I need new. Not necessarily new stuff (although I will always, always consider new shoes), but a new perspective. A new way to see, be, think. I need new like I need cereal and coffee each morning; hugs from my kids; time to myself.
But you can't shoehorn new until you pitch the old. So, in the literal and metaphorical senses of purging, I'm cleaning house.
One of the most satisfying experiences I've had the past week was pitching a minivan full of mementos, duplicate photos and assorted household junk at the dump. I even purged most of the cards we received at our wedding. Not because I'm unsentimental, but because they don't comfort me or give me a sense of history the way pictures or journals do. I also culled my mountain of sympathy cards.
I lost Sean's journal around the time he died, in January. I was heartsick about it, because he'd written of his excitement leading to the birth of our first child, and recorded her milestones for months after. I used the same journal to document Sean's first few weeks in the hospital. Thankfully, I found that brown faux-leather book (or, it found me) while looking through Sean's video gear, preparing an inventory list so I could sell his stuff. Cameras, tripods, lights and microphones provided another reminder of Sean's absence. No one's editing video in the basement, calling me downstairs to watch his latest wedding movie. And now, that corner of the house lies bare, ready for its next purpose. I sold the gear. It's a relief.
I'm also selling the tent trailer we bought just last summer. The 1996 pop-up with the turquoise and pink color scheme seemed just right for our family of four, but it feels like too much work for a party of three. So it'll go the same route as Sean's car: away, to someone whose memories aren't tied to a VW Jetta or a Viking trailer. The buyers can enjoy their new car or toy without thinking, "Sean was once healthy enough to operate this stick shift/set up a portable house."
I hear it's common for widows and widowers to purge; and not just the dearly departed's stuff, either. Nearly everything in my house is getting the, "should it stay or should it go" test (no wonder the kids are clinging to me; they're probably worried I'll try to sell or donate them!). A friend who lost her husband last year told me she tried to purge her spouse's "hippie furniture" in the months after he died. She got rid of all but one piece, which refused to be offed, toppled over and pinned her to the wall. "I decided maybe I should keep that bookcase," she said.
Yes, I'll keep some of the old: pictures, letters, journals, soccer cleats... But I'm making way for new. The clearings in the forest of our home help me imagine a new life. And extra room for a new pair of sandals or two wouldn't hurt, either.