CoVid has many of us confined to our homes and with hours to spare we find ourselves sorting and organizing those cupboards and crannies that have long been overlooked.

As easy as it might be for someone else to rummage through our things and toss out everything that isn’t necessary, sorting our own belongings usually feels stickier. As we sort through our treasures it is natural to remember when and where we were when special things came into our life.  This idle trip down memory lane can often bring up as many unexpected moments of grief as it does sweet memories.

We spend our lives collecting the tools we need to look after ourselves and our homes and when we have a bit of extra we might collect art and trinkets that bring us joy “just because”.  We save mementos of our trips and vacations as well as all of the little milestones of life. So how do we sort them out and choose what to keep?  Marie Kondo advises us to only keep the things that “spark joy” in us… and that’s probably good advice but what do we do with the feelings that erupt when we decide that it’s time to get rid of something?  (or maybe a lot of somethings?)

When an item fills a clear and obvious need in our life it is easy to make room for it with little fuss or thought.    When something brings us joy and we have space for it, once again, little thought or fuss required.   But what about those things that we love, yet have no space for?  Or those things that we bought in the hopes of starting something new?   Whether it was a new life or just a new habit, getting rid of the things that we acquired when we were hopeful means letting go of, not just The Thing but letting go of the hopes and dreams that we had for what that thing was going to bring us.

Just like the hopes and dreams that we had for what this year was going to be like before CoVid took hold, we need to acknowledge the feelings that arise whenever things change beyond our control.   Maybe you’re still holding onto your skis or rollerblades, even though your knees will no longer allow you to play with them.    Or maybe you’re holding onto a roasting pan that can cook a huge thanksgiving feast but you’re now living in an apartment that makes entertaining crowds impractical.

Instead of keeping these things in the back of a closet in order to avoid feeling disappointment, give yourself a moment to feel it. Life changes and when we’re honest about the way we feel about the changes, it helps us get through them and get on with finding the good bits that exist in the life that lies ahead.

When we clean out the corners of our life we are forced to choose what we will keep and what we will leave behind. It’s almost always hard. Be gentle with yourself.

Written by Catherine Mitchell, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist serving the Durham Region.

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