opening boxOver the years I have carried around the baggage of my past, mementos, things I just couldn’t give up. Things that belonged to other people that I thought: someday, I’d be able to give them back.

This radiates out from my family of origin to my family of choice and to past lovers and friends. I’ve already done an incredible amount of letting go of stuff. I held onto a huge South Park Cartman doll that had belonged to my niece. She died in 2001. I gave it away in 2007, before we moved to Santa Fe. It was hard, but the doll was not my niece.

I’ve held onto things from my mother. I have a lost wax pendant she made when I was just a child, it still has the original leather that makes the choker. It is a piece I am not ready to let go of, yet.

Stuff Can Cause an Emotional Storm

Recently we sorted through our pile of electronics stuff as part of this Radically Reducing project. I found a box labeled “film stuff.”

“What’s this about?” I wondered. Harmless enough, right? Probably remnants of my college days when I took a super 8 mm film class. Pieces of a past I was done with. I opened the box and was facing memories from a relationship I had over 20 years ago. This was not expected. I had already sent off some things to this person in an earlier purge.

I call this an emotional bomb box, an EBB. I’m sure we all have them. We live in a society that entices us to cling and hold onto physical items for the memories. This box brought up some very deeply buried emotions. Feelings I had about the relationship, what happened in it, how she left me, how horrible I had been to her. The list of negative emotions attached to these things went on and on. These thoughts raced through my brain in just a few seconds. As I sat there staring in disbelief, I began to understand the nature of energy and objects and why it was so hard to let go of that person.

Physical object have energy, Energy that comes from other people. Stuff carries the intent and purpose of the owner/giver. Letting go of objects from the past can help cleanse and purge our deepest selves.

Sitting there with the box in front of me, the question arose, “if this was a box from my past, from so long ago, WHY WAS I STILL CARRYING IT AROUND?”

The only answer I had was that I had thought it was harmless. A piece of my past that I thought I would get around to sorting, eventually.

Be Aware of the Mines Hiding in Your Stuff

If you are starting to de-clutter your life, getting rid of small things, sorting through boxes and bins packed long ago and hidden away from sight, be aware of what any box might contain. Be conscious. You could be caught by surprise. Feelings that you didn’t know you still had can be lurking in the dark corners of your psyche.

It’s been extremely helpful that my spouse and I are walking through this process together. We are each other’s support system for when these emotions leap out at us.

If you are sorting stuff by yourself and you know these EBB’s exist, ask for support. Before you deal with that stuff, reach out to a friend who is willing to be there and help you face the ghosts of your past. This stuff can arouse strong emotions. Having someone there can help lessen the painful part of the sorting process.

The best advice I have for you is to not accumulate stuff in the first place. If it is something you don’t want to keep, get rid of it immediately. Let go of the habit of stuffing. Not every card, memento, and trinket are important. Birthday cards, holiday cards, mementos, unless they are special, they go right into the recycling. I have the memory of the card. I can scan it if I want to keep it, but I don’t actually need the thing.

Letting Go of the Past

Today I can look back at that past relationship with compassion. What I found in that box echoed something deep inside me. Facing it, I can be kinder and gentler to the 30-ish year old me. I can start to forgive myself.

You can too. Focusing on the positive aspects of the memory can help alleviate any guilt or harsh feelings. Get rid of the physical reminders and move on. It lays the foundation for creating a better version of yourself.

Please see our Sorting Electronics Video on the Radically Reducing YouTube channel for my moment with this Emotional Bomb Box. It comes up about 27 minutes into the video. If you’d like to know more, send us an email or message us through social media @artisticnomads.