Hanging Onto Things to Remind Us of Others

Here's an email question from one of my blog readers:

"I just read Clutter Busting (wonderful book!) and I immediately became very aware of a very stuck clutter area in my life. I have a large amount of letters from family members that I found in my mother's belongings after her death. She was a hopeless packrat, most of the letters aren't even from her side of the family AND many of them are not in English! I've always thought that someday I'd learn the language or hire an interpreter...that now seems really silly. But I still can't shake the feeling that these letters are special. There is information in them about people that are related to me which I will never know without reading those letters. If I burn these papers (my fantasy), I'll be destroying any chance of ever knowing about these people. I really see how this is psychic clutter, but cannot justify letting go. Please help."

Thanks for your letter. I can tell you are frustrated by this clutter situation. You write that you are "very stuck", that you have a fantasy to "burn these papers", that you've had plans to do something with them for a long while but nothing has happened, and that you call it "psychic clutter." It's not serving you because you are experiencing pain from having them in your living space.

It's often very hard for people to let go of things that remind them of family members and loved ones that have passed away. Very often they don't care for the items, but they are an attempt to still have a connection with the person who had died. But in most cases the connection is weak. Nothing fully replaces their presence. Still there is the unmet desire. Usually nothing gets done. People hang onto the items, along with the sadness of their loved one's passing, in addition to having something in their home that they don't care for.

If you were learning the language or hiring an interpreter and enjoying reading the letters, they would be a part of your life. But I would trust your actions. Your actions show the presence of the letters is not essential to you. You also show your true feelings about the clutter situation when you say that it "now seems really silly". That doesn't say anything about how you feel about your mother. I think you say a lot when you write that you can't shake the feeling that the letters are special because you are talking about how you feel about your mom. But you are finding that hanging onto the letters doesn't satisfy your desire to remember her in a way that touches your heart. Instead, they make you think of your mom as a "hopeless packrat".

I find that when people let go of things they were unhappily hanging onto to remember loved ones, the memory transfers back into their heart and resonates much more strongly. Plus they get back the feeling of their presence. It's not a remembered feeling of how it was to be around them, but a feeling of their presence right now in the moment. It's fresh and alive.