Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What's My Legacy?

I picked up the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo as a gift for my aunt and ended up reading it. (Divine intervention possibly?) It has changed my mindset about decluttering my home, my work space and, ultimately, my life. This is not a review of her work, but I mention it because reading the book led to several questions about myself and my legacy.

I was following (and still am) her process for going through my things and deciding what brings me joy. Upon going through my paper clutter, I rediscovered poems I'd written in junior high school, old love letters, creative writing lessons from high school and other things that all of a sudden, I couldn't throw away. I asked myself the question that Ms. Kondo proposes: Does this spark joy? My answer was repeatedly no.
Old school papers and drawings from middle school - almost 3 decades old!

So, why was I holding on? It dawned on me that I could save the memory and get rid of the paper. I would consolidate my memories. I began the process of typing in old writings and scanning cards and letters with the hopes of getting one book printed of all of those papers that would be much smaller and more concise. In fact, why not do this with all of my items I couldn't let go but didn't spark joy? I began photographing dolls and stuffed animals and other items that I quickly sold at a yard sale for next to nothing - yeah, it must have been very dear to me. In reality, I was looking for a way out.

I hit a road block in my consolidating. I was getting nowhere fast. Something didn't feel right about how I was decluttering. And I was veering way off-course.
Current status. I unpacked several boxes that had been stored for more than a decade. I was, needless to say, overwhelmed.

Last week, I stopped my consolidation process and asked myself, "why am I doing this?" Is it because I think my son or family will treasure my old things in book format? Did I want to chronicle every facet of my life from childhood to adulthood? At what point will I stop consolidating before it gets to be too much?  I had several reasons why I should continue the process. I, myself, would love a book of memories to glance through, even if only I enjoyed it.

In her book, Ms. Kondo mentions making things more prominent by paring down a collection. For example, instead of having a unicorn collection of 100 displayed all over the place, a few special pieces - like five - would stand out more and draw more attention. In other words, less is more. She also warned that going through memorabilia should be last on the list. I never thought going through paper that I would run into items that fall into the memorabilia category.

So, although my idea of consolidating seems like a good idea and I still plan to do it, it will make a better book if it contain just a few of each of the collections with a short paragraph of what those collections meant to me. And it would serve me better to save for last.

I will be better able to pick through each of the items — by asking myself does it spark joy — when I know that I am looking for the few special ones to add to my book. Therefore my book will be that much more meaningful.

Ms. Kondo also explains a process in which you say goodbye to an object/thing that does not spark joy — even if it once did — by telling it thank you for bringing me joy and for serving (whatever purpose it served) in my life. It gives me peace of mind when I do this and, therefore, makes it easier for me to let it go.

This entire process is helping me to not only declutter and purge but also to stop living in the past and worrying about the future. It's teaching me to live in the present - now. I am allowing myself the freedom to let go while remembering and maintaining the things that made me who I am today. This is something I can teach my son and it will be something he will appreciate when this body dies. Part of my legacy will be making it easier for him to say goodbye when my time comes.

Project Idea:
Photograph, scan or key-in a favorite collection of yours or a loved-one's to make into a photo book. Maybe you have a collection of stamps, movie tickets, toys from your childhood, jewelry, comic books, artwork, love letters, greeting cards, etc. The key is to choose the best ones to include in the book with a very short paragraph about each collection. And then toss/sell/give away the collection. You save your loved-ones the burden of having to go through hundreds of items upon your death and trying to make those tough decisions of letting it go. And let's face it, usually people avoid having to go through a loved-one's items for years after their death.

Great sites for making photo books: MyPublisher, Flickr, iPhoto, Blurb, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens and Walmart. My personal favorites are MyPublisher and iPhoto.

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