Thankfully Getting Rid of the Unnecessary

Think of it as the opposite of Black Friday

I’m starting a new personal tradition. After a day spent cooking and drinking and reveling in excess, as is often the case for those of us lucky enough to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving in the usual manner, I’ve decided to purge.

Most of us have so much goddamn stuff. Needed at the moment or not. It collects, crowding the spaces in our lives, filling them with product. An archive of the things we just had to have, or the dreams and hobbies we’ve left behind, or the clothes that seemed so chic but now have vanished from our usual rotation.

I’m tossing it.

I grew up with very little, spending my Christmases eyeing the lucky kids and their stacks of presents with more sadness than envy. Perhaps that helped me to become such a pack rat. Not to scary levels, mind you. That’s what makes it so insidious. It’s all squirreled away, out of sight. The hidden detritus of consumerism.

I tell myself that everything is useful, and that I’ll miss it once it’s gone. “It.” The anthropomorphized ideation of a consumer product.

There’s the stacks of rolled up posters from previous apartments that I keep because that I fear it would mean losing all the memories that came with them, all those years long gone when they stood as silent witnesses to my adventures and follies and joy and misery and everything in between. The box of broken toys that I can’t seem to get rid of because I keep imagining someday someone will want to play with them. Long-broken strands of cheap necklaces and spiked collars and single earrings separated from their matched pair, all things I tell myself I’ll need if I ever get back to making jewelry again.

And then there are the mystery boxes. Hauled from move to move more out of habit than anything else. Taped up and mislabelled and containing who knows what sort of keepsakes that were once precious to me so far back that I can no longer remember they existed.

I don’t need them.

I don’t need more “stuff.”

I’m cutting the connection between the material and the memory, because I recognize I am keeping so much of this for the simple reason that I fear being disconnected from those scattered moments in time when I thought they were useful, or when they caught my eye at a thrift store, or on a website, or handed down to me from others I cared for once and others I care for eternally.

Those memories are stored within me, not the things. Not these memento mori of the fleeting days of my life.

So I’ve decided to make a yearly habit of thanking them, and sending them away. Of choosing less, instead of more.

Elizabeth Fernandez has spent the last 12 years writing articles, editing books, managing magazines, and creating comics. Her latest graphic novel, Enigmatic Patterns: The Life and Death of Alan Turing, was funded through Kickstarter and is due out in 2015.

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