That little red book is still working on me: I sorted through a rubbermaid bin containing 30 years' of cards and letters this weekend. And discarded into the recycling bin about ninety percent of it. What's left fits into a manila envelope.
The book is working some magic on me for two reasons:
1. In terms of typical motivations for keeping stuff, I discovered I have much in common with problem hoarders; this scared the hell out of me;
2. The authors presented a truly workable mindset: getting rid of birthday and graduation cards from Dziadek or Granny or Auntie Helen doesn't mean I'm getting rid of them or my memories of their love, or what they stood for in my life.
3. Plus the book presented cases of some lovely, intelligent people who successfully got rid of all kinds of emotionally laden stuff and were happier for it. This reassured me that they were not riddled with regret at having parted with their treasures, as I've feared I would be.
How I got rid of so much emotionally loaded stuff this weekend
Don't bother reading if this isn't an issue for you. And don't mock or make fun. It's serious. You don't know what it's like to be me. (Hmm, she's a bit defensive, no?)
Because I tend to attach a lot of meaning to things (including cards, books, letters, articles, clothing, jewelry, knickknacks, magazines, teacups, and antiquey items, especially if they're made of wood), I'll admit it was a tough, emotional slog.
I did it through a combination of sorting and dumping. I allowed myself to keep just my absolute very favourite cards and letters. Going along, I sorted each "keep" into alphabetical order - so as to keep track of, say, how many of Granny's cards I'm keeping - but dumped the obvious "don't keeps" right away (which meant stuffing a bunch into a recycling bag and a to-be-shredded bag so they weren't staring at me reproachfully).
It soon became clear that I didn't have to keep all 15 birthday cards from my grandmother - so I've kept my favourite one, the one I actually remember receiving, that she signed with, "Good luck! Good Health! Much happiness! Much love!"
Pretty cold eh? No, no, I'm still me. Plus nobody's saying get rid of the entire contents of your home - you need to be engaged and use your brains and judgement. Being willy nilly about it is NOT being in control of your stuff. Making conscious intelligent decisions IS.
Back to the cards from Granny. In addition to that one card I've chosen to keep, I have some special items of hers that I received after she passed away which I actively treasure, like a purple rhinestone necklace, a pair of green and silver embroidered silk shoes and a pair of soft white kid gloves - all of which fit me perfectly and have value to me outside the sentimental. The individual cards I had from her in storage for 30 years I'd mostly forgotten about - except for that one with the message that made me smile.
For those of you who are wanting to do this, to get rid of all this "stuff", try to just pick your favourite things. Then sort those favourites to keep your absolute favourites. Gently, kindly, let the rest go
And to get you excited about it, I have to stress to you how fun it is. Yep, it's tough, but it's like panning for gold. You are shaking out the detritus that's weighing down your life and you're keeping only the best. You're in control.