What’s Your Why?

IMG_8374

I’m always amazed when a friend starts a sentence with, “I read your blog on…” referring to something I wrote that mattered to them.

I share this with you because it makes me very happy, but also because there is a recurrent theme in these conversations: stuff. “I’m right there with you.” “What is it about stuff?” “How are you handling this or letting go of that?” “How do I even start?”

They want to know my process. Exactly.

I’ll share it, but I want to make it clear that The Process is different for everyone. The time it takes, what to start with, how to keep going will depend on you.

In addition, these friends want to know how they will feel. I can’t answer that. I can tell you I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, light, elated and overwhelmed all over again. There are times that I cannot stop and other times I’m paralyzed in the middle of a room and all I want to do is sit down and cry.

It should be different for everyone. Why you are doing it what matters most.

If you have a concrete goal in mind that is driving you, or an intention for the use of the space when you are done, you will remain steadfast in your endeavor. You must KNOW clarity will come. You must TRUST breathing will be easier and petty life stuff will no longer pull you down.

Stuff is a stressor. Just add it to the list. It’s one more thing (or likely hundreds of little actual things) on your nervous system.

You must have a clear vision. And support.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to do this alone in a house full of people who roll their eyes and sigh at your crazy ideas more than should be natural.

IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO SWAY THEM OR DO THIS FOR THEM.

For now, focus on YOU.

I encourage you to work on your why. As Stephen Covey stated, “Begin with the end in mind.”

  • What does the “end” look like for you?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What will the benefit be once your space is purged and organized?
  • What is the why that will keep you going?

Work on a ‘why’ that is so strong that you can easily explain it and rely on it to keep you on track.

If you’re struggling with the final vision, try getting at it this way:

  • What is frustrating you now?
  • How much time do you spend moving things to look for other things?
  • How much time do you spend looking for something in general?
  • How much energy do you lose when you look at your surroundings?

Imagine your space clear, open, organized. Close your eyes and edit it. Imagine your bedroom with just a bed. What else do you need? What else would you add? Maybe it’s nothing. Start with an empty room in your mind’s eye and add in (on paper or in your imagination) only what you need and what brings you peace.

The outcome you envision will be the key to your progress. If nothing is coming to you, maybe it’s not the right time quite yet. Allow it to unfold, to evolve, let it roll around in your brain.

It. Is. So. Worth. It.

YOU, are so worth it.

Next time we’ll talk strategy. For now work on “why”. What’s the point? Ponder that.

Name That Tune

IMG_7996

I am ridiculous.

 

In the past three days Larry and I  have gone through 5 suitcases full of CD’s – with a few cassettes – a TV cabinet stuffed with movies – some even on VHS – and started to dig into books. A little. We dropped off six boxes of media to Good Will, he set aside a box for a friend of various items and I have a rolly cart threatening to burst that I will take to work to share.

Still I sit among 300+ CD’s.

About a year and a half ago I left the PC world behind and returned to the magical world of Apple. I bought a MAC book Pro. I used MAC’s all throughout art school and in most of the creative jobs I’ve held, but when it came time to purchase my own laptop I went with the Toshiba that was a fraction of the cost. Then I was stuck in the PC loop. Finally I bit the bullet and returned to MAC. Home again.

But my music apparently went with the PC.

I had spent days, weeks, probably months uploading my CDs to iTunes on that first laptop. I thought after I was complete that I could probably just discard the CDs since everything was now in one magical place, you know, the cloud, but I held onto them anyway.

Glad I did.

In March of this year I had the brilliant idea to load nothing but yoga nidra’s onto my tiny little iPod and leave it behind for Larry while I traipsed across the globe. I’d set up the little Bose iPod player in the bedroom with the iPod docked and he’d be all set.

Except my music was gone. It was on my iPod, but gone from iTunes.

I looked online for answers. I did all the tricks recommended. Nothing. Finally I asked a friend if she’d had to deal with this issue. She had. When she switched from PC to MAC. The music she had uploaded stayed on her PC, she had to manually transfer it. My hard drive and old laptop were delivered to the dump, that wouldn’t be an option.

So. Now.

As I’m in the process of uploading and curating and creating playlists of these diverse shiny circles of music, the thought occurs to me… it took me over a year to notice my music was gone. Is it really worth the time to go back through and upload everything? Did I really miss it?

The answer is yes, mostly, I missed some. I missed my classical and jazz playlists and my crooners and blues ladies, but I am uploading almost everything. Or I had planned to.

I haven’t listened to Weezer in maybe three years. Trik Turner? What did they even sing? Is it a they or a he? Yet, there those CD’s sit. Waiting.

It’s about control. Perhaps.

I love that I can turn on the TV and search for something on cable, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix and I don’t need to house DVDs, but it still feels a little scary. And I still want some sort of structure with TV and usually I want not TV at all.

