Just Learn the Important Words

  
Rain has been my constant companion so far in the tiny powerhouse that is Switzerland. This morning I had planned to rise early, get myself together, stop for some coffee and get to the train station for my full day in Luzern or Lucerne, as it is translated. Why does it have to be translated? Anyway, I did all that, just much later.

Let me begin by saying I slept an unprecedented 10 hours – interrupted marginally, but miraculous nonetheless. My queen sized bed is just this side of sleeping on the floor and the pillows are foam, leaden with age. No problem. The secret cocktail? Exhaustion + dry red medicine + open window with rain pounding the ground and cool air caressing my forehead. Even after ten hours it was difficult to get going. But I did. It probably helped that there was no coffee here. Motivation. 

I began making friends at the train station. “Excuse me but how do I get a ticket to the flughafen?” It took a little finesse but the 30 something man with round glasses and a waxed bag holding a pastry just procured at the well-placed gluten kiosk behind me, got me straightened out just in time for his train. Confident that I knew where I was going I found the secret passageway to the other track, just to be informed by a nice Swiss lady who works for the transit system that I should indeed go back where I came from. Meaning the other track of course. 

Finally in my seat, I still had the airport train station to master. Here a billette operator escorted me to a kiosk where he encouraged me, like a young child learning times tables, through selecting and purchasing my own ticket to the beautiful little lake town of Luzern. 

 New friends are everywhere. 

On the train I chose to perch myself on the upper level for a better view. About the third of five stops in a woman in her sixties or older hawked up a few words of something that sounded German and ended with a question mark. I nodded and smiled politely not entirely certain what I was agreeing to but it seemed the seat across from me was her request. We stared out the window in polite silence until I asked her if she spoke English. We’re now best friends. Not really but we did have a lovely conversation. 

Her parents lived in Arizona for a while but she was born in Luzern and lives there now. It’s beautiful, she says, except now the Chinese are moving in and people from India. Wait, what? They come in big groups apparently and if they like it they let everyone they know, know. 

Redirect.

“I just love the water and all the photos I’ve seen are beautiful.” She took the cue and pointed out a small town just before Luzern that has a lovely long lake that people walk around, and in the summer there are ‘rowing races’. 

“Do you like your American president?” This is the starter gun shot to a little game I like to call “defending your passport” that I don’t much like playing. In all honesty I’d much rather hear her thoughts so I play it semi-safe by saying, “the US is pretty divided right now.” That’s enough of an opening for her to walk through with both barrels loaded. And it doesn’t stop with him, apparently the leader of Switzerland is no good either, and there are others. She mercifully wraps it up with, “the good people just don’t run for office.” A universal truth perhaps.

It’s our stop. She tells me she will show me where to start my self-guided walking tour. She takes me to the large arches that welcome travelers to both the train station and the city, and points diagonally left. Thank you, says I, have a nice time, says she and we part.

Once alone, I am pulled by architecture, water, green hills rising from the lake and disappearing into the clouds. Swans swim nearby and people are plentiful but it’s not yet crowded. Rain is helpful that way. I wander aimlessly. Truly. I pass stores and restaurants, somehow end up in a mostly modern office building hive. I meander past a huge church where I am stopped by a British Indian family seeking directions. My mutt ancestry allows me to take on the persona of any cold weather European. I am surprisingly able to help them find their way to the train station. Onward I go. I notice the other side of the river (that is actually the lake) has intriguing buildings high in the hills dotted with what appear chimneys but are really low hanging clouds, and I wonder how I might get there. Try as I might I can’t seem to crack the code. I walk up what feels like hundreds of time worn, uneven stone steps, follow narrow alleyways and well-trod paths only to end up walking down a hill back to the water. Whatever mysteries are hidden in the turreted buildings on the hill will have to remain that way for now. 

I’m hungry. I mean really hungry and I have to pee. Time to find some lunch. There are many restaurants along the banks of the lake and their prices reflect their location. And some of the offerings frighten me. I may be able to muster courage for many things, but foodie I am not. I find the perfect restaurant in a hotel but they are closed until six. It’s three. I will not succumb to American fast food. Instead I pay way too much to eat Italian food on the Swiss riviera. I did sample some dry red Swiss wine though, so I’m not a total food loser. 

