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Gift Knacks

Aunt Loretta gave you this little gem for your wedding <sigh> it's so supposed to be for good luck. Even though Aunt Loretta hasn't actually visited your home in the 9 years you've been married or lived in the house your mother, who comes by every week will notice if you toss this little, dust-collecting, little gem. And that's a conversation you don't want to have so you keep it. Along with lots of other things you don't really want. Gift Knacks, that's what I call them.

Like Knick Knacks, but purchased with guilt instead of money. Knick knacks and tchotchkes are bad enough to wrestle into submission but add emotions like sentimentality and guilt and you have an actual dilemma on your hands.

I didn't always lean toward minimalism but experiencing a total loss in Hurricane Katrina reordered my thinking. While some people who experience a traumatic loss like fire, disaster, flood, etc. are triggered to hoard and hold on to everything. I went the opposite direction (as I often do). I stopped attaching sentiments to objects. My treasure in this life is in people, not things.

I lost the home videos that had documented my children's lives. Their baby photos. My grandmother's quilts. As far as "things" go, they were as precious to me as a "thing" could get. And I survived. I have keepsakes, but I'm selective about what I hold and I know if I lost them, it will be okay.

I choose now to spend luxurious amounts of time with the people I love. My husband and I no longer spend every weekend reclaiming our house because we just have less. And less as I had always heard, really is more.

Less stuff, more time.

It's not just crystal candy dishes we have to be wary of either. All those toys, clothes, holiday decor you were gifted. It all takes up space in your home. Whether you believe me or don't, every item in your home costs you something. It costs you space that could be better utilized. It costs you time in cleaning it up, reorganizing it. It costs you energy you do not have to spare - to dust it, put it back, store it. But mostly, visually clutter and disorder fuels anxiety even when it feels like it's comforting. At best it's masking and preventing you from growing and overcoming.

It feels like comfort, but what it really does is insulate you from managing your emotions, your life, your work, your relationships and fulfilling your purpose. It sedates you, lulls you into complacency. It gives you something "else" to do, instead of what you need to do. Despite all the social media posts that click bait you with "Messy People Are Smarter" headlines, you do not thrive within the confines of clutter.

You might feel cozy but you won't ever have lasting peace or live your best life. I'm a convert to less. I used to name my cars and I wanted all my things where I could "enjoy them". Now I want to be untethered to material possessions. I am fiercely attached to people just not the stuff they gift me.

The thing isn't the person.

Life is well lived within the walls of my home and the world is outside waiting to be explored. It's important to take time to consider our attachments. Sometimes holding on to the things satisfies our emotional relationship. By holding on to Aunt Loretta's wedding gift we have evidence that we love her, that she matters. We can breathe easy, guilt-free. Box checked.

But the harder truth to face is that we don't go visit Aunt Loretta. We don't drop her notes, or cards or pick up the phone and check on her after her knee surgery. That's hard. That's time and effort, commitment. That's on us. It's much less work to treasure the gift, than to treasure the giver. Purge the stuff and spend time with people instead of dusting.

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