During my housewide decluttering, everything was in play. Even my children's art and writing was sorted. If only gluing was involved, I was able to part with it, but if it was personal writing, especially if it said, "Mama, I love you," it automatically went into the "keep" box.Family portraits the children drew were also dear to me. I loved seeing each child's vision of who we were through the years. In the portraits our bodies might be only big circles, or they might be sophisticated enough to have arms and legs with hands and feet. In some we floated in the air, and in others we were lined up neatly: Paul, me, Christopher and Lydia and then, when she came, Eden. One thing that was consistent in every single one is that we all wore enormous smiles. In those portraits nothing got us down.My friend Jane, who was helping me declutter, said, "Honey, you can't keep every card your kids made you." I told her I could — everything fit into two medium Rubbermaid tubs — and I did ... for two more months, until I lost it all in a house fire.The day of the fire, when Jane called, before she could say a word, I said, "Well, I finally got rid of those two containers of papers you were bitching about!"In the early days after the fire, I was just so happy to be alive and to have my whole family safe. What we had lost was merely stuff, and I could live with that. Truth be told, I felt a strange relief. Of course I was in shock, and I hadn't yet taken an accounting of what had been lost, but even so, after a lifetime of tension with my belongings, I mostly felt free. I had spent the better part of a year carefully sorting through my possessions before the fire. I had made thousands of decisions on what could go and what I had to keep. It was only after I lost everything that I realized how much of my resistance in parting with my possessions came from a fear of making a mistake. Once it was all gone, I was no longer afraid.A Wondrous ThoughtHas this ever happened to you? You find something cool. You're not exactly sure what you're going to do with it, but you love it; you know you'll think of something. Maybe it needs a bit of work but, well, you'll get to it. Except you don't. For years it sits in a corner collecting dust; you may even move it to another house ... or two, but you're so going to do something with it someday. And then finally you face it: You won't. So you donate or give it away and practically the next day you see online or in a magazine the very thing, but spruced up or used creatively in a way that would have been perfect if only you hadn't gotten rid of it! If you're anything like me, you try to blow it off: "Oh, well," but you don't really. It comes to mind from time to time and there's that, "Ugh! I should have kept that." Just a few weeks before the fire, I found an antique rug at a sale. I debated about buying it but decided to let it go. Within a couple days I knew I had made a mistake: It was beautiful, such a good deal and, now that I was thinking about it, I could have used it in three different places. What had I been thinking? "Oh well," I said, and forgot about it, but then a few months after the fire, I remembered. "Ugh!" Why didn't I buy that?" I thought.