Some people have a hard time parting with things. Not a real hoarding obsession, just a difficulty. So when spring is here in all its glory and the Holiday of Freedom is coming, there is a lot to do. Of course, spring cleaning is not synonymous with Passover cleaning. For Passover, it’s sufficient to just get rid of all chametz (leaven). But many people find this is also a good time to declutter—after all, when there’s less stuff to sort though, it’s easier to search for chametz.

A friend of mine has lots of things. And a big house. AndSome people have a hard time parting with things limited help. She is the type of person who washes disposable dishes. She holds onto old gowns from a family wedding just to “relive the experience.”

She starts cleaning right after Sukkot. As soon as the decorations are put away, she pulls out her trusty old rags and starts cleaning one thing a day—a shelf, a drawer, a corner. Sometimes, we joke that it would be easier to just keep the house chametz-free all year round.

She is cleaning while we speak over the phone. “Do you think somebody might want all the posters I made when I was teaching?” She hasn’t taught for several years now. In fact, she is past retirement age.

“Do you think you’ll be using them?” I gently ask.

“I won’t, but maybe somebody else will.”

I remind her that when she was a teacher, she hated taking anyone else’s lessons and always prepared everything from scratch. “So why would anyone else want yours?”

“But I worked so hard on them. I put so much time and effort into them. How can I just throw it all away? I know”—now her rational brain kicks in—“that after I’m gone, my children will just put it all in the dumpster. My son, in fact, told me that he would call the garbage man to make a special run. But I? How can I part with things that I put so much into?”

I try reminding her that some things just have a natural lifespan, and then they cease to serve a purpose. “Free yourself,” I say, invoking the upcoming holiday theme. “Set yourself free of all the useless things that fill the house.”

Ethics of Our Fathers tells us, “The more assets, the more worry.”1 We waste precious time and emotional resources holding on to useless things, cleaning and preserving things that serve no purpose.

The Maharal tells us that everything in the world has a chomer, the material aspect, and a tzura, the use, or shape it has taken. Oil, mined from the depth of the earth, can have the form of gasoline to powerIf we don’t take pleasure in objects, they hold no value for us your car, or can take on the shape of a tub of Vaseline. Oil itself, in its base form, has no inherent value—it is only the form that it takes that holds the value, and once the form is gone, the value is gone, too. It becomes trash.

So all this stuff that we have—its only value is what we give it. If we don’t use or take pleasure in objects, they have no value for us. For someone else, they might.

The world is getting ready for Moshiach. Redemption is near. The world is shedding all pretense of objective value. Only what we do has value, and that is the reality that remains for eternity.

So, I tell my friend, the physical papers can be thrown out. The lessons that she taught, the messages that were embedded in her student’s hearts, are immortal.