I’m done. It’s time to meander back to Zurich. The rain has picked up and I’m wet. 

I find my train. This is getting easier. I don’t have to know all the words, just the important ones. This train does not go all the way back to the airport, it goes to Zurich’s version of grand central. That was a fun segue. Art, fancy shops, grocery stores, thousands of fresh off work for the weekend folks and lots of soldiers in fatigues. It took everything I could  NOT to ask them if they were carrying knives. Get it? Swiss. Army. Knives. 

Anyway.

The rest of the rail hopping is a confusing blur of misreads, double-checks and finally landing at the right station. Which, it turns out is a lot closer if I don’t swing by Starbucks first. 

Oh, did I mention self check-out at the grocery store? In the big scary train station? In Switzerland? For some reason I thought, well I didn’t think, I just operated on a time crunch and instinct. I mean a barcode is a barcode in any language right? You’d think. There was an English language option so I chose it to pay for my coconut water and chocolate (balance, don’t judge). Everything was going just fine until it got to the end. I inserted my credit card, agreed to the amount and the conversion and probably sneaky conversion fees. Then I was met with a split screen. On the left side of the screen some important question or action appeared in Swiss in red with another button resembling “no” in red beneath it. On the right, a giant green exclamation point with a button that I assumed said “yes” beneath it. No matter how many times I hammered the EN button, the Swiss or German refused to budge. I switched to French. I could decipher the word receipt on the left which gave me confidence to press oui on the right. A receipt was spat out and I was on my way.

Wonder where I will be led tomorrow? Feeling a boat trip and an embarrassing run through the Lindt chocolate factory outlet store maybe in order. 

I repeat: Lindt. Chocolate. Factory. Outlet.

Lone Wanderer

  
Today after a 12 hour journey or so I landed in the gray and rainy Swiss metropolis of Zurich.  During those long hours on a couple of flights I somehow relaxed enough for all the stress I had been so valiantly suppressing to  gush forward in the form of a perpetually running faucet of a nose. No matter.
Upon arriving at the airport I was to find my way to the Stadelhofen train station. Ok, was my response, I’ll figure it out. And I did. I have come to learn that the bonus side of my sometimes troublesome curiosity is awareness.

I. Notice. Everything. 

I dutifully followed signs to train/bahn, then found the info lady and finally the ticket man. I guessed at the right track 4, asked a woman who only spoke Portuguese a question she did not understand, therefor couldn’t answer about the train currently idling on the track and took my chances hopping through the open door, while swiping at my nose. I confirmed with a suspected heroin addict that this particular train went in the direction I intended and took a seat. 

Four stops later I was spat out into the wet, cool air. My Airbnb host was there awaiting me and even took my bag. A carry-on only if I may boast. For two weeks. We walked a few blocks, took an elevator better suited for one small child with a chihuahua to the fourth floor and entered the apartment.

Spacious, comfortable, on a park and a fraction of even the least expensive hostel. Switzerland is pricey. He showed me around then left. 

I arranged a few things, poked around the kitchen then fell into bed with the windows open and the rain pounding away outside. An hour later I was refreshed enough to cross the street to the grocery store. I wanted to explore more but the rain and this annoying sieve of a nose caused me to pump the brakes. For an hour or so. 

As I was getting ready to leave again, I heard the familiar sound of pedals striking strings. Piano music was seeping through the walls giving me that delicious feeling of being part of something. Life was happening here. Cities have always been my comfort zone, I like the idea of knowing there are stories happening all around me simultaneously and maybe even intertwined. We are all connected after all.

As I made my way down the wide concrete stairs that belonged more to a 1930’s office building than a 5 story apartment building, I noticed other bits of stories. The occupant directly below me had two umbrellas leaning again the wall next to their door, a little further down one occupant had placed a big lace heart on their door and finally at the bottom, a chiropractic office.

