Just the memory, please. Thank you very much.

We recently gave away essentially everything we own. Here’s a brief account of what it was like to give up the the part that was most precious to me.

Good heavens, but where did they all come from?

I have loads of drawings–almost two decades worth of “favorites” that I thought worth saving.

Piles and piles of drawings

A small sample of the drawings I owned.

For seventeen years, every time the stack of drawings on my studio desk would build up to around a hundred pages, I would throw away most, but quickly thumb through to keep just “the best ones.”

Sometimes I kept a drawing because I thought I might enjoy the inspiration later.

Other times it was because it held some idea I thought worth making into a finished piece.

Or, I was proud of the skill development represented.

And, of course, my art instructors encouraged me to keep them so that I could observe my progress over time.

It’s a thing we artists do.

In fact, once, when I met with the famous James Christensen, he showed me several shelves full of sketchbooks. They were marvelous.

A tree trunk of drawings

Whatever the impetus, the result was that I had many sacred tubs of scribbles.

Each time I moved apartments I lugged these things around, laughing to myself that they were, in a way, giant tree trunks (paper comes from wood, you know).

The person holding the other end of my 200 lb. tub was usually too busy gasping for air to do more than politely smile at my metaphor. 

But, I suppose now I should say, “I had loads of drawings.”

They’re all gone.

No, this is not because they caught on fire and I couldn’t extinguish them fast enough.

Neither is it because they were lost in some tragic moving accident while my wife and I drove to Alaska.

Nope, I took all those originals, all my best drawings, and even my many sketchbooks, and threw them in the trash.

As proof, here’s a picture of my wife, frowning at me while I was in the act.

Sad wife. :(

Sad wife. 🙁

Now you really must believe me–how else could an artist make his wife frown like that?

But…why?

I didn’t throw them out because of my struggling eyesight, though that might be one’s first suspicion.

No, they were still the original copies of a sizable chunk of life, regardless of current affairs.

Neither was it because of our family’s recent big move, though that did accelerate the decision.

In trying to reason out for this blog post why I actually threw them away, I can think of a hundred partial reasons, but in the end, I’m really not altogether sure.

I just…did.

How the great trashing began

While we were packing up our belongings for our move I told myself I was going to thin down my collection.

But as I laid them out on the floor and began thumbing through, each page reminding me of important hopes and dreams, I found myself mentally detaching.

Not because I didn’t like them. On the whole, I liked some of the drawings very much.

Here was a character design that was just waiting to be incorporated into a story. Couldn’t I take this pencil scratching and put it in my writing notebook so that this little guy would wind up in a scene somewhere? I like his tiny legs and toes, his Chinese-luck-dragon-ish appearance, but with that doggy face. If I throw away his original design, wouldn’t he be mad at me while I’m trying to write for him? What if he doesn’t forgive me?

One of the sketchbook casualties

Into the trash he goes.

Now I tell myself I’ll just have to hope that his sense of self-esteem is strong enough that we can weather this trial in our professional relationship. After all, don’t we hear all the time about actors and actresses who hate each other off the set, but on the set they make magic?

When I voiced my direction to my wife she immediately recruited my mother. The two rapidly engaged in a protective mode, flipping through the pages scattered across the room as fast as they could and hiding the ones they liked before I could touch anything else.

They wanted to give them to my siblings. My children might want them. What about my grandchildren? Couldn’t we sell some? What about the ones that led to winning something, or were used for somebody famous?

The more they talked, the more my mind was made up: all the drawings had to go.

My drawings - in the recycle bin.

A picture taken after throwing away the first load. Look at me, being “green” by using the recycle bin. 🙂

So, I took the most precious memories of what was around a seventeen year period of my life, and chucked them in the trash.

Sweet freedom…perhaps? But it didn’t end there.

Perhaps, one day I will regret throwing them away. Who knows, they may have actually been worth a few pennies. Or maybe someone I have yet to meet will badly wish to see them.

Either way, after we gave up those drawings, both my wife and I decided to just keep going.

We “freecycled” away the washer and the dryer, the kitchen appliances, the monitors, the tools, the tables, the chairs, the dressers, and even most of our clothes.

Anything we thought had sentimental value we simply honored with a quick photo on our phones, and then it followed after the drawings.

An origami crane with sentimental value

Here was an origami crane that my wife gave me on a particularly terrible day in the first months of our marriage. It meant nothing to anyone else, but to me it was a reminder of her commitment.

We took the photo, and into the trash the crane went.

Everything we currently own

Everything we currently own

In the end, what we kept fit easily into a small U-haul trailer.

I keep asking myself why we did it. Was it to be minimalists?

Partially, but realistically speaking, many of the things we threw away we will certainly have to repurchase in the future–minimalist or not.

(Ironing board? Yes, we’ll need that again.)

Was it to keep the weight down for the move?

That explains maybe the part about getting rid of the washer and dryer, but not the many memory boxes. Couldn’t we keep those in a storage unit for later? Surely.

Maybe, we gave it all up because it was just a chapter in our family’s life for paring down–for getting rid of everything from before our marriage of two years, so that we can have a clean start.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all gone now, and our new life, with our growing little baby, and our Alaskan adventure, begins.

Have you ever rid yourself of something important to you? Was it hard? Or was it a piece of cake? And why? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.