A LETTER TO MY FRIEND ON THE OCCASION OF LETTING GO
My dear friend,You have been working at your task for some years now. I recall the time you boxed up newspaper cuttings, greeting cards, notes from people you had helped expressing their gratitude—boxed it all up and left it to be collected the next time the city truck came through.
At the time, I wondered how you could let go of all those things. My accumulation is similar, and I’m finding it difficult to cull the items I still want to hang onto.Why, I wonder, is letting go so hard?
Did you find it so? Did you agonize over whole stacks of letters dating back thirty or forty years?Much advice is written—and re-written—in magazines, newspapers, on the Internet—but it boils down to this: “If you haven’t used it in the last _____ years, pitch it.” The only difference from writer to writer is the number of years—3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
What about something that has lasted 25 years or more? Does it now have antique value? Do I care about that?-----
You’ve given me good tips about this letting go business. Take, for example, clothing.· Each time you buy new items, get rid of the same number of old ones.
Okay, I can do that. I usually have plenty: too-small, too-large, wrong color, scratchy, too hot, too cool—easy to find the right number. Sometimes, I say proudly, I can discard/donate even more items than I just bought. How about that? And since I don’t buy trendy styles, what I remove from the closet isn’t any more attractive than what I put in its place. The big advantage in taking this advice is that I don’t have to build another closet (or room) to house an increase.Books, now—that’s a different story. I know you’re not a collector, and you take pleasure in passing on to other folks many books you’ve enjoyed. But you also keep some, because, you say, those authors pleased you and became like good friends; you look forward to rereading those stories.
So I’ve "taken a page out of your book" about books:· When my taste changes (now that I’m into my 8th decade, this is not surprising), I can recycle books by donating them to my library for their monthly sale or to the senior center where a minimal charge for used books puts a few dollars in the center’s piggy bank. If the books are mysteries, I check with my children first—they like different kinds, so I may be able to pass along something they haven’t read.
The hardest category for me is correspondence. In my younger years I wrote and wrote and wrote letters to my nearest and dearest. The Internet and email changed that, and though I still write letters, they’re usually typed to save my aging fingers. But receiving letters! What a joy! I’ve written about that before, so I won’t go into raptures again. Except to say, there’s nothing like a real letter, written/typed on paper, put in an envelope, and sent off via the USPS to arrive at my house. A cup of tea, my feet up, and I’m transported into the world of my friend or relative who sent the missive. It doesn’t get much better than that. No wonder I have trouble disposing of those good times, represented by letters and notes.-----
In thinking it over, I’ve concluded that letting go involves more than sorting, discarding, bagging it up for the trash collection next Monday.Letting go means a break in a relationship with the items from which I’m parting. For out-of-date clothing, books I no longer read, there’s no trauma. But for very personal items—reminders of who I once was, who I still am deep down, and what I meant to somebody, sometime . . . the letting go can be painful.
So I ask myself these questions: Do I need those items to remind myself of who I was? Don’t the memories attached to letters, photographs, greeting cards remain with me?-----
You’ve purged many, many things from your life. And I find you are still the same person, without all the physical baggage that you’ve shed.Thank you for letting me see how that works.
With love and appreciation for who you are,