Outside more than a dozen bikes sat in a row unlocked and unconcerned. The park was glistening bright green and a mother stood by while her child rode a hobby horse even in the rain.

I wandered to Starbucks. I know, but it’s a little bit of grounding that feels like a permission slip to explore freely. After that I took any side street that interested me with the intention of making my way to the water. I watched the good citizens of Zurich for traffic and street crossing clues, wished I had an umbrella and took note of stores and restaurants to explore later. 

The waterfront was beautiful and mystical shrouded in low hanging clouds. Solitary joggers and residents on bikes passed me by on the walkway arcaded with these magical trees. Occasionally a pair of friends would stroll by peeking outfrom under  their umbrellas to be sure the other understood the point they were trying to make.

There was a bridge in the near distance that was pulling me but I had to resist. I had to get into dry clothes and blow my nose. I had to check my powers of observation and recall to see if I could find my way back without soaking my phone to check Google maps. I did. No problem. Even managed to duck into a different grocery store for a medicinal bottle of wine.

Day 1 in the books. Tomorrow promises the same weather but I think I may find my way to Lake Lucerne. Back to the train platform to the train station to navigate farther south then hoof it around the sweet lake town. But we’ll see.

Sugar Troll

Stone bridge over a canyon at the Trolls path in Norway

It’s amazing to me how I can go from gobbling sugar in various forms to not having any at all and being okay with it. It’s like a switch is thrown, but until it is I am stumbling down a long, dark hallway with no windows in the middle of a moonless night groping for it, picking up a piece of candy and maybe a glass of wine along the way.

I don’t fully understand the triggers.

In the book, The Whole30, the authors speak of slaying the sugar dragon. I find this an unfair assessment of dragons of which I have great affection. I know of no such dragon, but I am more intimately acquainted than I’d like to be with the Sugar Troll. He’s ugly and creepy and short with rotten teeth and thick black fingernails. His posture is atrocious and he emits a smell I can only compare to too much cotton candy. When he’s close to me I am disgusted. It’s usually after we’ve just polished off a pint of ice cream or a bag of m&m’s. It’s not often. Mostly he lurks around corners and behind draperies encouraging just a little more sugar in my coffee or another piece of dark – the good for you kind – chocolate.

I don’t want to slay him so much as help him find his bridge. I’m not a violent person.

For the past three days he’s been on vacation. I asked him to go, told him he deserved it. He has after all been working really hard the past few months, and if I’m totally honest, more than the past fifity years. I don’t know how he does it. He works so hard for these intense bursts; bringing me bags of Werther’s and butter rum Lifesavers. When we go shopping together at Michael’s he always insists I pick up a pack of Razzles. It’s a candy AND a gum and big piece of my childhood. I deserve the memory, he winks. He loves parties, admonishing me if I try to avoid the birthday cake, it would be rude not to have a piece. And wine, I should have lots of wine, the red kind, it’s good for me. Like dark chocolate.

And then he hibernates for a while and I back off the cavity-maker in self-abasement. Then, just when the tiniest stress begins to build because of… anything …he’s at my door with a box of gluten free ginger snaps from Whole Foods.

He’s a cheeky bastard.

We’re having heart to heart conversations these days. He‘s taking my desire for him to move out pretty personally. He’s trying to understand, but he’s hurt. There is nothing sadder than a crying, snotty sugar troll. Pitiful. I explain that he could find a nice sugar troll mate and they could fall in love and eat candy together forever.

It’s been four days and I haven’t heard from him. I hope he’s kicking back on the rocks by the stream daydreaming and sighing contentedly a lot. I really don’t want to see him again, but it’s not his fault.

We’re just in two different places. And I’d like it to stay that way.

Downtime

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As I was journaling this morning I looked around my clean and straightened living room and felt a sense of emptiness or loss or maybe I was just tired, but a tiny flutter of panic began to beat its wings against my belief in this purging mission I’m on.

When I journal, I know I’m done when I start writing about what my plans are for the day, but today I struggled to articulate them and instead stared at various things I didn’t have to turn my head to look at. Typically my to-do list involves way more than is humanly possible, but this morning I floundered. I was apathetic. Lazy. Bored. Blah.

