How cleaning out and letting go is simplifying my life

My late husband Jim was a gadget guy. If it came on the market and was heavily advertised on television, our household needed one, or something similar to it.

It’s how we ended up with two different sizes of George Foreman-type grills, and two Magic Bullets — one for home and one for camp — plus various miracle tools like wrenches and ratchets and lights, plus grills and other mechanical wonders.

I had no problem with his quest to make life simpler. I appreciated the sentiment and certainly the effort. I still use the Magic Bullet. It’s a mini-blender to make individual drinks, smoothies and other treats, and the result is consumed out of the cup it’s mixed in.

There are a couple of ratchet things I still use too that are very helpful to a person who lacks good hand strength.

I had totally forgotten we had two George Foreman-type grills — one large, more for a family meal; and the other smaller for more individual fare. But I came across them one day when looking for something else in the cupboard.

This is the time of year I dig a little deeper to find some things that I no longer use. My church’s annual bazaar is on Saturday, and items are always needed for silent auction. So I am parting with my larger George Foreman-type grill, a meat rotisserie I haven’t used in probably eight years — Jim has been gone nearly six; a square microwave baking dish that won’t fit on the round turntable of my newer microwave; and several other things.

Stuff heading for the church bazaar.

Stuff heading for the church bazaar.

With the choices made, it was time to find the manuals to go with them.

While I was looking through my file box of manuals, assembly instructions and other pertinent papers associated with the things we have purchased, it was obvious I had not cleaned it out for a while.

I found the manuals to my old washer and dryer replaced a year ago, assembly instructions for the last deck swing we had, manuals on various phones I no longer own, electric blankets that have lost their ability to generate heat in the way they were meant, an old toaster, a couple of grills, and some electric toothbrushes I threw out years ago.

It felt good to clean out the old manuals and instructions, and to choose items to give to the church sale, even as it triggered a bit of a walk down memory lane. But instead of tearing me apart as it would have done a couple of years ago, memory lane let me smile over some of my recollections.

I will never forget the porch swing that was missing some predrilled holes in some key places. Or that no matter what Jim and I put together from a kit, we always had spare parts. Or the grill we managed to assemble, even though the directions were not written in English.

Old manuals and instructions no longer needed.

Old manuals and instructions no longer needed.

I remember the irritation those situations caused Jim, and how we always ended up laughing because of the ridiculousness of what “some assembly required” actually meant in some cases.

I treasure those memories and so many more, but I don’t need the appliances I don’t use or the outdated manuals to remind me of them. I simply need to reach into my heart and feel them.

My best friend gave me a wall hanging a few years ago while Jim was still alive that said “Simplify Life.” The message was clear, but it has taken me several years to adopt it as a true objective. Getting rid of things I don’t use or barely look at is a good step toward achieving it though.

That’s what I want most of all: to simplify my life. To clean out things I don’t use or need, to minimize what sits and gathers dust, to not have to look through the clutter literally and figuratively to see what truly is important to me.

I don’t need two George Foreman-type grills; I’m not even sure I need one. We’ll see. I don’t need a rotisserie I never use, or a square dish that won’t fit in my microwave’s round interior. Or books I never read or knick knacks I never look at or are packed away in boxes.

I need simplicity, which will add to my sense of peace and well-being, and give me time to spend with family and friends. Afterall, material things come and go, but memories made with family and friends live in our hearts forever.

Jim’s death brought that lesson home.


Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.