My parents have sold their house in Omaha and will be up here looking for a house in the Cities area after today. (For those of you not keeping a scorecard of my extended family's activities, Dad had a job opportunity with his current company arise, but it required a relocation up here, so they're moving. So far it appears that my grands are staying in Nebraska -- where they moved from the Twin Cities area to be with my parents and me.)
One of the things this means is that my mom is cleaning things out, deciding what to move and what to leave with the grands (who are moving from their house into Mother and Dad's house, so actually it's the grands' house that's sold to an outside party) and what to get rid of entirely. A few weeks ago, Dad brought me a box of dragons and things left in the drawers of the built-in cabinet in my old bedroom. I still have to go through the dragons, but I went through the rest this morning: a good three-sided ruler, my grandpa's old compass and protractor set, mix-tapes from my adolescence, and two Amy Grant CDs.
My mom gave me Amy Grant CDs after I started spending time with Stephanie across the street. Steph was three years older, sweet, soft-spoken, kind, fragile, fond of poetry. She listened to Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and talked with quiet intensity about her faith. Mom felt safe when I hung out with Steph and listened to Amy Grant, but I never got into the music. It was just there because Steph liked it, and I liked Steph. We were never "best friends," but we enjoyed each other's company.
Stephanie killed herself when I was a junior in college. She was a tiny person, and they couldn't get the balance of anti-depressants right in time for her. Maybe she could have been like many of you if she'd been able to survive longer, finding a treatment balance that worked, able to find or make good days among the bad. Maybe there would have been a new drug that worked, or maybe her body would have settled in of its own accord. We didn't have the chance to find out.
The summer I got married, I went through some of my old things at my folks' house myself. I took a bunch of CDs I had been given as gifts to a pawn shop and sold them, but even though Amy Grant had never really been my thing, even though I knew I would never listen to them again, I didn't want to sell these CDs.
I don't really want the CDs. What I want is for Steph to be alive and happy, and what I want is to never, ever have to worry about something similar again with any of the rest of you. And I don't get either of those things, whether I keep the CDs or not.
When we got nightstands a couple of months ago, I went through the old plastic storage bins we'd been using to set our glasses on before. I'd put old letters in there, birthday cards, documents of various kinds. I threw out pay stubs from my workstudy job in college. I kept a forward scottjames sent me when we were freshmen in college, before we started dating, because he greatly improved it with his annotations, and while I didn't laugh so hard rereading it as I did at the time, I remembered how hard I laughed at the time. It reminded me of how much I love my friend, and of why. I recycled another letter from scottjames because it reminded me of why we broke up, and as we aren't in any danger of reversing that decision, reliving that particular set of reactions did not seem like something I wanted for the future.
For me, the question of decluttering is always, "What do I want this for?" And, "I want this so that I can be reminded of a good time with a good friend," is a perfectly reasonable answer (to a point -- when you can no longer move about your home because of the said reminders, or when you have a fire hazard, or when you can no longer enjoy good times with good friends now, that may be a problem). But the point is, you are the one who has to answer that, not some objective board of inquiry. I haven't watched much of any of the decluttering shows on TV, and one of the reasons is that they don't seem to accept that good answers to that key question can vary. Making people get rid of all but two shelves of books is not at all respectful of variation in values.
I'm torn on the subject of the Amy Grant CDs, because my real, honest answer is, "I want this because I want Steph to be alive and happy," and that's not something that keeping the CDs will actually accomplish. If I keep them, it won't be on the shelves with the rest of our CDs. It will be in the bottom of a storage tub in the basement. I can very nearly guarantee that I will never have cause or desire to play them again. If I sold them or gave them away, someone might enjoy the music the way Steph enjoyed the music. I can tell that I am not processing this rationally. What I can't tell is whether I should try to make myself process it rationally.
What would you do?