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It started with putting a piece of paper away in a storage box.

“Wow, there’s a lot of crap down here.”

“A lot” of crap is a relative concept.

One year ago, we moved to a place with half the square footage and got rid of half of our belongings. But now, even the stuff we kept is starting to look like “a lot.” Our tolerance for stuff is dwindling fast.

What began with throwing something in a storage box, became opening up a dozen boxes and sifting through old things. It was emotional and freeing and a surprisingly great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I wasn’t screwing around. I opened up The Box. The Box with my ex-boyfriend’s painfully obsessive love letters and cracked, disintegrating corsages and ribbons that apparently used to possess some importance but have now fallen into obscurity.

I flipped through scrapbooks filled with notes, birthday cards and shreds of paper.  I wondered, what does it mean to keep the receipt for the first time I ever bought condoms? Can’t I keep that mildly hysterical memory without the fading thermal paper? I threw out stacks of letters from old boyfriends, stacks of journals whining about boys I couldn’t have, stacks of poetry I wrote about the fickle affections of “K” and how it was leaving me in ruins.

For the life of me I have no clue who “K” was.

I was going to qualify all of this by saying that there are some things worth keeping. But are there? What does it do, really? I’ve lived a lot of life in my 32 years and every bit of it has contributed to the person who is sitting here, tapping away on this keyboard. The existence of an old playbill from Aida doesn’t change that.

I’ve been through a pretty big metamorphosis in the last decade and getting rid of old stuff allowed me to embrace fully my life now. This moment here. I’m not caught up in what used to be.

I’m not more worthy of love if I have stacks of love letters from forgettable boys tucked away in a cardboard box. I am loved now. By that man, sitting across from me on the basement floor, trying to decide what to do with his Indian Guides “Hero Award,” circa 1981. (He received the fetching plaque for valiantly falling out of a bunk bed and busting his lip.)

It begs the question; what is important to me, if it’s not this box of stuff? The answer is – my current relationships. My joy. My feeling that I am actually here embracing this moment and having fun in my life, doing things everyday that make me feel authentic and as if I am making my worthwhile contribution to the world. I didn’t find any of that in a box in the basement; those boxes contained the weighty, heavy past, wherein I am barely recognizable.

Out it all went.

It felt good to really sit with the knee-jerk feeling of “oh, I must keep that” and wonder why. A few times I did keep things, because it didn’t feel right to let go yet. But most things, when I really looked at them, were no longer relevant. By embracing the idea of minimalism, I feel like I am leaving more space for the things I really want in my life.

I don’t know what is right for anyone else. I can’t tell you to get rid of year books and movie ticket stubs. I’m not sure how that would make you feel. All I know is that I felt free. I felt released.

How do you deal with old mementoes? Are they important to you? Or do you feel they weigh you down?

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