This morning I filled over an hour with the task of sorting through some of the detritus of life that has been waiting patiently in the attic to be processed.

I found old diaries, files of college transcripts, an early draft of my Masters thesis, extra wedding invitations from our wedding now nearly 40 years back, several course materials from the many college courses and wellness workshops I have developed over the years, photos of my instructors team when I was aerobics director at health clubs in the 80’s, an article about the folk dance trip I directed way back when, t-shirts from our travels…for starters.

Most of what I found is going to paper recycling or out on the curb for tomorrow’s donation pickup- which prompted me to dive into this task in the morning hours of one of our hottest yet days this summer.


Over the past year I have been taking on projects like this from various areas of the house. Some day we will leave this house, either by moving or our last breath – which could be tomorrow – and I don’t want the job of processing my stuff to fall in someone else’s lap.

I find that going through things is also a measure of our willingness to be present with our lives today, rather than being bolstered by past achievements or too deep awash in memories. If we cannot let go of these things today, when will we ever? There can be a security in clinging to things from the past -or rather a sense of destabilization of security when we consider letting them go – but they tie you down by their qualities of taking up space in our minds and attics. If we can be naked to the moment – figuratively speaking – more and more, what would that be like?

Now if I could only get my husband to share my enthusiasm for ‘divesting’.

Reader responses

Responses from readers when I posted this on facebook were interesting and enlightening.  Cases in point:

Nancy Norby Mathews “This is actually a true gift of generosity. When my mom became disabled and was unable to live on her own I was tasked with going through her 75 years of “life”. At one point there were multiple storage units to sort through. It was a tedious task. I was so afraid of missing something important. I found that my mom hid cash in the pages of books. Kept every news clipping going back to when man walked on the moon. I have the same philosophy Lani Muelrath live in the present, de-clutter keep it simple so that when I take my last breath my kids have a simple plan to follow without having to spend years going through my clutter. My motto is, toss it unless its something that truly brings you happiness. Then scan it if it’s a picture.  Great job on your project. It’s truly a hot time of the year to working in the attic!”


Susan Sasek “We downsized by half in 2008 and then sold our second home in 2012. Knowing that we were going to remodel I had 30 boxes I never unpacked. After we finished our remodel this spring I realized I had lived without it for 6 to 10 years- so I gave them away. Don’t know what was in them for sure but it was all extra. After 7 trips to donate in my Denali because of other stuff I no longer felt suited our paired down lifestyle, I felt free!! Could be I gave away treasures. Hope they are loved.”

I responded to Susan’s comment thus:  “I love that. I’ve done that before with items in the classroom that I stored in boxes in the shelves, came across the boxes 5 years later, and figured if I hadn’t needed them that I probably wouldn’t and just threw them away. It’s a brilliant strategy – what you don’t know about you probably won’t miss, and you save yourself the agony of new decision making. Impressive! I hope they weren’t boxes filled with cash in books like Nancy Norby Mathews found!

Share an experience?

Perhaps you too have had a liberating experience with divesting your domicile of detritus.  Hey, how about that for a sentence?

If  you do, would love to have you share your tale in comments below.

May all lives be free of clutter!




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