purging the past…

…to live more fully in the present.

That’s my motto, and I’m sticking to it. Even if my husband thinks I’m a whack-basket (no, that’s probably not a word, and no, it has probably never crossed Gabe’s mind to call me that).

Anyway. The older girls had the day off (teacher work day) and we ran a bunch of errands while Nina was at Tuesday school, came home for lunch, ran some more errands, then DOVE IN.

I called them down to the basement and cast this amazing vision of what we could use it for if all the “junk” was gone once and for all. (to be honest, there’s not a ton left down there, but it’s enough to drive me batty) We talked about a guest suite, letting someone who’s homeless live with us, possibly adopting someday…

And then I started going through a “Memory Box.” With just the tiniest bit of hesitation, I said to myself, “I’m done. Let’s toss it.” A huge baggie of cross country and track ribbons and medals? Gone. 1990 Cincinnati Reds program and Wheaties box? Gone. Old Christmas cards? Gone. Letters/cards from people I barely know? Gone. Trophies (what was left after I purged a bunch awhile back)? Gone. (I did keep four.) My college yearbooks? Gone. Letters for a letter jacket I never owned? Gone. Keepsakes from here, there, and who knows where? Gone.

I know some of you are c-r-i-n-g-i-n-g (including my dad–hi, Dad!) right now. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. I kept some really important stuff. I did. And it’s going to be okay. It is.

Here’s the deal. I don’t want to live in the past. (And I don’t want to live in the future, i.e., storing up on earth for “someday.”) I want to live NOW. And the things that are important to me NOW are the very most important things in all the earth–my God, my family, helping the poor and hurting, and telling people about Jesus.

All that other stuff? Not so important.

I want to leave my children a legacy. But I don’t want it to be a slew of ribbons and medals and trophies. I really wasn’t even all that good at anything. (Half of my ribbons were for, like, 13th place. Woot!!)

I have no desire to pull out a huge box of all my accolades someday and brag to my girls that I was all kinds of awesome back in the day. And I can’t imagine that “1988 Champaign County Spelling Bee Champion” is going to mean squat to them. Do they even have spelling bees in this century?

I want my girlies to remember that 1.) I loved God with all my heart. 2.) I loved them and their daddy with all my heart. and 3.) I did all I could to reconcile this hurting world to the Savior who died so that we might live.

Now, hear me on this. I’m not saying you have to take purging to this level, that it says something about you spiritually. It doesn’t. Well, it could. But it might not. I just know that, for me, I’m ready for this stuff to go. I don’t want nothin’ tying me down.

I want to be free.

(This is where I could go on and on about how many kinds of freedom I’m feeling, but I’ll spare you.)

So, what did I keep? Plenty. Like I said, four trophies. Lots of pictures. Many, many notes and cards that meant something special (particularly ones from grandparents, parents, siblings, kiddos). Certain sweet things Gabe made/drew/wrote for me. A jar of potpourri that takes me back to our first apartment whenever I open it. Our college diplomas. And lots of other stuff. (and I have MUCH to sort through still–maybe the problem is that I had an inordinate amount of “saved memories” to begin with)

Bottom line? You can’t take it with you. And making idols of stuff isn’t cool.

Next-to-bottom line? I don’t want to always be looking back over at my shoulder at the “good ol’ days.” I want THESE to be the good ol’ days. And so they are. If I live to be 97, I don’t want my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids sitting around a box of my junk, reminiscing about blah, blah, blah. I’d rather them be off loving on orphans and thinking to themselves every now and again, “I’ll bet Grandma Marla would be tickled giddy if she could see us right about now.”

Okay, I clearly need to get to bed.

Anything from your past you need to kiss good-bye?

p.s. Feel free to also share your warning words of, “You’re going to regret this!” Or, “I think you’re taking this thing just a WEE bit too far!” (that would be Gabe’s opinion) I’ll just smile and nod. And love you anyway.

43 thoughts on “purging the past…

  1. Pingback: Manic Monday: Food for Thought…and Fun! « To Be A Mom…

  2. Melanie Miller

    Marla, you are seriously inspiring me! I spent the first 60 days of this year doing a de-cluttering and that felt really good. But now I’m feeling like I could go through the whole house again. My hubby’s parents are farmers and I shudder at what awaits us “someday”. How do we lose sight of what we truly want to leave our kids? I applaud you for walking the talk!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Melanie. My grandparents were farmers too. Grandma always found a second use for everything and got rid of nothing. I get it though (they had 7 kids and not much $).

  3. Karen Shock

    Inspiring for sure! I’m thinking I will read this post to my family this weekend and then take them down in our basement :)! I am with you on this one Marla! Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Jen Hanson

    This is fantastic. One thing I did not do while clearing out my closet at my parent’s house was purge my “memories box” which is actually a large truck. Last time I went through it (maybe 6 years ago), I couldn’t remember what half of the keepsakes we for. I should go through that sucker again and downsize to maybe one shoe box.

  5. Mandy

    I personally think you are doing the right thing. Over the past few years, several of my relatives have had to clean out the houses and apartments of elderly loved ones who have passed away. It was a nightmare going through all the things that had been saved. Instead of being able to properly take time to mourn, my relatives had to haul loads of keepsakes and other things (all of it could be respectfully labeled “junk”) away and spend hours sorting through all that stuff and trying to decide who would get what or whether it was even worth keeping. I hope to never leave a “legacy” like that to my children.

