Every morning when I open wake up, I'm greeted by the sound of birds chirping or the garbage truck rolling down our street...and by the view of A Lot of Stuff.
Like most well-loved and lived-in homes, my parents have accumulated their share of things over the years. Not all of them have technicolor memories attached to them; some just hid in plain sight for a decade while we all forgot they were there.
During my stay, I offered to go through their (our) stuff. What I've found so far has been surprising.
1) Stuff? What stuff?
The longer something sits in one place, the more we become accustomed to it. Like this little ugly Santa.
My mom hung it on a sconce in the dining room more than 10 years ago. Christmases have come and gone, and the little ugly Santa has stayed. When someone new visited I would laugh about it being there though I never thought to remove it.
Then I found myself on a tear through the dining room the other day, tossing out anything that wasn't nailed down. When I was done I looked around feeling accomplished.
As I was about to carry out the last bag to the recycling bin, the ornament caught my eye. I had almost forgotten it, again.
It wasn't until I took Santa down from his perch that I saw how truly ugly he is. I don't know if I'd ever really looked at him before.
And yet he's been here seemingly forever. A fixture, though not a particularly welcome one. I plan to gift him to an unsuspecting friend. A random treasure from the Ostrofsky Vault.
It also makes me think about what gets left around in our homes, or our lives, just because it's always been there.
Not because it's useful or we like it or we even remember that it's there.
Maybe it's time to see what's really here and do something about it.
2) One man's trash...
One of the best moments so far was when I found a small bag filled with coins, screws, spongy ear plugs, and individual toothpicks wrapped in plastic.
Clearly the contents of my dad's desk drawer at work. If it also had wads of used napkins, the set would have been complete.
My first thought was to sift out the change and throw the rest away. Easy.
When he saw the bag, however, his eyes lit up.
"I've been looking for this!" he said. "These are my favorite toothpicks!"
The way he looked into the bag and then at me was eerily reminiscent of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.
A moment later, the bag was gone. Squirreled away no doubt to a safe place where my purging hands couldn't reach.
3) A little help from a friend
Cleaning this house has made me notice how others handle letting go.
And then there was the story shared by my good friend Robin about her wedding dress.
It sat in the trunk of her car for months after her divorce and subsequent move. Perfectly preserved in the box from the dry cleaner.
She couldn't bring herself to figure out what to do with it, so she just kept driving it around.
Until one night, a friend she was visiting walked over to the car and took it out of the trunk.
"I'll take care of it," she said. Then it was gone.
Robin doesn't know what happened to the dress and it doesn't matter to her. She's happily remarried now, maybe because the dress is gone or maybe because she let go of other things in order to let in something wonderful.
Emotional connections can create an unending loop of memories, guilt, regret...and paralysis.
When that happens, it helps to have someone else do the letting go for you.
A lesson I may need for my wedding dress hiding in the back of a closet here.
What have you learned about letting go?
I will have more stories to share, and I would love to hear yours too. Please share them.
PS: Every few days I post a photo from my purging on Instagram. If you want your very own treasure from the Ostrofsky Vault, let me know!