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The Weight of Stuff

I grew up going to garage sales with my mom. She is an expert scanner.

She would go to the junkiest garage sale and spot an antique or collectable with the most value out of dusty bin.

What is unusual right now is that both my mother and I are in the process of sorting through stuff.

I am moving from the home my children knew their father in, and she is moving into a small apartment from a much larger home.

The collectables and memorabilia my mother has accumulated over years is notable.

Even after downsizing five times from the house she lived in with my father 15 years ago, she has carried much of her “stuff” with her.

Her apartment is now brimming with boxes still carrying collectables like Life Magazines, Native American Indian baskets and prints, and World Fair memorabilia.

You may be thinking, This woman is hoarder!

But she isn’t.

In her life with my father their home made sense.

Their antiques and collectibles were displayed beautifully.

Everything had a story about how they acquired the object, where it came from originally, or what it was once used for.

My mom enjoyed telling those stories as a way of connecting with people.

Over decades, being a collector of things with stories became central to her own story.

That was an identity she cherished and enjoyed.

This past weekend I had a garage sale.

I asked my mother to come to help price the items.

I knew she’d love stepping into that familiar space for the the ceremony and the opportunity to tell her stories.

In the arena of a garage sale, my mother is King.

Also, I know myself.

I am good at getting rid of stuff.

I love to kibitz and share stories with strangers too, but no-one would say that I drive a hard bargain.

But she can.

As she haggled with guests on prices (alternatively giving things away for free) she often held fast to her perceived value of an item.

The sport of it was never lost on her and she enjoyed the sparring.

There were only a few things I cared about in the sale.

These were some of my husband’s things that I knew we couldn’t keep either because we won’t have the space in our new home, or because my children never attached to them or because they are outdated and of no practical use to us anymore.

In my life with my husband Eric, these things made sense too.

A special telescope we used to look at the stars on the rooftop of our pre-marital apartment, hundreds of Magic Cards he picked up off the street, old music recording and sound equipment from his days as a college disc jockey, a Compact Oxford English Dictionary with reading glass.

When someone expressed interest in his stuff, I found myself hovering around the buyer so that I could inject a story into the sale that essentially said: That’s special to me, it was my husbands, you must be special too.

I wanted they buyer to know that it belonged to a man who liked the same niche things that my husband did.

There were so many teachings in this two day garage sale.

But for us, the brave creatives in this community, I guess I just want to share what I have learned about letting go.

It is a process. But it is also a choice.

Like all transitions in life there will be inflection points - like moving from a home - where your attachments will be challenged.

Big attachments - like our identity; and seemingly smaller ones - like our attachment to stuff.

I love you, as I love my mother and myself, in our struggle to let go of stuff that once signaled who were were.

Things end so that a new something can begin.

As with all change, there is so much we cannot know about what lies ahead.

But we won’t get far on the path if we lug all of our stuff with us.

The most important things don’t weigh anything at all.

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