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It surprises me how much time, energy and courage it takes to transition to a new stage of life. Seems like once you are done raising children you should just be able to start traveling or whatever you envision for your newfound “freedom.” Yet, we’ve recently spent many weeks talking about what our second half of life could be and how to get there. And as a result, we are retooling the lifestyle we immersed ourselves in for raising a family. This means scaling back and letting go. First, we’re letting go of stuff.

Stuff we’ve kept because it wasn’t prudent to sell what we “might need someday.” Someone I love gave me a sewing machine in early marriage. Maybe that was what a good wife and mother needed. Turns out sewing is not my thing, but I felt guilty for getting rid of something so practical and purposeful, especially considering the giver. Twenty years later (and minimally used), I thought about mounting it on the wall so everyone would know I’d been a good wife and mother. But now it seems more prudent to let someone who likes sewing enjoy owning it, so it’s gone.

Stuff we have because after keeping it for many years it seemed like giving away part of history. Someone gave us an anniversary clock for our wedding. It’s gold and a bit ornate which isn’t our style. My daughter once said she wanted it someday so I boxed it up guilt-free because, after all, I was “handing it down!” I moved it six times. She finally got her own apartment so I dug it out and brought it over. When we unpacked it she said, “That’s not your anniversary clock.” “Yes,” I said. “That’s it.” She paused. “I thought it was silver and looked different.” She didn’t want it either. That old clock hasn’t seen the last 15 or more of our anniversaries so it’ll be happy to count time for another marriage.

Stuff that means more work or doesn’t fit our current lifestyle. Our lawn mower, outdoor fire pit, snow shovels, tree swing. We won’t own a house again for a while so why keep them?

I’ve discovered there is a lot of emotion and expectation in owning things. I mean I used to feel obligated to keep anything I received as a gift. Why? Did I feel it was an insult to the giver if I didn’t keep their gift forever? I worried about regrets (what if I wish I’d kept that). And what about the value of stories around our possessions? “That was given to me by my great grandmother.” “We found that on our honeymoon.” “This was my child’s handprint in the 3rd grade.” And then there’s the idea that some things increase in value over time (not that I can tell the difference) so maybe I am giving away our children’s inheritance by selling rather than preserving. Well…I’m letting go of all that (sorry if I’m wrong on the inheritance thing, kids) and anything that doesn’t bring me great joy or serve a meaningful purpose in our lives today.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s liberating! Having stuff of any kind requires time, money, space and energy. As for handing things down, I’ve found my kids aren’t as thrilled to have my old stuff as the stuff they’ve picked out themselves.

So first, we’re letting go of stuff. This month is a time for sorting, organizing, preparing to sell or give away and getting down to what we both still want to keep. It’s hard work. As one blogger said “This is not a weekend project. It took us years to collect all that “stuff” so give yourself permission to take some time to get rid of it.” So true. But we’re hopeful it’ll pay off in the “less is more” category of life. And then we’re letting go of scripts we’ve had in our heads about what is and isn’t feasible in the second half. More on that in a later blog. What about you? How do you decide what stays and goes in your life?