Music is different for me. I want to put on my computer what I want. I want to KNOW what’s on there. I want to CREATE playlists. I want to create STRUCTURE. Ultimately I want to CONTROL something and this seems like a safe place to do that.

Truthfully, if you were to come to my house, scoop up all my CDs up and take them with you, I’d adjust. But for a minute or two I’d search my mind wanting to know what you took. Ok, there were about 500 CD’s, what were they? I would probably actually start to make a list.

Then I would let go.

Then I would allow music to come to me. I would remember that it was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos that I loved. And anything by Mozart. And no one can set a mood like Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald. I would summon up Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and maybe even Weezer. I would immediately find Melody Gardot and Madelaine Peyroux and maybe even stumble across someone new I didn’t know I needed.

Instead I grip. I cling. I control.

And I learn.

Space Clearing

IMG_7981

At the risk of outing myself as some sort of woo woo shaman witch psychic nut job, I’d like to talk about clearing space.

I know it may seem as if that is all I talk about in the physical sense. Removing items from my home I no longer need, encouraging you to do the same and reveling in the newly created open space.

But this is space clearing of a different kind, although it walks hand-in-hand with the removal of objects.

The space clearing I’m referring to here is energetic.

I know you sort of believe me. I know you’ve been in a room in a house that felt stuffy or thick or off. You’ve walked into a space that felt tense or one that felt open and airy. You’ve been in a space completely devoid of people yet you either want to stay or you can’t get out of there fast enough. Why?

Right now so much of my home is stuffed with the energy of memories and history. Photos, books, papers, crafting supplies, linens and memorabilia have been gone through and organized.

Yet there is still much to be done. And the shadow of all those things lingers behind.

 

 

Most recently I culled through decades of photos, some over a century old. I discarded many and have plans for the rest, but I have much more to go through before I can allow myself the luxury of playing, so I have sorted them by decade in envelopes and stored them neatly away in the hutch in my beloved guest room. Alongside the photos live old newspaper clippings, horrible artwork, a blanket that was loved too hard and some deteriorating military felt.

I have completely (re)organized my guest room. The napping room. My favorite room in the whole house. (Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before?)

Only now the air is a little heavy with all those memories and history.

Here’s where the space clearing comes in.

For years I studied Feng Shui (more new age voodoo) and the focus of this tradition is energy. Move your stuff, change your life (actually the title of a really great book as well as a truism). Energy collects in corners, under furniture and appliances. It hovers near the ceiling or behind beds and dressers; things pushed up against walls. It can be stuck anywhere.

Its removal and dispersement does not have to take on some sort of mystical ritual, but it can. And maybe it should. For me, simply vacuuming can do the trick. But this space (and I’m sure, others to come) seems to be asking for more specific attention.

A simple way to clear space is to clap. Opening  the windows and door of the room to be cleared, walking around the room clapping into corners and up near where the walls meet the ceiling helps to move stagnant energy out. Seriously. The whole time I’m doing this I am honoring the energy that has collected there. It’s not bad or good, it’s energy.

After the clapping I clean the room, dust, vacuum, straighten up and take a shower.

Test it out. Go into a room that doesn’t see a lot of action, or one that has had a particularly negative visitor, and clap, just once. Is it clear? Does the sound reverberate? If not, perhaps you’ll understand. If so, great, no work needed, maybe.

If clapping isn’t your thing, a bell or chime will work. A handheld drum is also often used. Some use sage or incense.  If you are secretly woo woo and want to explore this phenomenon, I’ll post some links for you to check out. In the meantime, wander through your spaces, get a sense of them, notice the differences in how you feel in each space. And how each space feels.

Be curious. Honor your space and the energy there.

I recommend reading up on different techniques if this sounds useful to you. Here are the promised links. Let me know how it goes for you.

  • Denise Linn  is one of my favorites. She has strong Native American approach. I love her Space Clearing book.
  • Karen Kingston is another favorite.
  • Karen Rauch Carter is the funny, awesome lady who wrote the book I mentioned above, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life.

The Dump

IMG_7587

Larry and I were recently at our county’s Central Transfer Station – that’s a fancy name for dump. Larry had been before, but I had never had the pleasure. When we drove in, we stopped at the guardgate and were happily directed to the “tunnel, all the way to the right.”

It wasn’t as obvious as it sounded.

We accidentally drove down the wrong tunnel. There are three tunnels, the one on the far right was our intended destination to drop off old paint cans, chemicals and a few electronics as we continue to purge, but somehow we drove down the center lane. It was creepy. There was a giant dump truck open on the top, and it was receiving trash from a trap door, the size of a car, above it. It felt like we were on secret property, like we might get caught and questioned in this smelly, putrefying place lit sickly green by fluorescent bulbs. But no one paid any attention to us. We drove out as if we were getting away with something, quickly but calmly.

