you don't need proof that you did something. and neither do your kids.

I'm sure you've heard this:  "If you don't love it or use it often, let it go."

When I really started to get serious about having less stuff crowding up my life, I ran into a lot of snags.  Here's one of them:  I kept lumping stuff that I had used a whole lot in some other stage of my life into the "love it" category.

It was often more rationalization than actual love, and it was adding some serious pounds to my load o' stuff.

I'm a person who needs examples.  Maybe you are, too.  Here are three examples of some stuff I was holding onto because I "loved" it:

Stuff Number One...

What I was holding onto:  A bunch of books and plays from my French Lit classes in college

Why I said was holding onto them:  Because I loved those plays, and maybe I'd read them again someday.

How many times I actually read them over the past 20 years:  Zero

Why I was really holding onto them:  Because they were tangible proof of something I had accomplished.  Proof that I was smart.  That there was a time when I could read and discuss a play in French.

What I ended up doing with them:  I gave all but one away.  I kept Les Chaises by Eugene Ionesco.  It's my favorite play, and my daughter likes looking at the picture of the broken chair on the cover.

How I feel about that now:  Don't miss 'em at all.  And I still remember rolling in 15 minutes late to every 8AM French Lit class I took, swigging a Coke and switching over to French-brain.  I remember that well enough to believe that I could speak the language once upon a time.  Oh, and also:  I feel happy that they're not crowding up my bookshelf.

What I imagine my daughter saying about them 50 years from now:  Oh.  A bunch of French books.  Must be Mama's from college.  Donate pile, please.

Stuff Number Two...

What I was holding onto:  My rollerblades from my time in Chicago

Why I said was holding onto them:  Because I loved my rollerblades, and my husband likes skating too so that would be a fun thing for us to do together, right?

How many times I've actually been rollerblading since 2002:  One.  For about 20 minutes.

Why I was really holding onto them:  Because they were proof that I'm the kind of person who is brave enough to rollerblade to work on the streets of Chicago.  (Um.  Yes, I know that rollerblades are not really a strong measure of courage.  What can I say?  Our brains do funny things.)

What I ended up doing with them:  I gave them away.  But first I insisted that my husband see if Play It Again Sports wanted them.  They didn't.  (Big surprise:  They were way too old.)

How I feel about that now:  Mostly embarrassed that I kept them so long.  And happy they're not taking up a big, clunky amount of space in the shed.

What I imagine my daughter saying about them 50 years from now:  Whoa!  Antique skates.  These are hilarious.  But slightly dry-rotted.  I wonder if we could sell them on Future-Equivalent-of-EBay.

Stuff Number Three...

What I was holding onto:  A map of the NYC subway system circa 1996

Why I said was holding onto it:  Because I loved it with its tattered edges and coffee spills, and I could just take it with me next time I was in NYC so it was still useful, really.

How many times I've been to NYC since 1996:  6, I think.

How many times I've brought that map with me:  Zero.

Why I was really holding onto it:  Because it was proof of my semester living in New York, working at a theatre in the Village, and generally having an incredible time.  And it was proof that I am a person who could be that cool at any time.

What I ended up doing with it:  I recycled it.

How I feel about that now:  Surprised that I remember I kept it.  Confident that the people who know me now believe that I did those things.  Oddly delighted every time I go to the drawer where we keep the masking tape.  Because now the masking tape fits easily in its spot with no crumpled-up map underneath it.  Small pleasures.

What I imagine my daughter saying about it 50 years from now:  Check out this old subway map of New York.  This is awesome.  I wonder if she wrote any notes on it.  Hm.  Nope.  I wonder why she kept it.  (Spends brief moment envisioning that her mother harbored a secret desire all those years to run away to NYC.  Discards the idea.  Mostly.)  Recycle.

If you've been hanging onto stuff like this, consider letting go the parts that really aren't super-special mementos for you.  The parts that are weighing you down and taking up space where the current you is trying to grow.  You don't need your past-accomplishment stuff to prove anything.

As for our kids, I'm all for a few small boxes of keepsakes that will be treasured for a long, long time.  But let's concentrate on being the people we want them to know now, instead of saving a bunch of stuff for them to discover about us when they sort through our stuff in a million years when they can no longer talk to us about it anyway.