It’s as if we think we will lose the memories if we lose the items, so we decide it’s best just to let the junk piles grow and keep these items in our grasp. I’m sorry, not junk — “antiques.” We have to show respect to that rusted out shovel your grandfather used to own.
I’m no different. In our closet, we still dedicate hanger space to old Peachtree Road Race and Kidney Walk t-shirts, as well as snagged sweaters and stained Tennessee and Georgia sweatshirts that have seen their better days. Of our dress pants maybe 50 percent get used regularly, and Katie has a pair of blue jeans, I kid you not, with a button-fly. I’m sure if I checked the pockets there would be a Vanilla Ice concert ticket stub in there.
This idea of holding on to stuff even affects the kitchen. The other day I watched Katie eat some garlic and herbs cheese on a cracker, and couldn’t remember us buying any garlic and herbs cheese lately. I reached in the fridge to find the container, which had an expiration date of Sept. 1. When I brought this to Katie’s attention she assured me the months-old cheese tasted fine.
That made me question how many items in our fridge had gone bad. I grabbed some salsa and saw it’s expiration date was Sept. 24 — of 2010. I found some chopped garlic, cilantro, vodka sauce, ranch dressing, and Heinz 57 sauce, all with dates ending in 2011. Then there was the ketchup, tomato soup, mustard, and vinaigrette, all having expired in 2010. Italian dressing, Mayonnaise, and Olive Oil dressing from 2009. And yes, we had some mustard that should have been thrown out in 2008.
Twenty-eight containers that were in the refrigerator door were expired. This does not include the science experiments growing in the depths of our fridge. The CDC estimates food poisoning occurs in private homes three times more often than outside the home. I now understand why.
But why have we hoarded these items in the first place? Is it about control? Comfort with the familiar? Laziness? Or focusing on the wrong things?
We surround ourselves with comforts to make us feel better, in an attempt to fix our brains and forget anything that makes us feel bad. But all this energy spent on our external world keeps us from focusing on the internal struggle we can address by letting go. So what if your college couch went in the yard sale or if you gave away those vinyl records? What remains is you. All those experiences and memories are you, and having an entire home full of reminders doesn’t make them more or less real. It just clutters today.
Faith is believing in something unseen. We tend to associate that concept with religion. But maybe we should apply faith to our own lives. Just because you stop tripping over mementos from your past doesn’t mean the past didn’t happen.
You just have more room to move forward.
Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huffington Post. She broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in Atlanta and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter