Nothing will make you take inventory of your earthly possessions quite like acquiring a roommate, moving, or writing a will.

I have done all three, some more frequently than others. But each time, my conclusion is the same: I have too… much… STUFF.

Stuff like empty egg cartons, Pringles containers, pages of wedding-themed scrapbook paper (the usefulness of which is growing more unlikely with each passing day), and a mélange of other items worthy of some art project.

If you had the incredible privilege of knowing my grandmother, you’d know about her propensity for holding onto a staggering amount of stuff, and you would not be surprised that I am of her kin.

Of all the oddities she saved, one collection in particular stands out: After my parents’ divorce, she set aside several photographs that documented my mom and dad’s young love—and the bittersweet years that followed. Now, many families I know bitterly dispose of all tangible remnants of a failed marriage. But not this woman. She kept these photos and hid them from everyone (even me), knowing that they could be inadvertently discarded in a moment of frustration. (She was wise to do so. Many years later, I threw away an entire box of love letters from a former boyfriend, an act of impetuous defiance I still regret.)

That’s not to say that “taking out the trash” is a bad idea. About a year ago, one of my good friends succinctly coined the phrase, and it has come to  define the process of cleaning my house (and personal life) of unnecessary crap. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know this purging is a recurring theme: the purging of several items, a list which often includes toxic relationships or disloyal friends. This doesn’t mean I’m anxious to rid myself of them, the cleansing simply needs to occur more frequently than most people realize. And I can’t begin to tell you how much less malodorous my life has become after taking out said waste—both literally and socially.

But sometimes, in the name of spring cleaning—or self-betterment—we dispose of things we shouldn’t, like old love letters or photographs. Or people.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s hard to know when to throw certain things away. It’s even harder to know whether to discard a friendship/relationship or to try and salvage it. To further complicate matters, our social-media-obsessed world makes it difficult to know if and when it’s appropriate to unfriend versus courageously talking through our differences (or heaven forbid, overlooking them).

Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking of my late grandma a lot lately, or maybe I’m just sentimental. But I’m realizing that some of this “stuff” might not even be trash at all. Maybe it just needs to be put in a box, labeled, and placed on a shelf for another day.

Except the empty egg cartons. Those have got to go.

2 thoughts on “Taking Out the Trash: The Case of Too Much Stuff

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