This feeling of ennui had me troubled.

Then the source of this unrest explained itself to me. Or rather offered up a suggestion as to why it may be lurking. “Is it possible,” it asked, “that you need mess around you to feel creative? To feel energized? Inspired? Motivated?”

I have built much of my purging and organizing on the foundation of less stuff = more clarity for creativity. If I have no motivation to begin or continue a creative project because my house is nice and neat, have I been wasting my time?

Let’s not jump to conclusions.

I am one of those people who feels like I should always be doing something, working on a project, creating something from scratch, procrastinating by being busy with things that will never make a difference, or doing my part to save the world.

You know, a woman.

Downtime is a dirty word, it shows weakness. It’s shameful. Only, of course, it isn’t. It is the yin to the over-productive crazy making yang we usually live in. It’s not a reward. There’s not something or so much that has to be done to earn downtime. It’s simply the other side. It’s the time necessary that allows for the salvation of the planet at 3 AM. It’s the being that fortifies and fuels the doing.

 

I am half way through this year of organization and clarity, it’s not even time for it to arrive yet. I’m going to take my own advice: pump the brakes, rest, maybe read a book, walk in the woods, breathe.

You should too. The world needs a lot of saving. And purging. And creativity.

Half Way

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Today marks the sixth month of this crazy purge thing I got myself into. When I began, I believed – which is my overly optimistic nature – that I could knock it out in a month and drop the mic. But, like all things I think I can accomplish quickly, I was wrong. At six months, I feel a little more than half way, maybe.

To remind myself of the actual plan, I had to go back to the beginning. January 1, 2017.

MY PLAN:

1. Catalog every item in my home.

Ok, I can explain. I inherited a whole 2 bedroom apartment that had been stuffed to the ceiling with books, crafting items and furniture. I let go of the cataloging, but plan to do a final count when I’m done with the stuff shuffle.

2. Purge what is no longer useful or meaningful.

This I have done. I have piled items high at work for people to paw through and take; made no less than 20 trips to Good Will with no fewer than 50 boxes of things; thrown more into the trash than I ever want to do for the rest of forever; nearly 15 pounds of ‘very important papers’ have been shredded; the two-body recycle bin continues to fill; and… I’m still at it.

3.Eat clean 90% of the time.

Can we talk about something else? Actually the Whole 30 is on deck for July.

4. Reduce my carbon footprint any way I can.

I haven’t been able to even think about this yet. I am very mindful when I purchase things not to succumb to plastic. And I did buy a composter, which is still sitting in parts on my patio table. Baby steps. I am hoping that by year’s end with my mind and space clear, I can devote thoughtful time to this one.

5. Create a mammoth spreadsheet of my stuff.

Started. Abandoned. Please see 1.

6. Ask myself, with everything I do or bring into my home, “Is this the best choice for me, the planet, my home?” “Do I need it?”

Not much other than food is coming into my home right now. And I feel like I need it.

7. Reduce my trash and recycles to next to nothing.

Please see 4.

There were many things that happened in the first six months of this year that could have so easily derailed me, but didn’t. Not completely. This tells me how important this project is to me. This commitment to a lighter, freer lifestyle oddly takes Herculean effort at times.

All in all, I am satisfied with my progress thus far. As I wrap up the purge of physical stuff (see, there’s that overly optimistic, or possibly delusional Pollyanna again) I am moving into digital purge and body purge. I thought I could sort of toggle between them all, you know, knock it all out at once, but too much focus is necessary for each area.

I am not putting pressure on the next six months though, rather I am continuing forward with purpose. I’m being the tortoise rather than the over-excitable-wear-myself-out-over-thinking-procrastinating-with-other-important-not-important-things hare.

Slow and steady wins the race.

 

Yard Sale

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During the process of purging and organizing I have been playing game show host with my thoughts and my stuff. Some truth or dare, if you will.

There is a lot of ‘what iffing’ going on as well.

