When I began my reductionist initiative a few years ago, I assumed I would actually end up with fewer things to think about.  Less stuff to worry about and more emotional freedom. Seemed a logical expectation at the time and in fact was my motivation in getting started.  I knew it would be overwhelming but truly believed physically removing the unwanted items in my life would dissolve the fact they had ever existed.

But after opening up box after box, drawer after drawer and finding things that I could not even remember buying, my life felt more crowded than ever. But instead of being overwhelmed with an abundance of possessions, it was consumed with a cacophony of memories. They filled every single cell in my body.

Memories are Amplified When the Things Are Gone

Downsizing is like opening a Pandora’s box. This container, by the way, is defined as, “A process that once begun generates many complicated problems.” So true. When you first start a downsizing process, especially as an older woman, you first look at the neutral items that you need to reduce. Things like shoes, hats, jewelry, and clothes seem relatively easy to release. Pictures, handmade items, children’s art and personal treasures are more emotionally loaded.  Often, when everything is neatly packed up in garbage bags and charity shop donation boxes, you quickly find yourself weighed down and surrounded by memories.

So, then you need to embark on a whole new kind of downsizing! What can you do to clear the clutter of Pandora’s memories?

Appreciate True Abundance

You may have collected hundreds of items in your life that brought you great pleasure and joy at the time. But as you let them go, you realize that the true power of the abundance often lives in the memories. When you let them go, it is important to allow the memories to make you smile, but for them not to become the replacement possession. Memories are like waves that caress and nourish but their abundance should be gentle and deep.

Embrace Complexity

Life is complex at any age, but as we get older the sheer amount of personal experience, relationships and connection can be overwhelming. Things defined our life and reflected our decisions. We may have saved for years to purchase a home that was lost in a financial crisis or surrendered in a divorce. We may have bought a dress for a special event that turned out to be a sad memory. The complexity of our lives helps to enable growth and allow a wiser, stronger person to emerge. As I learned to simplify my life, the softening of memories was part of my downsizing process.

Welcome the Tears

Crying is a good way to surrender to memories and acknowledge that the tears are the last manifestation of the things you are letting go. When I went through the exercise of throwing away pictures after scanning them to my computer, external hard drives and the cloud, I cried for hours. I celebrated the memories with those tears. I appreciated the intensity of their power but knew the next chapter of my life was to make new memories with less stuff. I was looking forward to memories grounded in relationships and experience and not in things.

Transform the Memories

As I downsized the memories associated with tangible items, I realized that the deepest recollections moved to the top of my mind and were transformed into something lighter and less overwhelming. They were part of my being, instead of something I carried.

Even the memories associated with my marriage and divorce took on a lighter presence in my life. Instead of missing the items that I had downsized, I focused on the woman I had become because of that experience. Letting go of some of the memories made me feel more in control, lighter and hopeful for a future based on truly experiencing more life with less stuff.

I am not suggesting that we deny or repress memories or erase them from our mind. The suggestion to simply tone down their amplification. To let them become part of who you are, rather than control you and hold you back from a simpler, more meaningful life.

Have you found yourself held back by memories associated with the items you have let go on your downsizing journey? How have you transformed those memories into something positive in your life?  



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