a garage, or pulling junk out of one box just to put it in another. No longer do we drag containers throughout our home.

Time is measured differently now, by walks in the park, outings to the sea, sipping tea after a meal, talking to one another. Time is invested in us, not our things.

I’d like to say I’m over possessions, but truth is, I’m just one step away from being sucked in by the glitter and glitz. Tempted to purchase more than I need. Longing for something new. Wanting. And wanting. And wanting.

But then I remember how I used to be. All the hours I lost, all the time wasted. And I never want to be that girl again.

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Inspirational Quotes to Change Your Life

I love quotes, especially those found in movies where you don’t expect them. Today’s post is a list of quotes to inspire and motivate. (And probably make you want to watch a movie or two.) Enjoy.

“Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.” – The Sound of Music; One of my favorite movies. One of my favorite lines. Our world tells us we must always be busy. Busy is what makes us important. This quote reminds me it’s okay to slow down.

“The things you used to own, they now own you.” – Fight Club; Possessions take money, time, and our lives. Think about what you own, and what you really need.

“Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.” – Hitch; Still love this quote. It makes me think how important every moment of our life is. Enjoy each one.

“I figure life’s a gift, and I don’t intend on wasting it.”– Titanic;
You only have one life. Live it to the fullest.

“I guess you never know if the last time you see someone is going to be the last time you ever see someone.” – A Thousand Words;
If you haven’t seen this movie, you seriously need to. You will think twice about your words, and about life.

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?” – What a Girl Wants; Always be who you are.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole.” – It’s a Wonderful Life;
I think we forget how our life impacts so many others. Every smile, every touch, every deed, affects another being.

“When something is too hard, there is always another way.” – Finding Dory; I like the hard. It inspires me to keep going. It inspires me to look beyond the obvious, and use my imagination.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off;
I’ve never seen this movie, and don’t intend to. However, I like this quote. Life moves way too fast. Sometimes we just need to slow down and enjoy the moment.

“The past can hurt. You can either run from it, or learn from it.” – The Lion King; No doubt, we all have hurts. We can let them pull us down, or we can use them to build ourselves up. Not saying it’s easy, but sometimes life gives us hurts to teach us. And sometimes, I think it’s the very hurts that make us stronger.

“You can’t live your life for other people.” – The Notebook; It’s true. I’ve tried. You can’t dress how others want you to, have the career others choose, decorate your home, drive a car, or live a life for anyone else. You were created to be unique.

“It’s what you do right now that makes a difference.” – Black Hawk Down; Everything you do matters. I’m learning this more and more. I can waste time, or use my time well. What I do this moment can change my whole future.

Hope this finds you inspired! What movie will you be watching tonight? Any great quotes to share?

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How Letting Go of Worry Made Me Courageous, and a Survivor

I come from a line of strong women, who faced courageous battles like single parenthood, and cancer. But the biggest battle I’d ever seen fought by a woman in our family, was the one my grandma fought nearly every day of her life.

Grandma was struck with polio at the age of eleven. Even though she never had use of her legs, she managed to have a great life. She celebrated childhood (from what I’ve been told), married, raised five children, and helped raise me.

Grandma was strength and courage, resilience and grace. She could bake, cook, pull herself across a floor, and even swim the length of a pool. Her physical abilities never ceased to amaze me. But what amazed me more than her powerful arms was her ability to stay courageous in the face of danger.

One summer day, my dad took our family on a drive. We stopped at a park, and as I played on the swings, my grandma sat in the front seat of the car, door open wide, legs dangling in the sun.

A large German shepherd bounded across the grass, headed straight towards Grandma. It was too late for her to lift her legs and pull the door closed. The German shepherd was upon her, grabbing her flesh between his teeth.

I remember Grandma’s face right before that bite, how surprised she looked. Surprised, but never scared.

Grandma’s courage showed up again a few years later. While my mom and dad were out for the night, wild winds blew through our small town. Hail pounded on the roof. The sky turned green.

I clung to Grandma’s fleshy arm as she held my little brother in her lap. I began to sob. “I’m scared,” I said.

“There’s nothing to worry about. This, too, will pass.” Grandma said in a calm, even tone.

