Week #35: Throw it All Away

There are certain times of the year when I always seem to re-evaluate my life and the objects that accommodate it. We’re approaching one of these times next week: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

(The other times are the secular new year and Passover, a holiday that includes preparations similar to spring cleaning.)

I tend to hold on to things longer than necessary, especially if there is any sentimental attachment to it or if I think I’ll need it someday (even if I’ve rarely used it.) Sometimes it’s a piece of paper, sometimes it’s a T-shirt.

This week’s song came about a few years ago when my husband and I were working on decluttering our house. Rather than look through each box and reading every piece of paper before discarding it, his style is more indiscriminate, with the belief that if we haven’t needed it, then we probably won’t ever need it so toss it right there into the discard pile. (There is some truth to it, as I did find paperwork for a real estate transaction to a condo that I didn’t end up purchasing.)

This song was my reaction to the process.

I’m thinking about what I can live without
If I had to choose something to lose
Piled high in the next room
Evidence of my life to go through

Memories can look like clutter to an untrained eye
Fragments of the chapters from the story of my life
Souvenirs may be faded links to yesterday
Please don’t tell me to throw it all away

Why do I feel the need to hold on to certain things? Most of the time they have no monetary value and usually I will never need them again. To help me with saying farewell to some of these items, I started a blog a few years back, “My Decluttering,” where I could post a picture of whatever item I was giving away or discarding so that I could keep the memory without needing to find storage space for it. Nobody reads the blog, it’s just so I can look back and remember it. Not once have I wished I had those physical objects back, but I do treasure the memories.

I’m holding on to a time that’s gone
Can I let it go? I don’t know
Rummaging through this room
Where shadows dwell, no flowers bloom

Last time we moved, we got rid of lots of things. We moved in a few months before our first son was born and through the years we accumulated all that comes with a growing family. I remember tackling the office one day (around the time I wrote this song) and was amazed at the variety of things I found.

Found: An old zoo map, ticket stubs, a baseball cap
Scribbled notes on an old notepad, a roller coaster photograph
Found: A game we played, promises that were made
Crumpled letters that I saved tell the tale of better days

The last two lines were an attempt to create a story in this song, though the rest I actually found in our home office that day. I had attended a songwriting workshop that emphasized telling a story so I was trying to figure out a way to end the song. In my head, I envisioned an older woman holding on to items and mourning a lost love only to find some crumpled letters that reminded her that she had idealized the relationship and he was actually a jerk so I wrote this final chorus to match that story:

Memories can look like clutter to an untrained eye
Fragments of the chapters from the story of my life
Souvenirs may be faded links to yesterday
Stand back, I’m ready to throw it all away.

It never felt like a satisfying ending to me though so if I do go back and rerecord it, I may change it.

Here’s a 2017 recording of “Throw it All Away.”


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