  • What if I only had 10 minutes to gather everything dear to me – assuming all the sentient beings were already taken care of – what would I grab?
  • What if I lost all this stuff? What would I miss? Any of it?
  • What if I gave all of this away to people I knew – as opposed to strangers at a thrift store – would that feel good? Would there be attachment to their appreciation or lack thereof?
  • What if I gave everything away and regretted it?

My internal self queries have gone beyond the pragmatic ‘do I need this?’ line of questioning into the psychological realm of judgment and self-worth.

Somehow there is a sense of self that is attached to everything we own. (I’m gonna go ahead and say we, I think that’s safe.) The degree to which this is debilitating or harmful will be markedly different for everyone, dependent solely on belief systems.

A few of the attachments I’ve stumbled across for myself, and those reflected back to me when I’ve shared my year-long madness with others, include:

Status. “Owning this means I’ve made it to some magical level of achievement.”

Value. “This cost a lot of money. Maybe I’ll sell it, I’m sure it’s gone way up in value.” It has not, unless it’s jewelry or a Van Gogh.

Respect. “This was a gift and what if so-and-so comes over and it’s not displayed? Isn’t that just rude?”

Emotion. “All my feelings for that person are wrapped up in this ___fill in the blank___. If I let it go I am basically disregarding the very existence of this person in my life and therefore their value as a human being.” (Hint: you do not have that kind of power, it’s up to them what sort of value they place on their existence.)

Memories. Similar to emotion but more wistful and much more powerful. “Every time I look at or touch this it makes me feel ____fill in the blank_____. I don’t want to forget this memory, therefore I can never let go of this thing.”

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about that very topic: memory. It went something like this:

Me: Letting go of stuff is getting easier and easier.

Them: Yeah? What about the things that have really great memories attached to them?

Me: Even that stuff isn’t so hard to part with any more. The memories aren’t in the thing.

Them: But what if it’s a memory that makes you feel good and once you get rid of the thing you don’t have that touchstone to look back on that good memory.

Me: Hopefully you’ll have new memories and that memory will have served its purpose. Or it will still surface once in a while on its own.

Them: Yeah… I guess.

Neither one of us was firmly convinced of our own argument, nor did we adopt the other’s line of thinking. It was a kindly philosophical debate that we allowed to hover in the air around us as we moved on to other topics.

Out of these types of conversations and my own game show fantasies, I have developed a sure-fire way to determine the fate of my individual things. Sure-fire is a fancy way of saying it mostly works.

It’s the yard sale technique.

Literally, if you can, place all your items up for consideration and maybe some you were for sure you were going to keep or toss onto table(s) much like you would find at a yard sale. Don’t spend a lot of time arranging them or grouping them, just place them safely. Then take a few minutes to walk around the table and decide if you would purchase them all over again, if they were for sale – even for a buck or two. If the answer is a resounding internal “yes” with fireworks and heart emoticons rising like balloons, then pick that item up and place it in your ‘basket’. If it’s a “nah, don’t know why I’ve been holding onto that for so long anyway,” leave it on the table. If it’s riding the fence and keeps calling you back to be considered, find a holding area in which to place it.

This can also be done in small batches, by the room let’s say. Or in stages; everything out, grab what you love, leave the rest and come back later.

I am a fan of just letting go, but I also understand the delicate threads that link us to our pasts. I feel that should be honored. When the decision is made thoughtfully there can be little room for regret.

Go shopping in your own home. Maybe you’ll find something nice to pick up for someone else!

Junk Drawer

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If you’re following along with out purging process, you may be wondering why I didn’t start you off somewhere simple like a junk drawer or that closet that houses roller blades, winter clothes, wooden tennis racquets and bags full of mystery. The answer is simple: it won’t make a difference.

I’m not going for the temporary win here, I’m going for transformational.

A [more than likely misguided, but ultimately helpful] thief could enter your home while you’re at work, remove every item in that closet and junk drawer and you probably wouldn’t notice for months. When you needed a battery for the smoke alarm, probably or when you finally decide to toss that deflating exercise ball into the hungry maw of broken promises.

