Sentimental items are hard to simplify. So hard, in fact, that the thought of digging through those treasured items keeps some people from even pursuing a life with less stuff.
Having let go of nearly 75% of our possessions, I know it’s not easy. It’s hard to sift through memories of people and times past. And it’s even harder to decide what to keep and what to let go. But I’ve done it and so can you-if you really want to.
I had a lofty reason to simplify. I wanted a life filled with more adventure and joy. Focusing on our goal, to move across the country and live by the ocean, kept me moving forward throughout the simplifying process, especially through the sentimental items.
I’ve written about the difficulties we had making decisions along the way, but one challenge I haven’t written about is an item you wouldn’t necessarily think of as sentimental-our kitchen table.
This table was one of our first purchases in our marriage. It’s where my husband and I shared simple meals before our babies joined us. It welcomed family and friends for conversation after worldly travels. It held turkeys and hams and lasagnas and takeout. It held homemade birthday cakes alongside platters of cookies made by grandparents who have passed on.
It was a space for grace and gratitude. It’s where travel plans were made and sad news was delivered. It’s where tears were shed and harsh words were said. It welcomed highchairs and first meals and spills and sticky fingers. It even served sandwiches to mischievous pups when no one was looking.
I treasure all of these moments, but it’s the ordinary days between all of that celebrating and gathering that had me most attached to that table.
One of my favorite moments each day was sitting opposite my husband, each at our ends of the table, making eye contact in the midst of a typical day in our lives as a group of 5, sometimes 6. The scene often included at least three people making noise at once with “why” and “how” questions being asked and last minute reminders of what was needed for school the next day being shouted, all rounded out by singing or crying, depending on the day. I relished our discreet eye rolls and smirks knowing that we were in this together and that there was really no place else we’d rather be (most days).
When it came time to make the decision about whether or not we would keep the table, all I could think about were these memories that seemed to make this table so special. I feared that letting go of this table would make all of those memories dissappear…
Knowing we didn’t have room in the truck and that we had another table already waiting for us on the other end, we ended up deciding to sell the table to a woman who bought it for her elderly parents. I didn’t spend much time then thinking about the new memories it would be part of but I can only image what it’s seen since it left my home. I simply stayed focus on our dream and I found peace in our decision.
Eventually, I also found joy. Since we shared our last meal around that table, I’ve done all of these same things and more at tables all over the country. I’ve sat at tables with family members whom I hadn’t seen in years. I’ve squeezed around a table in an RV sweating in the middle of the desert. I’ve wiped up spilled lemonade from a table on the beach. I’ve gathered around tables in rental houses celebrating with dear friends. I’ve said grace around hotel nightstands with the people I love. And I’ve still been able to catch smirks from my husband as countless new memories have been created.
Occasionally I think about our old table and what I’ve realized is this – It’s not at all about the table. And it never was.
It’s about gathering with people you love. It’s about welcoming friends to share meals even if the table seems too small. It’s about celebrating and mourning and laughing and crying and having the tough conversations along with the joyful ones regardless of what table we’re at.
It’s hard to let go of the physical items we have in our lives. They’ve helped us create memories that we don’t ever want to forget. But when we let go of these physical things, our memories stay with us. We get to take them along and we receive a new gift – the opportunity to move closer to our dreams.
I invite you to remember this simple truth.
Then I encourage you to let go of what no longer fits in your life and to pursue your dreams. Because it’s really not about the table.
To Simplicity & Joy,