Sunday, March 23, 2014

FRAGILE: Handle with Care

F…R…A…G…I…L…E… The orange Sharpie marker squeaked across the box. “That should do it.” I added, as an afterthought, “KITCHEN. Dishes. Misc.” Gotta love that MISCELLANEOUS abbreviation. In two weeks, when I move, I won’t have any idea what else is in that box with my dishes. It will be just like Christmas!

There are advantages to starting early on packing up the house. I won’t feel so rushed when my boys show up with their trucks to move the heavy furniture. Things will be more organized because I’ve taken the time to dust and clean the items I’ve decided to keep. Broken things have been fixed or discarded. Since I’ve been working on de-cluttering the house for the last twenty days, there won’t be as much to move. Bags and boxes of stuff have been hauled away to the thrift store, to friends at school, to my family, and to the dump.

There are not many boxes marked FRAGILE down in the storage room, ready for moving day. I have culled only my favorite knick-knacks and "dustables." No, I don’t have many possessions that require a warning label on the box, but perhaps I should have etched the word across my heart before I started yesterday’s tasks, to remind myself to proceed with caution.

I purposely saved my sentimental things for last. Scrapbooks, framed photographs, high school yearbooks, pencil and pastel drawings I did in college. Letters from loved ones. Loose photos that didn’t make it into the dozens of scrapbooks I’ve kept over the years.

As I sat on the floor of the office, in front of my tall bookshelf, and surrounded by piles of books, pictures, and frames, I set myself to the task at hand with determination. This wasn’t going to be easy if I let my emotions take over, so I decided that anything I knew had already been preserved in a scrapbook could go. A large stack of photos landed in the garbage.

I decided to take photographs of my art to save them on my computer, and discard my sketch pad. Three of the high school yearbooks went into the trash; I only kept my senior year album. Removing from frames the photographs of recent vacations, special days, and fond memories that now made me sad was a little harder. I did not need the reminders of love lost; it would only be painful to keep them. My heart sped up as I emptied the frames of their pictures, and tossed the frames into a box.

Tears fell freely yesterday afternoon. This letting go is hard work. It’s one thing to let the physical things go, but releasing the people who are no longer in my life, and the emotional clutter residing in my heart is even harder. Coming to terms with so much loss in such a short time has not been easy.

Each day, as I clear from my heart and home the things that no longer serve me, that no longer make my life easier, simpler, or more joyful, I become stronger. My thoughts strengthen my heart, and I feel courage coming back into my life. My “brave” has ebbed and flowed as I have found courage, taken a stand, and then retreated to allow the healing to take place. I’m learning not to run from my fears and my sadness, but to lean into the discomfort long enough to gain understanding from them.

Today, as I release my hold on some of my stuff that has been holding me back, I will face my fears once more. I will try a tactic suggested by Tiffany Holley, a fellow 40 Bags in 40 Days participant, and organizing guru who has her own Facebook page of suggestions at Organizing with Tiffany. Tiffany's tip is called The Two Pass Method.  She has had some success with her little ones in paring down their toy collection. I think it will work for me as I face some of my own prized possessions. 

Two-Pass Method

"First pass: Get rid of what's easy. I had my two little ones say "keep" or "get rid of" as I held up each toy. If they both said "rid", it went. When something seemed like a struggle, I assured them that this was just a "quick and easy" pass, and that they should just keep it if they weren't SURE they were ready to let it go. This kept everyone on track and happy, and I was actually surprised how much we "easily" got rid of.
Second pass: A week or so later, go through the process again. It's amazing how everyone's perspective has changed, especially if you're purging elsewhere in the meantime."
Today the task at hand is a big, fat file full of folders overflowing with letters, letters from my mom, my stepmom, my little sister, and my dad. There are more loose photos, birthday cards, and mementos that were not glued into the scrapbooks.
"Dear Princess SummerFallWinterSpring..."gets me every time.

Daddy’s only been gone three months and a day. It seems too soon to let go of anything I have from him yet. My goal is to only keep the special letters, and because it’s so soon after having to let him go, all of them seem special. They will survive the first pass. When I am ready, I will give them a second pass.

I will allow myself one box of belongings to be sorted later, when I feel less vulnerable, and more strong. The box will be marked FRAGILE, to remind me to approach the things within it when I feel ready, when I have a better perspective on what needs to be kept, and what can be let go.
Links to other organizing tips for the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge can be found HERE.


  1. I so get this one. I think that is what God is doing in my life right now -- but with the internal. There are pieces of my story that needed to wait until I was strong enough to deal with them so they went into a closet saying "Fragile, handle with care". Thank you for posting this.

    1. We're all in this together. I'm glad you connected to the internal clutter we carry with us. It's hard work, but once we get it sorted, we will feel so much better! Best of luck, Linda!

  2. I try to read your post first thing in the morning. Always find here something that makes me appreciate from the beginning of the new day. Your descriptions are touching, especially liked the part about your dad with his picture. He looks like such a sweetheart. I admire you, Denise, how you do the hard things with resolve and grace.

    1. It just feels messy on my side of the fence, Tonia. That anyone perceives anything of grace amazes me. I try to deal with my feelings honestly, but I wonder how well I'm doing that at times. The writing helps, and I hope I take some of the edge off of the neediness I feel so that the reader is not overwhelmed with the emotion, but can simply observe, and learn with me.

  3. Denise, you are an inspiration. I have boxes full of the sentimental "paper" stuff from my parents' home and still can't seem to go through them. You are right to keep the letters to sort through later, as it's too soon. And I have a feeling your box won't get stashed in a garage somewhere and ignored for years!

    1. Deb, the one thing I did was eliminate letters in my files that were not addressed to me. Daddy sent "family" letters and I had many copies of other letters he had written. The ones to me are my treasures.


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