    My husband and I are also resolved to clean out our basement so we can use it for something rather than just a storage area for all the stuff we don’t need.

    1. Marla Taviano

      We did that (well, my aunt did the bulk of the work) with my Grandma recently. Not easy AT ALL. I took a ton of her stuff no one else wanted, but I’m realizing that a few of Grandma’s most special things means more than a whole bunch of stuff that’s not really that special.

  6. Jennifer

    I’m in the process of doing this too. My oldest son has decided he no longer wants to share a room with his younger brother, so we moved him into the playroom. All that stuff had to come out, which led to a basement clean up of over 19 years of stuff. I’m in the midst of it now, and feeling a little overwhelmed with the amount of STUFF we have. I’ve had loads that I’ve thrown out, and feel like I can hardly tell a difference.
    I am a pack rat, but I’ve come to learn that my memories aren’t tied into the stuff. Even if I get rid of the tea cup that I used to have tea parties with my grandma, I still have the memories. It’s a work in progress. You go girl!

    1. Marla Taviano

      I’m finally starting to see the difference in our house. And then boxes I forgot I even had start appearing out of nowhere. Someday, we WILL conquer this! 🙂

  7. Missy June

    I’m right there with you – it’s so true about not living in the past! I have found such extreme freedom in letting go, giving away, not clinging to the “what if….”

    Love it!

  8. Betsy

    I’m like your father on this one. Cringing. The historian in me (who by the way is trying to find out ANYTHING about my great-grandparents…who they were, what made them tick…were the Christians and love the Lord? Will I see them in Heaven?? ) realizes how quickly if nothing is left, in even one or two generations sees how fast time moves on.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Here’s the thing, Betsy. My girls have their entire lives documented in digital photos and on my blog. And believe me, I’m keeping A LOT of stuff that will remind them of who I am/was (I also have lots of special things from their great-grandparents). I’m just getting rid of the superfluous stuff. Cross country ribbons? That’s not who I am.

        1. Betsy

          Yes, it does…hopefully, there will be something that can read those digital memories some day! 🙂 BTW…leave a book somewhere— the County Historical Society of where your family lives is the best idea for their descendants. I wish mine had. My grandparents have even been gone a long time, unfortunately, and you wouldn’t believe the mis-information that has been left, even to knowing where they were born, and one grandma’s middle name.

  9. Liz

    After reading your post I read, Jesus Calling for today. I thought you would enjoy this:
    May 4 Meet Me in the Morning Stillness
    While the earth s fresh with the dew of my Presence. Worship Me in the beauty of holiness. sing love songs to My holy Name. As you give yourself to Me, My Spirit swells within you till you are flooded with divine Presence.
    The world’s way of pursuing riches is grasping and hoading. You attain My riches by letting go and giving. The more you give yourself to Me and My ways, the more fill you with inexpressible, heavenly Joy.
    Psalm 29:2 1 Peter 1:8
    Marla I’m sure God is well pleased with you and your desire to be more like him.

  10. Ruth

    Okay. That’s it. You’ve officially inspired me. We’re in a small apartment and I’m overwhelmed with how much “stuff” we have. It’ll be (mostly) gone this weekend. If you can do it, I can too! Going going GONE!

    (P.S. It’s also because our 8 week old puppy Buster loves to chew on absolutely everything. The kitchen table. The TV trays. Bob’s slippers. My toes…ouch.)

      1. Ruth

        He is ADORABLE and such a dream come true. I love him to pieces! butohmyword. He has more energy than I thought possible. I’m exhausted!! 🙂 Did you see the videos?? Ohhh they make me giggle and squirm with happiness! 🙂

  11. Wendy

    I might be a whack-basket. I have a memory box, too! Letting go of the past has always been something I struggle with. I can see how this would be a great tangible way to chip away at that.

    ~ Wendy

  12. Shannon Wheeler

    We’re in the middle of a major clean-out ourselves! Raising money with a yard sale for a trip to Ukraine to spend time with a boy we’d hoped to adopt but has since aged-out has been the perfect motivation! I love your heart for the orphan and the poor – I love the legacy you hope to leave your girls. We’re hoping to move this summer (God willing, given the market!), so we have more space for just the kinds of outreach you’ve mentioned. It’s exciting to hear your enthusiasm! I say, “You go, girl!”

      1. Shannon Wheeler

        Thank you, Marla! God’s showing us that He can help us be a family to this boy anyway – the Lord has good plans for his life, and we are committed to remaining in his life for as long as he’ll have us! (I’ve written about our process with him in my blog in “Feel the Burn” and “Holding on Loosely,” if anyone’s interested in reading about it!)

        I’m looking forward to hearing more about what God brings for opportunities into your life! Thanks for sharing your story with us all!

  13. Katie Ganshert

    I’m not a pack rat. So I don’t think you’ll regret it. Loved this post. Reminded me of what’s important. What I need to focus on. And sadly, I don’t focus enough on your number 3. But man….to leave that kind of a legacy. That is a beautiful, beautiful blessing.

  14. Keri

    I look around our small apartment and think back to our relatively large house in Houston and wonder what in the world I think I needed all that extra stuff for. I feel so unencumbered here……..there’s no storage at all so it either goes in a bedroom, the family room or kitchen or it goes. I really kinda like it that way! I don’t think you’re crazy at all. You are giving your girls the greatest memories by being present in their lives….every single day.

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