Do you often wonder what kinds of things you should keep (for those who come next) and what kinds of things you should donate/clear out of your life? April (my mom) and I had a great discussion together, and we identified 3 important questions to consider as we approach this topic:
1) What do I want to say with my life?
We both feel that above all of the physical items and “stuff” in our lives, the most important aspects of life are the relationships that we created, people we loved, service given, and time spent creating beautiful memories.
There are a few physical items, such as journals and photos, that have allowed us to think back to the special moments spent with loved ones before they passed away, and these are some of our most treasured possessions. My maternal grandparents passed away several years ago, and I return to our pictures together and reminisce about the love that I felt while spending time in their home and the conversations and experiences that we had together over the years.
These memories are most important to me, and many of the physical items from their home pale in comparison to the feelings and experiences that we shared. The question “What do I want to say with my life?” doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have any material items that we care about–instead, it means that there are other things that might mean even more to our loved ones and those in our communities to represent our lives, actions, and endeavors.
2) How do I want my love and values to be passed on?
Eric (my dad) asks this question frequently and is such a great example of passing on traditions and special family-centered items to his children. He has selected a few small, but meaningful, items to purchase and pass on to each child when they become adults and start their own families. This list includes:
- a funny Christmas decoration
- a crepe maker to continue the Saturday morning breakfast tradition
- a Tooth Fairy box
- a copy of all of our digital family photos on a hard drive
I absolutely love each of these items, and I was so excited to receive a couple of them during our first year of marriage. It is so special to recognize how intentional my dad was throughout my childhood in creating memories with these small and simple items, and now I get to have a set of my own! Instead of being bombarded with gifts or random items that would ultimately end up as clutter in our apartment, we received meaningful items that will allow us to create our own family traditions that stem from the ones I grew up with.
Additionally, while we were growing up, we got a “memory box” (a bankers box that wasn’t too large) for every 5-year period of our lives. I have a 0-5 year box, a 6-10 year box, and so on, and whenever we had an art project, trinket, medal, special paper, or item that we wanted to save, it would go in this box. If the box got too full before the 5 years had passed, we were encouraged to go through the box and pare down the items so that we only kept the most important things for future reference and memories. I am so grateful for this practice because I have all of these treasures from my childhood, but they don’t take up much space, and only the most important things have been saved for me to access and possibly pass down to my children.
3) Will a physical item actually be wanted, used, and/or helpful?
It’s easier than ever to accumulate items, make purchases (in store or online), and give gifts to show our love or that we are thinking about someone.
I am so appreciative of every gift that I receive, but there are some items that I might not utilize long-term or might not be a great fit for me and my current circumstances. It is so freeing to know that I can love and appreciate a gift, but I am not obligated to store and keep it forever. I can enjoy it for a time (or let it “incubate” in my donations pile), and then let it go to someone who might enjoy it or need it more than me.
When I am giving gifts, I try to think about this principle and recognize that some gifts might end up as clutter and other gifts might not be wise purchases for me to make. When it comes to giving gifts to family members, I will often send them screenshots of things that I would have purchased on impulse and say, “I saw this item and it made me think of you!” That way, they know I am thinking about them, but that item doesn’t need to be purchased or take up space in their lives.
Additionally, there might be some large items (like furniture) that are important to us, but are not the right fit for a loved one. When we can take the time to recognize how the item benefitted our lives and allow it to move on and benefit the life of someone else (through donation, a sale, or other means), we can free up space in our lives and minds for the love, experiences, and memories that we will treasure even more.
This is certainly a process that takes some time, grace, and patience with ourselves, but the outcome can be so freeing and allow us to really focus on what matters most in our lives.
- Our ARISE membership dives deep into one topic each month that helps each of us actually do what matters most. This month, on Thursday, March 16th at 10am Pacific, we’re being joined by a special guest speaker–Cognitive Behavioral Therapist Mike Christensen (who I’ve personally worked with on 3 occasions!). Click here to sign up for your free 7-Day Trial to ARISE! (Can’t wait to see you!)
- Special Class for STEP Mastery Members – March 21st at Noon Pacific! Join me inside my personal Asana account while I show you exactly how I manage personal and professional tasks, routines, and projects—and teach you how YOU can do it too…inside the digital tool of your choice. This class is will be held on Zoom for all STEP Mastery members, and the recording will be free to anyone who joins (or upgrades to) STEP Mastery by March 31st!
Mary Janelle says
Thank you! These 3 questions are so helpful, both in terms of items for others, and for items I’ve inherited. Grateful for your perspective!