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SideLines: The art of letting go

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 10:11 a.m. CST

This is probably the time of the year I hate the most. And no, I’m not talking about winter, although I could.

This is the time of year I do my annual house reorganizing. As I’m putting away all the Christmas decorations and the gifts I got for Christmas, it just seems like the ideal time to get rid of things I don’t need.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

So why is it always so difficult to do? I mean, they’re just things. They’re not living creatures I’m responsible for, like my cat. Do I own my possessions, or do they own me? They’re only accessories, after all; they’re not supposed to define me.

To keep it simple, I divide everything I have into four categories: the things you need; the things you want; the things that have sentimental value; and the things you may need someday.

Two of the categories are obvious: the essential things you need, like food and clothes, and the things that have sentimental value, like my father’s old bowling shirt or my grandmother’s Bible, full of letters, yellowing newspaper clippings and little black-and-white pictures of people I don’t know. I really don’t need the pictures, but since they were important enough to my grandmother to keep, maybe I should, too.

The third: the things I want. Or do I? This may be the most difficult. I used to collect books. Many, I haven’t read in a long time. But I know as soon as I get rid of one, I’m going to want it back. Once you discard something, it’s gone forever; unless, of course, you can find it on eBay.

So, at the risk of wasting money to buy something back I already have, I suppose it’s better to keep it all until I’m really sure I don’t want it.

No, it’s the fourth category that is the trickiest. It’s the stuff I don’t have a use for right now, but I may someday. For instance, I have a box full of cute little Christmas glasses I got years ago. I keep them in the basement, wrapped in the same paper they came in, untouched. Even though I mean to bring them out every Christmas, I either forget I have them until it’s too late or I can’t be bothered.

Not far from the glasses, there’s a heavy, twisted wrench kind of thing in an old, oily tool case. I don’t where it came from or what it’s used for. Every time I see it, I vow to throw it out.

The thing is, I just know that if I throw the dishes and the wrench-like thing out, next Christmas I’ll host a big family celebration where the glasses will come in handy and someone will need the wrench-like thing. And I’ll have to kick myself because I won’t be able to find either one on eBay.

I suppose I could just leave everything as it is and leave it up to the relatives to do when I’m gone. The problem with that is, I hate the idea of someone finding something in the attic, and wondering, “What’d he ever want that for?”

Since they’re all my things and I’m the one who spent time accumulating them, I have no choice but to force myself to do it.

There is another reason I want to reorganize my house. The ugly truth is, I need space for spring garage sales. Even though I know better, I don’t want to miss out on some sharp-looking clothes that will fit if I only lose a few pounds or some tools I think I should have that I’ll never be able to use.

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