When Leaving Things Behind Provides Unexpected Gifts


Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Moving is a momentous event in almost everyone’s life. It may be to another part of the town or city, to another part of the state, or another state – near or far. Regardless, it is stressful. And the question of what particular THINGS mean to us is inevitably raised. We are always leaving things behind.

The value of the THINGS is joined in the struggle with other attitudes about using and reusing rather than disposing, of waste, etc. What we learned as children about all this is deep in our psyches. Given these factors, it’s no wonder we struggle with these decisions when on a tight timeline and stress is at a high level.

In my recent move from Nashville, Tennessee to Southern California, I went through all of this. I wrote about some aspects of it here: https://carolbrusegar.com/personal-liminal-space-a-cross-county-move-in-the-space-between/

Now that I have arrived, although what I shipped has not, I look at the process of leaving things behind  with a sense of wonder and gratitude. In unexpected ways possessions that didn’t go with me have been welcomed and will be enjoyed by a wide range of people. Some of them I knew, some I had just met and some were handed on to people I don’t know at all. I had not expected the re-connections and new acquaintances made in this process to be so pleasant and meaningful.

Things That Were Left Behind

A piano that had been used for practice by my daughter and by me in my role of church musician in past years, but which had not been used for quite some time, went to friends of mine. They had just decided they wanted to get a piano so that the partner newly retired – who had played in performance groups extensively in the past – could play. Their excitement soothed my conflicted thoughts about releasing this gift from my mother and warmed my heart.

A desk and matching file cabinet that I used extensively in the past couple of years but just didn’t fit into the truck went to a young teacher now teaching virtually. He had no desk and was making due with a table and subsequent crooks in his neck and shoulders. His joy in having a serviceable desk was palpable. He also took an elliptical that had been in my garage since I moved in – something I never used and he was glad to have.

This same teacher notified a couple with two sons learning virtually but without actual desks about my two additional desks. When they arrived to pick them up, she brought me a gift – a candle and and infinity scarf – in gratitude for the gift of the desks. I had a collection of crochet and latch hook projects my mother had made laying out at the time, and she was very interested in them. I had taken photos of them and was ready to let them go but didn’t know where or to whom. I offered her any items she would like and she took them all, saying she and her family would enjoy and use them. In a subsequent text she assured me she would take good care of them. She has invited me to visit their home and enjoy some Egyptian food when I visit back in Nashville.

A small white wicker nightstand was a treasure to someone I previously attended church with. Her first baby is due in January and she had been unable to find a similar item of the right size because things are backordered and out of stock these days.

Two file cabinets and a nightstand to be assembled were claimed by young people in the neighborhood looking for such items.

I learned in this process that entertainment centers aren’t in much demand these days! This was a tough one. I finally found a friend with a large enough vehicle to deliver it to a resale place, and his employee who came along to help was eyeing the piece with great interest. I asked if he wanted it and he affirmed that he did. So it went to a family connected to a friend.

I sold a nearly-new bunk bed to a couple who turned out to live just a couple of blocks away and are just beginning to serve as foster parents. The bed will be for them – children in difficult situations needing a caring space, caring people and a cozy bed.

And finally, a buffet that belonged to my parents for many years. It was not up to being shipped again and I determined I could let it go. A friend who needs more storage for materials for her home sewing  business (currently focused on beautiful face masks) was delighted to get it and pledged to take special care of it as a family treasure. She generously gave me five of her beautiful masks as a thank you for the buffet.

Beyond these meaningful re-homed items, a friend who is a genius re-distributer moved out additional miscellaneous items and got them to people who needed and appreciated them. They went to individuals and to a resale store. Knowing that so many of my things will be used by others is a great feeling.

Leaving things behind provided emotional and psychic rewards.  Sharing with others minimized the sadness of letting go of things I had used and enjoyed and even things with special meaning. I am grateful for these gifts in the midst of a busy and stressful time leading into the beginning of a new era of my life.


Personal Liminal Space – A Cross-County Move In the Space Between  

movingI’ve reflected on the liminal space we are all experiencing during this pandemic here: https://carolbrusegar.com/liminal-spaces-in-between-time/  It is a time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Now I am in a specific personal liminal space. Within a few weeks, I will be moving from Nashville, TN to Cypress, CA to be near my family. They moved from Nashville to California four years ago and I am delighted to be joining them.

Preparing to Move in Liminal Space

The liminal space begins with the preparation stage – not what it used to be and hopefully not what it will be in the future. The differences from previous moves begin with paring down belongs as we typically do. All the precautions must be followed; so trips to donate boxes of books to a library’s used book sale mean masks on both sides, a cart that I must load and leave at the door. When I make deliveries of donated items to Good Will, I must unload the boxes and bags filling my car into bins. Their employees aren’t allowed to gather items or help in any way. Some things that I might have sought out places to donate to – magazines, for example – don’t seem worth the additional hassle and go into recycle bins. I won’t ask or accept offers of help in the packing process from friends to eliminate risks. When I must have people in for a moving estimate or to remove furniture that is donated or purchased, it will be with utmost precautions.

As departure time comes closer, there won’t be any in-person gatherings to say good-bye to groups of friends or others. Even if they were done carefully, following all the recommended precautions, we couldn’t hug each other. So we will have a Zoom gathering instead. This makes it a rather strange departure. Hopefully the future holds something better.

All of the details of safe reunion with my family after I have traveled across country also need to be worked out. It will be a challenge to reunite after nearly eight months with no visits in a responsible, safe way. (Normally I see them every 3 months.)

The Challenge of Downsizing Memorabilia

Another aspect of this process, which would have happened regardless of the external circumstances, is the significant downsizing of the memorabilia of my life. Perhaps because of the context of 2020, I am thinking of this process in a liminal space framework also.

I have carried many boxes with me through two moves – a collection of things that only certified pack rats (or treasure keepers in gentler terms) would continue moving. I have eliminated things in each of my past two moves and what I still have are some of the most precious. These include items from my mother who died 18 years ago: costume jewelry, her crochet and latch hook projects, table linens, aprons.

Then there are letters she wrote me over many years and over 60 years-worth of her diaries. The letters and diaries will be used for writing I plan to do and thus will make this move too. I am taking photos of many of the other things as remembrances and letting go of the physical objects. I am paring down remembrances from other family members and friends as well as 40 years of print photos. I feel as though I am in a space of letting go at a deeper level than before. The connection to the physical things that connected me to the people is in some way changing.

Hanging on to so many physical items has been my past mode of operation. The process of letting go of these keepsakes is a physical manifestation of the letting go of some of the other things I have had to release for the past several months. Some of them will never return in any form. Some will be recreated. All will stay in my memories.

Preserving the Meaning Without All the Objects

As I move through this, I am motivated and inspired to capture and preserve some of the memories and reflections for the future. I kept things in boxes and brought them along because they were valuable to me. How can the meaning of such things be captured in ways that will sustain me and touch or inform members of my family or others? How can I honor and share the meaning and lessons? That is my challenge and another opportunity from the liminal space of 2020!

Perhaps you, too, are exploring how to capture your experiences, your story, your memoir in writing. There are many books available to assist us in this process.  https://amzn.to/3gSo6bo

Here’s one that has a unique approach that I have found to be helpful:  https://amzn.to/32OyHiH  The Stories We Leave Behind: A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff by Laura H Gilbert