The cat is pregnant. 

I find these words written on old stationery. It’s a letter from my best friend in high school postmarked over twenty-five years ago. There are many of these. From many different people. And I’ve held on to them for years. Why am I still feeling beholden to so many papers from my past? 

My reflections come as a result of necessity. Driven by a career change, I’ve moved from my recently-purchased house in my dream neighborhood to live lean and allow someone else to pay my mortgage. I’ve downsized from 2,000 square feet to a wonderful condo by the lake that’s all of 770 square feet. Much of what I have sits in my small space surrounding me, closing in. It is the physical representation of a long-ago life.  

I love my new space. But I’m overwhelmed by “stuff”. Getting rid of things little by little has not worked. And it hasn’t worked for over two decades. In May of 2015, I come across my miracle helper: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

This little bestseller holds the secrets to the changes I seek. I follow its instructions as if my life depends on it. And my new life does. My new career is wonderfully invigorating and fulfilling, my small condo inspires, and the missing pieces are a relationship with my wonderful (yet unidentified) husband, my writing momentum, my future family. I’m convinced this clearing will help me call those in.

The Great Purge of 2015 begins on Memorial Day—the day of one of the greatest Austin, Texas floods in recorded history. The incessant rains make the day an ideal starting point for the enormous project at hand. I’m focused. I’m determined. I am on a mission to save my future.

Clothes first, commands the book. Discard what doesn’t “spark joy,” the author instructs. It’s an intuitive process after a couple of hours, which turns into days, which turns into weeks. I push onward. Through old report cards, calendars and date books, school programs, lecture notes, photos. I make nearly daily trips to the closest donation center. I shred. 

Of course, I’m not getting rid of it all. But by this time, I know what doesn’t spark joy. The repeated exercise strengthens my purging muscles. I can throw away and walk away. 

That is, until I get to the box of former relationship memorabilia.  

Page 115: Hanging on [to these items] makes it more likely that you will miss opportunities for new relationships. 

I confront the truth: I’ve been holding on to this box believing that if I reached the age of 80 without ever having found love, I would always have this as proof of something.

It is a powerful and perspective-shifting realization. I must get rid of these to allow my future to unfold. I march out to the dumpster, throwing away the bag of outdated memories. 

Around 5am, I bolt upright in bed. The garbage truck makes its weekly collection. It is the tilting dumpster which wakes me. For one brief second, I contemplate running out frantically in my pajamas to rescue old treasures and my past. And then it passes. 

Two years later, I meet the man of my dreams. One and a half years after that, I’m married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in the north of Spain. My first marriage—at the age of 46. It is worth the wait. 

Nearly six years after that Great Purge of 2015, I discard 95% of what I own (or what owns me)  in preparation for my overseas move in March of 2021. 

Spain, and love, call. Life-changing indeed.