The storm increased in intensity. Winds blew harder. Branches snapped. The lights went out. Grandma picked up a pillow and handed it to me.

“Take your brother to the basement,” she said.

I knew Grandma couldn’t go with us. Her legs couldn’t carry her, and I couldn’t help. But I also knew I could never leave her alone.

I looked into her deep, dark eyes, the ones that matched my own. She was brave and strong, nothing like me. But she was everything I wanted to be. I stood up tall, and for the first time, I defied her. “I’m staying with you,” I said.

She smiled, and pulled me close. I stood next to the wheelchair, arms wrapped around her neck, my brother’s head close to her chest. She sang and told stories as the storm whipped around us. The storm damaged a lot that night, but inside, we were safe, secure, in the arms of a grandma.

Grandma passed many years ago. I was with her as she took her last breath. As her eyes closed for the very last time, they met mine, and inside, I swear she held a secret.

I’d always wondered about her secret, how she stayed so strong, how she always seemed brave, and wondered why I couldn’t be the same way. I’d never asked her, and she never told me. I think it was one of those life lessons she wanted me to learn. One day I would.

Over the years, I faced many battles. Threatened with cancer, and been the victim of a brain injury. Because of my grandma, I am here. Because of her secrets.

I looked for those secrets for a long time, tried to find strength and courage, but it wasn’t until I had a brain injury that it began to make sense.

The injury caused me to worry, more than I ever had. I used to worry about others, but after the accident, I worried about me. I worried about never getting better, and getting better but not being the same. I worried about being reinjured, about my brain failing, and pains that never went away. I worried about every little scratch and ding on my body.

One day, in the throes of worry, I realized something. Worrying wasn’t making me better. In fact, it seemed to be making me worse. Over time, I began to let go of worry.

A funny thing happened as worry went away. I became stronger. And when I got stronger, confidence arrived. With confidence came less fear, and with less fear, I found courage.

And then I got it.

Courage wasn’t about fear. Courage was about not worrying. Courage was faith. And faith was something Grandma always had.

I guess Grandma had to learn a lot about faith when she was little, when a disease removed the use of her legs. She learned to trust others when she was carried from a burning building, and learned to have faith when wheeled across a busy street. Because she had faith, she didn’t worry, and because she didn’t worry, she was strong and courageous.

Worry was pointless. It was better to be brave.

Because of my grandma, I am here today. No longer a victim, only a survivor. I have let go of worry, and I can tell you, it has truly let go of me.

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The Uncomfortable Side of Minimalism

Minimalism can be uncomfortable, especially at first. It isn’t easy letting go of stuff you love, like a special dress worn to a wedding, or a framed photo that once graced a wall.

I’ve had many uncomfortable moments since I started exploring minimalism. Like the day I decided to sort through my children’s old cards.

I pulled out the suitcase stuffed beneath the guest room bed. Piles of cards, tied together in silk ribbons, were placed inside. In another little box were necklaces, pins, and magnets, created and glued by little hands.

I hadn’t seen these items in years, and had, in fact, forgotten I had them. That day as I sifted through the cards, I got a funny kind of twinge in my stomach, that combination of guilt, nostalgia, and letting go, the kind of twinge only a parent understands.

Papers with scribblings and misspelled words, pictures of a child’s interpretation of what a mom and dad look like. Tiny wooden magnets colored with crayon. Plastic beaded necklaces on a string. Memories of childhood, of little ones now grown.

I sifted through the cards, one by one reminded of when my children were little. I couldn’t throw them away, at least not all of them. A few cards were dropped in the recycling bin, the rest placed back in the suitcase. I cried. What if my memories disappeared with the cards? But that’s not what happened.

Memories flooded back, one after another, and not one of them was related to the stuff inside that suitcase. I remembered Christmas programs, a shy boy in front of a microphone; I recalled a son with grasshoppers in his backpack, and how he proudly displayed them to me when he got home from school; camping trips, and tiny feet learning to walk; memories I thought were long gone.

A month later, a few more cards were placed in the bin. And once again, tears were shed. But like before, memories came tumbling back.

The more I let go, the stronger my memories became. It’s as if they’d been stuffed inside a suitcase. I guess I’d relied on my stuff to create my memories, when truth is, my memories were inside in me all along.

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