It feels awfully good to unload, as autumn arrives.

You know what I mean. You see an item on the shelf you absolutely couldn’t live without five years ago and vow to pitch it.

That’s what it takes, to really get serious about downsizing.

We spend all our early years collecting stuff and when we surpass 50, tire of moving them around.

Oh, it was fun, identifying a need for things, devising a list and going on the hunt.

Before online shopping was a thing, we relished hopping in the car with a friend on a Saturday morning and hitting the stores, knocking items off our list.

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We collected more than necessities. A work of art that struck our fancy, a carpet of the perfect design and hue, a decidedly adorable outfit.

As time marched on, lots of stuff became more stuff.

The most precious possessions, and the ones we cling to longest, are gifts. We can’t part with them for fear the giver might notice. But do they expect when they gift us something, that we will keep it forever? Doubtful.

At some point in our lives, we need to take a hard look at what we own and say, “Do I really need that ? Do I ever use it?”

Having concluded it’s time, we discover a pitcher that last year was definitely not a candidate for tossing is, this year, the first to go.  Yeah, that ceramic platter is pretty, but isn’t it time for someone else to spend time admiring it?

It’s liberating, that feeling you get when you slough off longtime possessions.

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In early September, we scoured closets, drawers and cabinets at our camp as we do every fall, hauling out all kinds of stuff: a set of vintage dishes we never use, old pottery mixing bowls too quaint to discard but taking up precious space, sets of sheets and blankets packed away in bedroom trunks that were perfectly usable but rarely used, books, silverware and knickknacks galore.

It didn’t hurt a bit to be rid of all that stuff. It felt good.

At our permanent home, we did the same, room-by-room, considering a little harder than we did last year the things we could relinquish. We lightened shelves of books, plucked dishes from kitchen cupboards and removed clothes from closets.

The more we culled, the lighter we felt. The house seemed to echo with a refreshing emptiness.

There’s less stuff to dust, look at, worry about, and wonder what will happen to when we die.

Unlike 40 years ago, young people don’t want their parents’ worldly goods. Their mantra is, less is more.

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I concur. We came into this world with nothing and we’ll leave it sans stuff. All the things we’ve gathered so assiduously over the years won’t mean a hill of beans when the grim reaper comes calling.

I think of an old friend who died from cancer several years ago. The last time I saw him, he was carrying around photographs of family members in his breast pocket and showing them to people.

“If you got your health, you got everything,” he told me. “If you ain’t got your health, you ain’t got nothin’.”

Truer words were never spoken. It’s not things, but people and relationships that matter.

And being alive to enjoy them.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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