No. You may feel a momentary puffery of satisfaction for emptying these spaces, but you didn’t really do anything worthy of praise. Sorry.

We are working on areas that you see every day, that drag down your energy and make you want to leave town or nap until dinner. We are working with present day life stuff.

Make the junk drawer or the closet your reward after your first purge. PLUS, if you empty a drawer and a closet first, what do you think will happen?

Oh, I think you know.

You’ll have the best of intentions.  You will only put a few things in there, like holiday items and golf clubs. That is until you have company and need a quick place to stash all that extra stuff that won’t fit under the bed because you never got around to doing that because you were so busy patting yourself on the back for emptying the junk drawer and closet of things you didn’t even know you had.

So.

Peruse your shoes, paw through your clothes and remove a couple of items. I’ll bet you already know which ones. Then do a little more and keep going. It’s a lot like a new habit, it needs reinforcing. The empty space is your reward.

Then when you do need that 9 volt battery at the Autumnal Equinox guess what will happen? You’ll take 10 minutes to rifle through the drawer, throw anything away that is no longer needed, straighten up what you do need and walk away. Just like that. No ceremony, no struggle. You’ll be so pro at this you won’t even notice what you just did until you’re about to lay down to bed. And even then you’ll smile, just a little and not even share it on social media.

You’re that good.

Purging for Your Life

Tree of Life, Amazing Banyan Tree.

Did you do it? Did you come up with your goal for purging? I suppose goal is not the best word, vision is better, I think. Maybe it’s both. The goal is to pare down as much as you deem appropriate to fulfill the vision of what your life will look like, in all aspects, once you’ve reached this goal.

What’s your why? What is bigger and stronger than the sway of your stuff? That’s what we’re getting to.

I promised I would share my process, but I don’t suppose it’s much of a mystery. I have done this before: at my home, helping friends and family and readying a home or two for an estate sale. I have read blogs and books on purging, organization, efficiency, minimalism and the Japanese Art of Tidying. I have tried and faltered, stopped just short of the magic. Now I am back with new purpose; the vision of space to create and breathe and find stillness nudges me along.

The one thing I know for sure is your process will be unique to you.

Before you begin to consider all of your things – those objects that occupy space on bookshelves, hidden in drawers, in boxes in the attic or garage or *gasp*under the bed (a big Feng Shui no-no) – understand that any and all of them can stay. Please know that.

But remember your vision and goal and measure each tiny treasure against that possible future.

Also recognize that each one of these precious-at-one-time things can also be anchors, tethering you to the past, sometimes with happy memories, other times in sorrow or pain, but holding you at arm’s length from the present nonetheless.

Imagine yourself as a banyan tree, like the one pictured above. The tree is sturdy strong and content, but it can never move. Each branch has a series of roots in addition to the trunk. It is forever tied to the earth, to that one place. If you have no desire to grow, expand or create, by all means, keep all your stuff and remain blissfully stuck.

I know that my study of the yoga philosophy over the past ten years has given me a unique perspective on the accumulation of stuff and I may come across unsentimental at best and heartless at worst. I will cop to the first charge, but assure you I do have a heart. A heart that wants to be unburdened and free to create in the present. And I am not completely without sentimentality, perhaps I just lean more toward pragmatic.

There is a tenet in the yoga philosophy that I’ve mentioned before, called aparigraha. It means non-attachment or non-hoarding. If we hold onto things with a firm grasp we cannot open our hands to receive more. We stop the flow of abundance physically, energetically, emotionally and spiritually.

Ok, enough woo woo, let’s get down to business.

Sharing the entire process – that I am still figuring out for myself, by the way – would be akin to asking you to order a dumpster and throw everything away. Instead I will offer some initial encouragement and guidelines to get started, allowing for space and time, tactics that have helped me get and stay on this [mostly] rewarding track. Then later we’ll dig a little deeper.

STEP ONE:

Create an unshakable vision for your future unencumbered self. Think hard on this one because it is this vision that will fortify your resolve to keep going.

