In my first post about clutter and excess, I talked about the effect “stuff” can have on our thought processes and psyche. Maybe you resonated with some of what I shared, and then you looked at the state of your cupboards, closets, basement and garage and decided it was all too much of an undertaking. You resolved to ignore those pesky thoughts and just let it be. Or maybe you rationalized that “it’s not really that bad – all my friends have the same thing in their spaces and they seem ok with it.”
I’m hoping I can offer you some additional motivation to make a plan and take on the project. Decluttering and simplifying your life has a more far-reaching effect than it seems on the surface.
You see, WE ATTACH MEMORIES AND EXPERIENCES TO ITEMS. In fact, that’s often the sole reason we hold on to possessions longer than is healthy. We keep them in hopes (consciously or subconsciously) of holding on to the people or experience(s) they are associated with.
Consider the clothes in your closet. Are you holding on to clothes that remind you of a loved one, a special event, or a time in your life you’d like to revisit again? In order to let go of those items, it’s important to make the distinction that MEMORIES RESIDE IN YOU NOT IN THE ITEM. The item is a symbol or reminder, but could there be a healthier way to cherish that person, event or time? Letting go of an item does not mean you are letting go of the memory of your loved one or the specialness of the event.
NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY YOUR MEMORIES WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION – THEY ARE SAFE WITH YOU.
I recommend sitting with each item and listening to the wisdom of your body – what feelings come over you? Does a person, event or time period come to mind? Spend time with the person, event or time period that shows up. Being present with it, sealing in the good the memories and allowing them to be embodied will allow you to let go of the physical item. How do you feel when you imagine releasing the item to someone else?
I use very intentional language when it comes to this process. Usually most folks refer to it as “getting rid of” items. But I see that phrase as having a negative connotation. As if it is something troublesome in your life. It may be true that the excessive clutter IS troublesome, but it’s not the items that are troublesome. THE FACT THAT YOU EITHER ACQUIRED IT WITHOUT CAREFUL CONSIDERATION, HELD ONTO IT FAR TOO LONG, OR HAVE BEEN LAZY ABOUT KEEPING THINGS ORGANIZED IS WHAT MAKES IT TROUBLESOME!
I prefer “releasing” items to their new home. Releasing an article of clothing, for instance, to a resale shop or to a family in need with positive energy and good wishes feels amazing! Can you see the difference? One is an unceremonious, often hurried or angry act of “throwing away” or “dropping off” somewhere. The other is a healing process and it is fulfilling – even if the new home is a garbage bag on the curb, you have released it out of your clutches and the energy becomes lighter.
The same process holds true for items of value that you sell online or at a garage sale. Before you list it for sale, you can express your gratitude and release them to their next owner with good wishes. In both instances, whether donating or selling, another person has acquired a treasure ready for more experiences and memory-making! WHAT A STORY OUR PIECES HAVE TO TELL AS THEY MOVE FROM HOME TO HOME!
Another reason we hold onto things too long is because WE GET LAZY AND UNCONSCIOUS WITH OUR SURROUNDINGS. How many times have you walked past the same corner of your house and looked at items that beg to be organized, sorted out, looked through or just discarded, but instead we walk past and move on with our day. One example might be the stacks of paper, notes, artwork, etc. that our kids bring home from school every week. How many of you have a stash of these papers piling up on your kitchen counter, dining room table or kids’ bedroom floor? I used to let them pile up on the counter and every time I saw them, I’d say to myself “I should throw those away” and then I hear the little voice of sentimentality say “you should save them – your kids worked hard on those – soon they’ll be grown up and gone and you will want to look back on it all – how dare you throw away your precious child’s artwork!” Sound familiar? Way to guilt yourself into keeping clutter and excess! right?!
So what’s a parent to do? I suggest you sit down with your child for a FEW MINUTES after school each day or several times per week right when they get home or after dinner and go through the papers together. WHAT AN AMAZING TIME TO BE PRESENT WITH THEM! Learn about their day, hear the effort that went into the worksheet, project or piece of art! Then, together, thoughtfully find a new home for each piece. Often the new home is in the circular file – there is no need to keep them and that’s ok now that you’ve both experienced them together.
If you come across a not with important information on it, add it to your calendar right then! Now you are staying organized, removing the paper from your “stashing place”, reducing the chances of you losing it, AND you are teaching your children to do the same as they get older – score! If you are looking at artwork, how about taking a photo of each piece, and at the end of the year make a photo book of all the kids’ art – takes up much less space! How about keeping a space in the house for each child’s artwork to hang and switch it out weekly or monthly. As you switch them out, take a photo and add to the file for your year-end photo book. What a great keepsake!
HERE’S WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO…
Make every effort to:
- Take care of things in the moment
- Be present with every item that enters your space.
- Make a conscious decision about whether it is worthy of being brought in and stored.
- Be better about guarding your borders and not allowing clothes, papers, sporting equipment, furniture,
baubles, etc. to enter your space unconsciously.
- Be conscious and intentional and welcome only those items you have a genuine need, purpose, and space for.
In the third and final part of this series, I will share practical steps you can take to release additional clutter
and excess and create a life with more ease and flow.