Let me preface this by saying I love Toy Story. I love my kids imaginations. I love imagination in general. I love happiness. I love ice cream and rainbows and birthday cake and unicorns. I am not a heartless adult who has forgotten what it is to be a child.
But honestly? Toy Story kinda screwed us up.
As a kid I thought my stuff had feelings. I would rotate my soft toys each night, so as not to upset anyone left out of my bed. I felt a pang of regret at the aqua Chuck Taylors I ignored until it was too late and they no longer fit me. I kept ticket stubs and clothing labels in a wardrobe-door shrine to things that happened and felt sad at the thought that one day, they would no longer matter.
And as a kid, that’s OK. As a kid we’re still wrapped in our imagination, finding our place in the world, understanding who we are and what’s important. What has feelings and what doesn’t.
I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your stuff? It doesn’t have feelings.
Your toys don’t talk when you’re not there. They don’t plot their escape or plan daring rescue missions. They don’t feel sad when you grow up. And if you decide to donate them, I promise there will be no mournful Randy Newman/Sarah McLachlan song playing over a montage of your time together.
Your shoes don’t get upset if you play favourites. Your towels don’t need to be used equally. Your other chairs aren’t jealous of all the time you spend sitting in your favourite. Your abandoned DVD boxed sets don’t actually feel abandoned. Your unplayed CDs don’t long for one more spin around the stereo. Your old journals are not staring at you from the shelf begging to be opened. Your expired make-up regrets nothing.
The problem so many of us are now facing in our cluttered homes is that the subtext of Toy Story has stuck with us longer than our belief in talking toys. It says that in order to hold on to the past, we must hold on to our stuff. In order to honour a memory we must keep the memento. In order to remember how young/beautiful/interesting/passionate/talented we were, we must keep those things that demonstrate that. Simply because we own things we must keep them. Because we spent money on our stuff we must retain it.
But as adults, it’s time to take some of the emotion out of our stuff.
I’m not talking specifically about difficult, emotional clutter. There are ways of working through that at your own pace, in your own time. But things you’ve held on to for reasons more about you than the item? Start thinking about that stuff.
Do you need it? Do you want it? Do you even like it? What are you afraid of in letting it go?
And most importantly, don’t watch Toy Story before you begin. You might find yourself talking to your stuff and expecting a reply. Or even worse, singing a Sarah McLachlan song.