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My parents died seven months apart, both in their own filthy, little, rodent infested trailers.   Stacks of junk mail covered their dining tables.  Bags of recycling collected around the outside perimeters.  Their sinks were full of dirty dishes.  The cupboards full of expired food.  Closets stuffed with decades old clothing and mismatched sheets.  They both maintained multiple storage sheds full of broken tools, never used yard sale finds, and relics from their pasts. 

I think my parents were hoarders.

When the ladies from Habitat for Humanity came for my home visit they told me I needed to have a yard sale.  I had too much stuff, they said.  In my mind I balked at their statements.  R took everything!   And, our needs had been unmet for years!   We didn’t have the basic necessities of living throughout the entire marriage.  How could we have too much stuff now, post divorce? 

Dutifully I began to empty the closets and cupboards searching for any rare unneeded items.  I placed them in the yard and priced them, practically giving them away.  But, most of the yard sale shoppers passed them over, thanked me politely, and left empty handed.

I listed some things for free on online sites.  Very few of the items were wanted though.  And, those who were willing to claim them wanted free delivery, too. 

The hassle of it all became too much, and my nerves were frazzled by the chaos of the mess all around me.  I determined Goodwill and the local recycling center needed to become the recipients of these cast off items as quickly as possible.  So, I bagged them up and hauled them off.  Trip after trip after trip.

As the no longer used and never used items departed, other things became glaringly noticeable.  Like the closet shelf  FULL of magazines.   There were home school magazines. There were clipped out articles and intact magazines on natural health and homesteading, some dating back to the 80’s.

I wondered if the Habitat for Humanity ladies considered me to be a hoarder.

The shelves are beginning to empty, but there is still so much work to be done.  I’m overwhelmed.  Sometimes I wander from room to room, unsure where to even start.  I marvel at how much useless stuff I’ve crammed into every nook and cranny.  Stuff I no longer even saw.  Yet, stuff, for some reason, I’d felt I couldn’t part with.

Whether it had been a link to hope or a connection to a better moment in the past, I clung to it as a life line.  Mementos served as reminders of love lost but at least experienced.  Those copious amounts of printed material represented cottage dreams I’d refused to give up on.  Could I really let that go?

Yes!  I can.  I am. 

Throughout the purging process I’ve had to reevaluate my priorities and my perspective.  I can’t live in the present when I’m so simultaneously caught up in the past and the future.  

When I lost my health, my marriage, my parents, and everything familiar, I thought I couldn’t go on.  I had lost my compass.  Yet, it was through all of the devastating losses that I found the freedom to be me.  It was in that season of death that I found my life.  What I thought was an emptying of my soul was merely a purging of that which I was unnecessarily clinging to. 

I’m more like my parents than I’d like to think.  I hoarded garbage, be it magazines or toxic relationships, just as they did.  That behavior, that lifestyle pattern, brought bondage and more insecurity, like an insatiable beast with a life of its own. The purging that I was so afraid of, or denied was even necessary, turned out to be the vehicle for security and strength.  Less truly is more.

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