STEP TWO:

  • Clear a large flat surface. This could be a dining room table, a bed or even the floor in a room (assuming you don’t have critters – human or beast – that will curiously poke at your things and possibly wander off with them).
  • Mindfully move from room to room removing anything that does not belong there. Clothes in the living room, scissors on the entry table, etc. and place these items on that newly cleaned off flat surface.
  • Once you have swept the whole home (or the areas you plan to work on) put the items back where they belong. If there are homeless items, leave them here.
  • Clean your home. Touch everything, dust it, notice the items you’re vacuuming around, how many personal care items you’re wiping down in the bathroom, you know, clean.
  • Take a break. And maybe a shower. Seriously.
  • Now, slowly walk through each room you wish to purge with a critical eye. Remove everything you know you no longer want. Don’t linger. Don’t try on clothes or jewelry or get lost in the emotion of things, simply walk these collected items to the big flat surface, then move onto the next room.
  • Gather the following: 2 boxes, a trashcan, a stickee pad and a marker.
    • Box 1: Charity
    • Box 2: Gifts for friends or items to return – the stickee pad and marker are to label each item with the recipient’s name.
    • Trashcan: you know
  • Once your items have found their way into the appropriate box, take them. Remove them from your home, all the way, not just into the trunk of your car. Actually drive them to where you intend for them to go.

You will feel lighter.

That’s it for now. This part of the process could take weeks or months and maybe should. Please take your time with the possessions you chose to bring into your home. Some items will be tossed without a second glance, others will grip you a little tighter. Allow for the process to unfold organically for you.

Still stuck? Go back to your vision.

 

Distillation

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I’ve come to recognize this process I’ve undertaken is more of a distillation than a purge. In actuality it’s both, but it goes far beyond letting go of physical things.

It’s showing me just how powerful thought is.

We assign meaning to everything, right down to a moth-eaten 45 year old outfit for a little boy. We attach people and situations to objects. This belonged to dad. Grandma drew that when she was just 17. There’s a story for everything and we add to it so much so that letting go of the item becomes painful. But ultimately can be so freeing.

While the home, spirit and mind cleansing practice has been taking place, I’ve rubbed up against some difficult choices. Decisions I’ve made difficult. You would have no problem throwing away or rehoming a tiny glass heart with no discernible marks. But it belonged to my mother, along with various other hearts she seemed to collect. And it’s not that, ‘oh, this reminds me of mom and every positive loving memory I have of her is wrapped up in this tiny glass heart,” sentimental kind of thing, it’s more about timing. And maybe respect.

How long do I hold onto something of hers just because she held onto it and she would want me to hold on to it? When is it okay and respectable to let it go?

Writing it out makes it sound as ridiculous as the thought construct from whence it came. These are inanimate objects that we animate with stories.

But its just a thought. Something I made up about that object.

It’s not just her stuff. It can be an item I purchased myself on a whim or a gift I have received, it doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is the story. Attachment to the story.

These items we hold onto, even though we don’t love them, are weight, a burden. As I write this I am looking around my room that is in transition – again – and I could discard over 50% of the items in here. Yet I don’t. I have my mother’s Tarot cards, and my grandmother’s; I have feathers collected by me and my mother; books I think I’ll read, but may never; a desk I can’t wait to remove; a box temporarily housing all the “meaningful” altar items I think I need, most of which I will pass along; and craft supplies for projects that may or may not manifest.

It’s all thought. Just thought.

It’s also an anchor, a cord to the past or guilt or shame, sometimes love and happy memories. But attachment all the same.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all these observations, it’s just where I am right now.

Oh yes, distillation. This feels like the right course of action for me. It’s taking 500 items and skimming 20 off the top, then taking a closer look at those 480 items left and swiping 100 items off the top, then pawing through and considering 380 items and removing 80 and so on until what’s left is the best of the best, the cream of the crop, those items I love, need and from which I gain inspiration.

