Hello Darkness My Old Friend: Letting Go Revisited
I have a dirty little secret: though we live full time in hOMe, our 207SF tiny house, we have a storage unit in town. And since we are being really honest here, I have to tell you that it’s a large unit (10’x20’: nearly the square footage of our tiny house). Up until about 3 weeks ago we lived in a cozy state of denial that this unit was still there. We had been turning a convenient blind eye to the contents held within. Until recently.
Andrew and I finally became motivated to go through the unit. A few pep talks ahead of time provided us with the determination to finally bore our way through the contents we had shoved in there two+ years ago. We lay down some ground rules ahead of time knowing that the process wasn’t going to be easy and that we would be tempted to keep things that we hadn’t even missed in those years.
When we rolled open the large aluminum door though, no amount of pre-meditation could have prepared me for the sense of dread and overwhelm I felt. The song, “Hello darkness my old friend” flitted into my awareness and in that moment I wished that a spontaneous fire would magically incinerate everything. Despite all of the work and reflection we had done over the last few years in our downsizing process, here I was face to face with all of the justifications, rationalizations, and self doubt that I had struggled with in our initial purge.
The first day was brutal. I was fueled by an intense desire to just give everything away but conflicted when old inner voices whispered to save so much. We managed to work for about two hours and despite the inner battle of dialogues, two full car loads made it to Goodwill. The second day was much easier. The sense of overwhelm had subsided and I felt hungry to take on the challenge. Decisions as to what to give away and what to keep came effortlessly and we began to have fun with the process. Our son was there for a while and we enjoyed a trip down memory lane together. We snapped pictures of ourselves with various items that we had been lugging around for decades (my second place trophy from the karate Jr Olympics for example) and in the process we were able to appreciate those items at a deeper level by encapsulating them in photos.
The third day was a breeze. We went through box after box of photos (thousands) and threw out the ones that weren’t stellar. In the end we were left with a pile of about 1,000 photos which we will digitize by using a service (costing around $200). Before we knew it we were down to just one heirloom box each, our best camping gear, our SCUBA gear (you can pry that gear out of my dead cold hands…don’t care if I live in a tiny house, those things are staying), and two boxes of photo albums.
We will be digitizing our journals and letters too and that will lighten our load quite a bit. Digitizing photos, letters, and journals is something that completely makes sense to us. We can index each item and thus have the ability to search for items based on specific criteria. We have been digitizing years of receipts and documents already with great success (read about how we do that here), a process that has eliminated about 15 boxes. I know going digital isn’t for everyone (I get that for some people it’s important to have the real object in hand) but for someone like me that is so visually oriented, it’s a total fit.
Going through our storage unit was a humbling process that reminded us that no matter how ‘over it’ we think we are with things in life, that there are always various levels and that the journey never quite ends. It reminded us that material possessions have a weight and a pull to them and that the rational mind can easily be clouded by the one patterned by fear. It reminded us that even in moments of challenge, that there is always a shift and a release of tension and to just trust that that moment will come. It reminded us to be grateful of how far we have come with our relationship to material goods and that what we thought were “essential” items two years ago we now see as dispensable. Lastly, it reminded us to recognize how deeply our relationships to materials goods are and that the process of downsizing is one for the warriors out there.