I believe that bearing witness is an important part of any purging process. I’ve sat next to many people while helping them go through their things and make decisions, sometimes difficult ones, about what to keep and what to toss.
The challenge arises because we assign meaning and value to our “things” for any number of reasons, most of which are not based on logic and rationale, but rather from emotion or sentiment. As a result, our “things” get intertwined with emotions and memories making it challenging to toss them when we need to make space, declutter, get ready to move, or move on.
I’ve come to understand the importance and appreciate the value of bearing witness to another’s purging process. Or even to having my own purging witnessed. Having another person there is important to validate the memories and emotions that we’ve attached to our things, some of which make it difficult to let go of the physical (or digital object), even though we can still retain the memory in our minds and bodies.
One afternoon a friend came over to help me pack. That day I happened to be packing the contents of some shelves in my bedroom. It was loaded with really personal things, some of which were from high school. I shared with my friend a journal from my teenage years containing a series of cartoons I had drawn with stick figures. We laughed together over the drawings and captions. My friend mentioned this was the real reason to have people over to help. It’s not just about the physical labor, but also about the emotional aspect of packing (or purging) that often needs a human witness. Sometimes we need someone there to watch when we’re ready to purge as a way of moving on after a breakup or death.
Since I’m a regular purger, the whole process didn’t come with a lot of opportunities to reminisce and relive memories triggered by my things. But then again, I only produced two bags of garbage and one medium-sized box of items to give away which made it more manageable in the frantic last few days before the movers came.
My kitchen cupboards, however, offered me some real opportunities to get creative with the contents resulting in some really odd dishes. No reminiscing or witnesses necessary here! I think this would qualify as an exception to the rule.
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