On Losing Everything Part Two

On the loss of all we owned, someone commented to me, “You unburdened yourselves.”
True, although not on purpose.  A lot of stuff we lost is better off as ashes, probably.  I wouldn’t have chosen this method of decluttering/downsizing, but it worked.  I don’t have to read that two foot high stack of magazines.  We don’t have to sort through those three boxes of old financial information in the office.  John doesn’t have to make files for that stack of stuff on his desk that he never knew what to do with.  We don’t have to clean out and organize the garage.  We don’t have to clean the house from top to bottom.  I won’t have to stress out over where to put out all the Christmas decorations and it won’t take any time at all to take them down and put them away on Epiphany.
This forced unburdening gives us an opportunity to reflect on our relationship to stuff and how we want it to change or not going forward.  And it’s confusing.  John and I talk about it a lot.  Are we supposed to be learning some kind of lesson from this?  Is it wrong to like having things and to be attached to them?  Should we buy as little as possible?  We are both feeling reluctant right now to get attached to anything.  Should we replace things–books, for example, or collectibles?  Or should we get all new things?  If the book isn’t the book I always had from my childhood, or the one that belonged to my grandmother, would it even be the same?  I have spent so many hours sorting through the clothes that we saved over the years–culling the best garments, sorting them by gender and size.  Since in retrospect all that time was wasted, does that mean I shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place?
So far, I find myself trying hard not to care about the new possessions we are acquiring.  I let other people arrange my furniture.  I told my sister to decide what pictures looked good where.  I let a friend organize my entire kitchen.  I look around this nice house filled with unfamiliar items and feel more like a lucky guest at a great hotel than someone in her own home.  I feel afraid of committing myself to buying things that I might actually come to care about.
Is this a healthy detachment from material goods, or is it a symptom of trauma?
[Six years later, albeit in a considerable more cluttered house, I am still wondering.]

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  1. Barbara says:

    I think it’s both Leslie. A healthy detachment because you unlike most of us have learned how to not depend on these “things” and still the symptoms of your fresh trauma. And I have to say it’s ok to have both, don’t you? Barb.

  2. K. C says:

    That’s a great question you pose. Maybe it’s a little bit if both? It must be so difficult to get attached to something when you fear losing it again.

  3. Michele says:

    I agree it is probably both. As you said somethings and not just things. It is funny how we attach ourselves to certain possessions. I guess most of my important things are attached somehow to a particular person or to something I love. I believe you will form attachments to other things as you move through life. It would be interesting to update your blog 20 years from now to see what things you have become attached to. I wonder if they will be different things. I would think many of the important things you have lost cannot be replaced. For me, the diamond (rather poor quality, I might add) from my grandmother’s engagement ring is irreplaceable. Things are not just things. There is no other diamond in this world that would bring me this amount of comfort. I must say though, I look forward to the new things in life …. the special blankie I will buy for my grandchild to use at my house, the first picture he/she draws for me, the souvenier from the trip Rod and I take to the Holy Land when all of kids are grown (I sure hope that these places are wheelchair/walker accessible). Just as we never fully recover from the loss of unborn child, a grandparent, a parent, a special friend …. I am sure you will always bear the burden of this loss. It takes time to grieve. You will see this through as you have already done with the other losses in your life. Every loss is extremely painful in the beginning. Through prayer and faith, you will make it through. You will find attachements to other things as you have such a rich life full of people who love you and whom you love. These things never replace the lost things. I still grieve over the babies I have lost. All of the wonderful children and people in my life now help soften the loss ….. (not take away the loss). I will continue to pray for you and your family. A loss is a loss. I have never felt that a loss can be explained away. Allow yourself to grieve. Of course, I really know nothing about what is healthy or not! Praise God that you have so many people to soften the losses in your life. One bright spot in any loss is how you are able to see how many people deeply care for you all at once!

  4. Margaret says:

    I am deeply sorry you’re going through all of this. It must feel strange counting your blessings on one hand, but keeping a mental tally in your head about the things that brought back such profound memories that just aren’t there anymore at least in their physical form. That’s disorienting for sure–this one’s going to take some time to heal.
    My family lost their house and farm to bankruptcy in 1985 and my parents had to start over in a new city and had to acquire new skills to support my siblings who were still living at home. It was a lonely experience for them because they received a lot of criticism and blame from some of the people who knew them.
    Fortunately they were able to buy a new house after a few years and they became active members of their local parish. Living through all of this was tough, but it helped them grow in faith and resilience–and they were able to make their house a home again. They also grew in their ability to detach from most things (they were kind of like that already–we didn’t have much) and kept only a few items that they wanted to pass down to us–mostly pictures and a couple of items that Mom had been given by her family. My mom was one of 11 kids, so there wasn’t much to pass around, so I don’t think she ever had much attachment to heirlooms–there just weren’t that many to be had! :).
    I guess the point of what I’m saying is that your environment will become normal to you again and eventually you’ll be sitting in your living room and decide that yes, you do want the couch on the other side of the room, and that the pictures hung in the hall need moving and you’ll do it, and you’ll be satisfied and happy in your home again. Pray for patience with yourself. Many prayers going up for you.

  1. February 24, 2012

    […] the fire I have felt wary of collecting possessions, of growing attached to anything.  I hesitate before saving the pictures Lorelei brings homw for […]

  2. January 14, 2018

    […] and have not allowed much personal clutter to accumulate in the past six years since I suffered the forced minimalization of our house fire.  The books were the exception, but I’ll get to […]

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