I recently had lunch with some friends, and they were talking about the eight or so hours they had just spent making their basement usable again. They had stored so much stuff away — and forgotten about it — that they couldn’t even walk in the basement anymore. They decided enough was enough and got busy getting rid of all the things clogging up their lives.

I am a recovering pack rat. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy. Deciding to let go of your treasures (actual or imagined) is a hard choice to make. But what freedom it brings! You know that old adage about your stuff owning you? It’s totally true. And when you finally take back your life, it feels good.

The turning point for me was a move across the ocean. When you have to make your life fit in two suitcases and a carry-on — well, lets just say it sharpens the decision making process to a razor’s edge. I really found out what was important to me as I packed my bags for my great big European adventure. Most of what didn’t make that journey with me went into the trash.

As I sorted through the trappings of my life, I found that I had been holding onto things that had no meaning in and of themselves. I was only keeping them because I was afraid of forgetting the time or the event they represented. I had to learn to trust myself; I had to learn that letting go of a thing doesn’t erase a memory. Most importantly I had to learn that you don’t betray the past by choosing to live in the present.

In the end, the things we collect on our journey through life are nothing; and they can never replace the treasure we build as we let memories stack up in our minds.