Here I am 3 years after my husband left and never looked back. I’m sitting in my New York City apartment that I was so “fortunate” to keep. I should be grateful that I can afford the mortgage and all the expenses that go along with maintaining my former lifestyle. I should consider myself “lucky” that I continue to enjoy my neighborhood with all of it’s memories of the past. These are places I spend my days and nights…still waiting for it to get easier.

Living Amongst the Past

Everyday I am surrounded by the material things that were once ours and are now mine alone. How do you move forward when you are physically living in the past? How do you create a space that is not a constant reminder of what was? And what do all those “things” really mean anyway? After spending 23 years with someone, you accumulate a lot of stuff. It seems every piece is like a page from a book with an unexpected ending. It’s ironic that the person who didn’t choose this is left to clean up the mess. Literally. The attic at the beach house that he promised would be cleaned out year after year, the garage that was in perpetual disarray…all left for me. With the exception of a few things he held dear, the rest was left behind as if it never mattered at all.

It was a clear reflection that I never mattered. In fact, there was such little respect for me that I was left to clean out the junk! It just wasn’t convenient for him. There was no time. His new life was waiting and he couldn’t bear to be in the old one for another second. That would have shown accountability, responsibility and a shred of compassion.

Possessions of Sentimental Value

As I finally find the strength to take care of all things left behind, I am struck by the emotional reaction that comes over me. A sweatshirt? I’m crying about a sweatshirt? Oh, that’s the one he gave me back in college…can’t get rid of that one. What about that box of cards? Birthdays, Valentine’s Days, Christmases….countless cards with notes of endearment and “forever” scribbled inside. I go down the rabbit hole and start to question their sentiments. Did he really mean it when he said I was his “best friend?” or that we would “grow old together?” And then there’s Pandora’s box of photos. That one will be sealed for the foreseeable future.

Most people would say, “throw it all away”,“what are you saving it for?”,“have a bonfire”. That should be a freeing feeling, right? Yes and no. On one hand, it seems a part of me dies with every item I trash, somehow marking irrelevance to my former life. It symbolizes being tossed aside and disregarded as a person. On the other hand, clearing out the bad karma and making room for something new feels pretty good.

Possessions with Monetary Value

Letting go of nostalgic things that no longer serve you can be a meaningful way to move forward but what about those things that may have monetary value? Maybe you’re holding onto a ring that you’ll never wear again or an expensive watch or bracelet. Selling these items may not only give you closure, they could pad your wallet and allow you to do something good for yourself. One friend of mine put herself through graduate school with the proceeds from her engagement ring and another started her own business! So you can look at it as a fresh start; chance to take a trip, buy yourself something special or invest in your future. Whatever you decide, it is a step in the right direction.

Finding Peace

Above all, understanding that there will be resentment, bitterness and sorrow as you go through the process of purging will allow room for you to grow in a space that is yours. Realizing that these are just “things” that you have attached memories to will also make it a bit easier to let go. Those memories are in your head and heart and can be called upon at any moment. Let the “stuff” go and find solace within yourself. You are worth it.