Thanks for your thoughts, Laura. One of the most interesting parts of the journey for us which you might find useful has been the realization that when we can see things, we often think we need them, but when we cannot see them, we do not miss them. In the early phases, we would keep a donation pile going, and often things were preliminary – we’d set them into the pile thinking that we’d wait to see if we missed them, then donate in a couple months; over time we learned that we almost never missed anything. Having the pile sit for a while made it easier to lean into letting go. The trick is NOT to go through the pile again, because when we see the thing, this often inspires longing, but if we didn’t even remember it was there… well. Really, it can go. The other thing that I forgot to mention in my post is that the more you let go of, the more what remains is what you love most, so the more you let go of, the more what you have shines simple and clear and wonderful!
I didn’t address personal papers in this post, because I let them go a long time ago; that was an earlier process for me. I had journals from third grade until… I think I stopped keeping them in my late 20s. Dozens of books. After years of theoretical consideration of whether to shed them, I began to read them – and discovered that I had mostly used them for emotional processing of hardship. They were not even an accurate record of my existence; they were a record mostly of my pain before I integrated it well. I sat down and ripped them apart, dropped a few pages at a time into the shredder, reading a little as I went. I saved a few precious, lovely breakthrough entries, but mostly, I was happy to see it go. I found I could only do this in spells; it took a lot out of me. I called it “digesting my life.” I’d do a little every so often; it went on for months. Finally, when I got to the ones from college, where I had also stapled every freaking draft of every poem (and I was studying writing poetry) in there, I thought: I know this. I don’t need to read this. I went to the beach with a couple of my girlfriends and BURNED THEM ALL in a big bonfire. It was heavenly!
It’s so kind of you to think of your family in this; many of the people whose paths I read and followed in my own journey of learning to live more lightly were inspired by their horror and/or sadness after having to dear with the material remains of the lives of their family members. It is a gift of love to our heirs and well as to the planet to live more lightly!
I look forward to hearing how your journey with this goes.