I’m not the biggest fan of suburban life but perks like no-sweat parking and more living space are undeniable. The yard sale too, the quintessential suburban event, is another. I brake for them–and any thrift-type store–in my line of vision.
Proving evolution hasn’t killed the thrill of the hunt, I’ve put to good use dozens of finds like brand-new, never-opened office supplies or the adorable end table repurposed to hold bathroom towels. Discovering secondhand items I wouldn’t have considered purchasing retail generates creative opportunities I wouldn’t have ever taken.
When I first began thrifting years ago, the concept was fraught with stigma (socially acceptable terms were ‘antique’ or ‘vintage’). Now not so much. With our growing sensitivity toward recycling, thinking “green,” being crafty and a desire to pare down, secondhand stores have become trendy.
But still: Why pick through someone’s past? Glimpsing briefly into others’ lives I witness a condensed timeline. What did they hold dear? Which milestones defined their lives? Why do they want to dispose of these markers? Are they ready?
Young families change homes and forge ahead to the future while others clean out lifetimes–theirs or those of loved ones. That reality may be the most difficult. We affix our projections and sentiments to inanimate objects. They are tangible reminders of our past, proof of its existence. To watch a buyer walk away with a child’s prom dress, crib or a well-loved lounge chair is, no doubt, an exercise in letting go.
Unburdening sets in motion a coming to terms with the end of a time we may have treasured or a goal we must admit we won’t reach. Several years ago, after holding onto them long after any further realistic possibility, I gave away boxes of baby clothes my kids had worn, finally accepting I would not, once more, be the mother of a newborn.
Then again, tossing isn’t necessarily negative. Emotional freedom can perhaps be gained from items discarded. Though the stuff our dreams were once attached to may get the heave-ho, different owners can breathe new life into things no longer of use to us.
Castoff rites are helpful psychological prompts defining a ‘before’ and ‘after.’ The Jewish New Year ritual Tashlich (pronounced TASH-leekh), practiced by some, symbolizes a casting off of our previous year’s misdeeds and offenses by tossing pieces of bread into a body of water. The release grants us space to reboot, release our regrets, take vows toward personal improvement, forgive others and–what could be most challenging– ourselves.
Outer skin can be easily shed. What we hold in our hearts and minds is not. Changes, if they happen at all, are slow. The real work is within. Our hopes are to start fresh and make room for new experiences–not new stuff.
Accoutrements are our armor. Stripping ourselves of our airs and attitudes leaves only who you are at the core. You were there all along.