"Mama, when you say 'all this stuff is going down the road,' what road are you talking about?"
Astrid, age 6
Things worth keeping go in this pile, here. Not in that pile by the door. That's all getting loaded into the back of the car. Yes, of course it will all fit. No, you can't look at what's in there ... hey, don't get into that stuff now! No, really, please don't open those bags.
Okay, you can keep the dinosaur head with the trigger-stick thing, but that's it. Yes, I see its teeth. Fine, yes, keep it, just please stop snapping it in my face.
I know, I know.
Things worth keeping are things I've considered. But I've also moved swiftly through those thoughts, like the unnecessary quick-before-dinner-no-it-can't-wait-until-tomorrow trip to the thrift store's drop bin just so I won't have time to change my mind. I'm clearing floor space. I'm clearing my head. But mainly I have to make room for all these ice skates and helmets and backpacks and extra booster seats in the back of the car.
Things worth keeping don't directly contribute to my suffocation at the end of every year. Maybe it's the velvet darkness of a northern winter that fills my lungs. Maybe it's because I need to wet a rag and wipe glacial dust off my ceiling and walls and holy-crap-would-you-look-at-those-windows? And I need to do the filing. And what's all this junk piled up on the ... why in the world do we still have the book shelf you made 25 years ago in undergrad?
Things worth keeping should not be kept out of guilt. That should be a rule. Ask, Will I feel like crap if I get rid of this? Then do it. But some things have grown long heart strings. Like that shelf you built with the borrowed hand tools, sawing away inside that teeny apartment ... I know ... the little place where you asked me to marry you.
Things worth keeping are useful.
Things worth keeping are beautiful.
Things worth keeping are also sometimes frivolous and completely unnecessary, but might come in handy someday.
Things worth keeping have a history that is meaningful, but not burdensome. Realize sometimes these qualities shift, the same way priorities do. Sometimes all that deep meaning dissipates and leaves you wondering, Why is this broken stick/chipped vase/rubber lizard still on my windowsill?
But burdens also accumulate as silently as years, layered and thick. Sometimes the smallest item is the largest in the room. So you have to ask, I mean really ask: how heavy is this thing?
Things worth keeping should bring joy when you see them.
Things worth keeping should make you feel like, you.
Things worth keeping shouldn't be confused with things that should really be given to someone else. Like the gold hand-painted Italian Christmas ball, so precious it never hung on the tree, never left its segmented plastic case that even the 6-year-old knew to steer clear of while rooting around for the dough ornaments -- why would you teach her such a thing? Do not keep this precious item. Weep, only a little, when you wrap it for a dear friend's birthday and have the fleeting, ridiculous thought: Oh God, what if the person who gave this to me 20 years ago ... DIES?!
And then, realize that of course no ornamental ball will ever replace that person.
And then give it away. And feel lightness.
Things worth keeping are worth asking this, a friend's touchstone question: Am I keeping this for never?
Because if you are, you need to find a road and send that thing down it.