I could remove everything from my home except a bed, a chair, a desk, one outfit, etc. Get rid of everything in one fell swoop. But there would always be that curiosity of what I had just given up; A cord to imaginary things, ghosts in fabricated stories that would haunt my imagination. I would wonder if I let go of something I needed or wanted but didn’t realize it. And it just feels ruthless and I would miss what is being revealed as the true gift in this daunting project.

With the luxury of going slower I am able gain the wisdom of the process. I get to examine my thoughts, tendencies, emotions and memories. I get to decide. I get to grow.

My goal is not to live in complete austerity. I love beautiful things, I just want a lot less of them. I am convinced that a peaceful, expansive life has everything to do with subtraction.

By taking my time I get to touch every single item I have chosen to bring into my home and my life and let it go. Or not. Or maybe not quite yet.

It’s just a thought. And thoughts can be changed. Even let go of.

 

 

 

Giving Up

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I am in danger of letting it all go. Taking a giant energetic eraser and wiping my stuff slate clean.  Instead of a POD, a dumpster. I’m going to put all the pretty breakable things I own on the kitchen counter and let Kitty Andersen have her way with them. I’m over it.

I am in danger of quitting. Holding on to what’s left, petting it, apologizing to it for casting out its friends. I’m itching to skulk around antique and thrift shops looking for something I didn’t know I needed then squeezing it in between other items without meaning.

I am in the process of purging.

Everything is energy and everything has energy – a bit of magic formed of memories and wishes. A rock collected from the Long Island Sound. Or was it the banks of the Ganges. Maybe someone gave it to me. A tiny Buddha living among others of its kind on an altar with things that, when held individually, seem to lose most of their meaning and charm. Where did he come from?

If I don’t know where they came from how can they have meaning?

It is this energy or connection I am becoming very sensitive to. It was most telling when I was moving my altar items to a box for safe keeping whilst I hurricaned about the place. I considered every piece of preciousness and of the 253,876 items, maybe 10 elicited a knowing smile. The rest more of an exasperated sigh at my ridiculous assignment of meaning to every rock and every feather I have ever found. (More on altars later.)

I am both burdened by this stuff and buoyed by it. It brings me joy and sometimes peace and it frustrates the hell out of me.

I can tell you that being able to take my time with my stuff has been mostly a positive experience and I’m grateful to be able to do this my way. It gives me great pleasure to hand over items that have meaning to me to others that can find new life for them. But I am doing this without attachment or condition. If I personally hand a book to someone it is always with the permission to “feel free to regift, recycle or do whatever you’d like with it.”

I am, of course, holding on to some very precious things, but I am trying to make those items the exception. And I’m even questioning those things.

Because Larry and I have a few antique spaces between us I am afforded the luxury of cycling some items through and possibly recouping my initial investment or even making an extra buck or two. An old radio flyer wagon, for instance,  with peeling red paint that sits atop my (almost empty) TV cabinet. I like the addition of color and the stories of the children it must have held. One day I’ll tire of it and pass it along. Sell to someone who can make up their own narratives.

Currently my house is once again in turmoil, this seems to be the cycle. Pull everything out from its hiding place, paw through it, roll eyes, sort, toss, pile, purge. Then do it all over again. Until there are just no more hiding places. From my perch on the sofa I spy:

  • 2 boxes of CDs waiting to be delivered to new homes
  • 6 stacks of CDs yet to be sorted through (down from about a million)
  • 3 stacks of magazines (one with paint color ideas, one to be given away to a friend  and one yet to go through – a short stack)
  • 1 looming stack of books to be priced and sold
  • 3 stacks of books to go to the studio for adoption
  • 4 empty boxes waiting to be filled for Good Will (at least 50 boxes have been transported so far)

But all these piles, while causing momentary shortness of breath and heart palpitations, can be moved into their proper places – outside my home – by end of day tomorrow and I can vacuum and dust and space clear and do a happy dance until the next time.

The goal again, for me, is to whittle all of my possessions down to just what I can see, just what I love or has beautiful inspirational meaning or what is useful. And not to restart the cycle of collection and purging. But it’s in stages and steps. (More on my process coming soon.)

For now, stuff is moving out, space is being revealed. The math is working.