In the past decade (oy vey, that's a loaded term!), I've realized that there are a few select events that happen in your life which inevitably demand organization and a re-evaluation of space, either mental or physical (or both).
3. having a baby
I've participated in these 4 events a total of 9 times now, not including the perpetual flux of moving to and from college every school year. We're in the midst of the biggest over-haul of our lives, and it's been a process that really began with our first baby and isn't over yet. But it is noticeably pronounced seeing as how for the first time ever since we've had a 2-car garage, 6 years now, we are using 1/2 of our garage as storage. That also puts some of the accumulation too much under my nose to ignore any further, and today, I took the time to sift through a very specific piece of the cardboard box jungle and freed up 2 totes that for much too long stored nothing but artifacts of my high school and college lives.
When you're doing this sort of historical sifting and you're alone with your thoughts, not even any music to distract you, I think that you're forced to really address issues of keep/recycle/donate/throw away that you've kept putting off for ... a decade. I'm pushing 30, waiting any day now to welcome the last addition to our small family, waiting semi-impatiently to have someone fall in love with our little cottage so that we can move firmly into the middle-class strata, and a lot of these keepsakes and memories are just not necessary to me any longer. I've come across these often during these past 11 years, but I've always pulled a Scarlett O'Hara move, pushing the collection of stuff aside to "think about tomorrow," which before today has never come. Today was it. No more pussy-footing around the issue. I'm tired of ignoring it, and what I realized is because of the time that has lapsed, I'm ready to get rid of what was inherently important to me before. With that mindset, I found myself barely glancing at pictures before thinking "Eh, blurry..." or "Why would I even want to keep that shot? You can't see anyone's faces in it." I felt cold and a little calculating, impartially tossing aside dozens of point-and-shoot pictures that, honestly, were pretty badly taken.
I still kept some pictures. Enough.
I found myself with the mindset of "Would my daughters care about _________ if they're looking through this in 20 years?" and "I want to keep this just so that I can show my kids." And if the special memory that I was tangibly holding didn't qualify in either of those categories, if it was something that was important to me at one moment in my life but no longer and, frankly, who would care anyway? then off it went to the allotted pile.
And it felt good.
I'm definitely of the mindset now that if I'm going to accumulate more stuff, then I want it to be purposeful. I'm not into random decorations with no purpose, for example. I'm fairly annoying for this purpose when shopping because it's a battle in my mind: "Yeah, I like it now, but really, is it just going to take up space? What's the point of owning this? Will it really matter to me?" Any time a gift-giving moment comes around on the calendar, my requests are inevitably the same now: gift cards. For food, massages, pedicures, something expendable that won't wind up in the drawer of my nightstand.
With that being said, I also think that the accumulation of stuff kinda has a bad rap. If someone were to look in my garage right now, they might think, "Wow, that's just a lot of stuff." But, really, that pile also includes that which I just went through this afternoon. Some things you just don't throw away; you wait until your kids do it for you when they're sorting out your estate! I'm never going to throw away my high school diploma, no matter how often I come across it in a box labeled "Amy's high school stuff" and think "Ugh, I still have this hanging around?" Some things are just here to stay. As long as we're able and willing to recognize the difference between that which should be stored and that which is immaterial, what does it matter? I'll take along that cardboard box with me through the aforementioned 4 significant, stuff-shifting events through my forever. And when that box gets pitched someday, that will be okay because it will have served it's purpose and someone else's little cardboard box will need to take it's place.