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Losing It

2010 October 20
by shana

Yellow Balloon in Sky

Before I left for this trip, my Dad, in proper dad form, told me to make sure I was prepared… and I said I was. He said that didn’t mean art supplies and I made a joke that if I were to break down at least I wouldn’t be bored.

But, all joking aside, I had tried to prepare for a variety of circumstances. I had screwdrivers, a hammer, hose clamps, wrenches, duct tape, caulk, leather gloves, and even discovered I had three bottles of WD-40. I had lanterns, flashlights, matches, and candles. I had First-Aid kits, band-aids, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, neosporin, and benedryl cream. I had clothes, shoes, and enough books packed for a variety of circumstances and weather conditions.

As for art supplies, a friend of mine had helped me pack up my art studio as I sorted through what I was keeping, what I was giving away, and what just needed to be thrown away. I had three boxes of crayons and decided to give them away. She asked me if I was sure… maybe I wanted to keep a box… I hesitated but then said, “No. I have to draw the line somewhere, and I am drawing the line at crayons!” But crayons ended up being almost the only thing I didn’t pack along. I had packed acrylic, oil, and watercolor paints. I had several bottles of ink, pens, and felt tip markers. I had graphite, watercolor, and colored pencils, conte crayons and charcoal, and both chalk and oil pastels. I packed tracing paper, notebooks, and several sketchbooks.

What I realized (as I could have probably anticipated) was that I was over-packed. It was hard for me to throw away things that I thought I might need, and since this was a new adventure for me I just didn’t know what I might or might not need. But I knew that I needed to sort through to make room and lighten the load on my camper and vehicle.

I started the first weekend by giving Linda and Gary a can of WD-40. From that point on, I was on a mission. I tried to give away what I could because I hated to just throw things away. However, I also felt it was a little awkward approaching strangers to offer my personal possessions regardless of how useful they might be. It was also hard sorting through things that I felt were important enough to bring with me but were no longer important enough to keep with me.

So, I resolved to pack a box of things that I wanted to keep (but didn’t need) to send back to my parents to store for me until I got back from Alaska. And then… I resolved to throw away a bag of stuff at every campground or RV park that had a dumpster.

The thing is, I was a terrible pack rat. I held onto things because of sentimental reasons – because of who gave it to me or what it represented. I held onto things because I worried of regret and not being able to replace something. Or I held on because it was useful and it made more sense to keep it so I didn’t have to pay for it twice if I decided I couldn’t live without it. And as an artist, I also held onto things because I could see the potential in it. There were several times where this proved to be true which only reinforced the belief. You can probably see where this can snowball over time.

A few years back I had a lesson in letting go. It was difficult but, as most difficult situations have the potential for, it also proved to be valuable. After that, I found it was the most effective to sort through my “stuff” when I was moving. I had moved twice since then and felt like I had made some progress. Yet, before I left for this trip, I still had two storage units in addition to my art studio and some storage at the house where I was living.

I had a huge yard sale as I was preparing for this trip. In some ways, it felt great to not be burdened by so much. In other ways, it was really difficult to let go of things that I had treasured or had some meaning for me. Whenever I started to get clingy to things and started to consider not selling them, I had to ask myself whether it was more important to keep this “thing” or start out on this trip. The answer was (almost) always that the trip was more important. We all get to pick our priorities and decide what is most valuable to us in our lives. Going on this trip and having experiences along the way was what had become most valuable to me.

I got a little sentimental about my guitar. This is an example of the ridiculousness of attachments that can be formed… because I really can’t even play guitar. I wish I could, I have taken lessons even, but all I can play is one song and not very well at that. Here is an example of what I mean, circa 2007, if you care to subject yourself to choppy playing and crackling singing…

Birds & Ships

I had set the price high (for a yard sale, although a great deal for the guitar and case all considering) and fully expected for it not to sell. I was probably secretly wishing for that. But then towards the end of the day, a man walks through and says he will buy it if I throw in a couple of the lamps I had. Whoa! That was a tough one for me, because I was kind of attached to the lamps too. (I know, I know…) But, it had been a long, tiring, hot day and I had to decide what was more important. (Guitar I can’t play, lamps I rarely used, or… a trip of a lifetime?) I made the deal. Well, as it turned out he was LeGrande Harvey ( and he had written the official ballad for the state of Montana and offered to sing for us while playing my (his) guitar.  My friend captured a little clip on the Flip cam:

As you can see, the guitar is in better in his hands than mine. He mentioned that he was buying it for his daughter, and hopefully she will be able to strum the potential out of this sweet little guitar better than I could.

By the time I had made it to Jasper, I was glad that I had started scattering stuff in dumpsters along the way. And other than once or twice, I didn’t notice what had gone missing. I even listed a few things on ebay while I was on the road.

And although many of the things I had to let go of were irreplaceable in one way or another, it felt good. I could have held onto those things, but I chose to let go and collect memories and experiences instead. I think I made the right decision.

(I feel I must note, however, that I still have 1.25 storage units in two different towns. They will soon be consolidated, but I am, at least, moving in the right direction. There are just some things I am not willing to part with such as furniture build by my Grandfather and a hand-built forge given to me by the friend who taught me how to weld and blacksmith. Let’s just not forget the massive amounts of things I have either sold, donated, or thrown away in the past three years, ok? I am only human…)

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Sara permalink
    October 20, 2010

    Parting with “stuff” is always hard…but you did very good. Progress for sure. Thank you for sharing LeGrand’s singing. It reminds me of my Dad. A great way to start the morning.

    • shana permalink*
      October 22, 2010

      Thanks Sara. Hope to visit soon!

  2. Lisa permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Can I relate to this or what… It’s prolly a good thing we aren’t in the same state together my friend.. cause we would for surely have yet a 3rd storage unit… ha ha ha
    It is hard.. I often wonder why it’s so hard for me to let some things go.. just the other day though I was telling a friend.. when something breaks.. like a kids toy or something.. I toss it.. now.. if it’s a bigger item or something that has a purpose.. or if the kids will still play with it.. and I can fix it…then I dont.. but anything else.. GONE… my friend told me she doesnt toss anything.. she keeps it all.. she’s not sure why.. she just does.. so.. I think there are many of us like this in the world…
    Again.. thanks for a great read…
    Be Well..

    • shana permalink*
      October 22, 2010

      Thanks Lis – and I bet you are right. Be well & chat soon!

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