Once outside, there were people moving things from here to there, county vehicles and random pavilions and no one paid any attention to us. A left turn would take us back to our starting point so we could try this again.

IMG_7586On our second try we found the correct tunnel. It was fastidious – for a dump. There were giant signs for each type of contaminant and pallets beneath them neatly stacked with items homeowners, just like us, had placed in rows. To the right there were what looked like huge walk-in freezers each with its own warning: Flammable, Poison, Corrosive, Oxidizer. When there was no obvious place for electronics, I hailed an official looking person and he pointed further down the line. There, a large old TV was placed nearly in the way with nothing but static and the letters TVs painted on the screen in bright red.

My imagination melded Poltergeist with Ghost Whisperer and I saw the letters written in the blood of a dead man from inside the screen as a clue to his demise. Imagination is not always helpful.

The gentleman overseeing this part of the operation was neatly dressed in something like a mechanic may wear. He was affable and chatting with someone else in this trash tomb. There seemed to be a sense of pride in his work and the place was pretty immaculate – at least in this area – but still it had a stench.

I don’t ever want to go back there. But, if I am a responsible homeowner I will. I don’t expect us to have any more chemicals, but there will be paint cans and electronics and I will not add toxic waste to an already overtaxed landfill.

Do you ever fly? Have you flown over any mountains, in particular over the western United States where they are mostly scrubby and bare? You can really see how they came to be. I’m always mesmerized by the way Mother Earth has shaped (and continues to shape) herself. It’s plain to see how the mountains grew, pushed up and together by shifting plates and how they were shaped by wind and water. It’s so obvious. And beautiful.

Then flying over farmland, especially in the north-east, the earth is blanketed with a patchwork quilt of crops from small farms. Rows neatly planted, some dark green, others brown, but all planted with care. I’m always amazed by the neatness of it all.

But then there are the bodies of unrealistic milky green-blue water and endless crops of the same thing. There are landfills will tiny chimneys placed every so often, very strategically, to allow all the gasses from trash to escape so they don’t explode, I’m guessing. There are rows of buildings that house livestock and waterways cut into the landscape for irrigation where nothing is supposed to grow and to move toxic waste to, where?

I often wonder if it hurts. Mother Earth that is. What does it feel like to have so much foreign matter inserted subcutaneously? And the weird water, does that burn? Are the fields of frankencrops like eczema? Do the islands of plastic in the oceans feel like digestive blockages? Or tumors?

What have we done? And how can we do better?

This field trip was eye-opening. It’s not that I don’t know there is a copious amount of trash out there, I pass two landfills on my way south to visit friends, but that I am contributing to this at all makes me very sad. We’re recyclers (and soon to be composters) but that’s not enough. We have to be more mindful on the front end, about what we bring in. Just the other day I opted for two containers of cut up watermelon instead of the wedge I normally by. They were a bogo and less expensive for the same amount of watermelon. BUT, now I have two plastic containers that I will throw in the recycle bin and hope they make it somewhere to be melted and used again, when I could have tossed a rind back into nature.

It’s catching these things, being present while making buying decisions, that is the work. I have what I have and now that we’re digging in and purging in earnest, it’s helpful to see where we were awake and mindful and what we need to work on.

The lessons and process continues.

Gay Uncles

IMG_7799

I took a break from organizing and donating crafting supplies to begin the task of categorizing photos. The entire surface of the bed in the guest room is covered in boxes and baskets of photos. This room, the guest room, is my most favorite. It is decorated exactly the way I want it – simple white linens, an antique cherry night stand on one side of the bed and a filing cabinet hidden under a round top and layers of white linens on the other. The headboard is painted white-ish and gold – perfectly distressed – there is a cream colored bookcase, a dark oak hutch, white linen curtains and a dark wood chair. The art on the walls consists of bird prints and tiny pieces of original art I purchased on trips abroad. It is simple and clean (most of the time) and it’s where I go to breathe. The one room that is almost always neat and clean. I miss that feeling, so I’m digging in to unearth my little island of calm.

The photos are a mix of recent, with vibrant colors and uniform sizes and old yellowed, black and white with creases and cardboard backing. I love them all. The fresh memories and the bits of history I’m left to make up in the older ones. It’s those stories waiting to be told that I get lost in.

In these various piles there are two secrets closely held: one in a brown vinyl travel bag, the other in a tan photo album. They belong to my uncles. The twin great-uncles that I loved so dearly.

There is nothing scandalous hidden here. No pornographic images, no confessions or blackmail. The memories and photos are powerful in their simplicity. Each had many photos of the two of them together, they were very close, just standing side by side smiling for the camera. They were gay, both of them, though the opera singer would never claim his preferences. His brother, discreet, but out, would share his twin’s secrets with my mother and I after his death.

They weren’t really secrets.

The photos they left behind hold images of men seated in living rooms and kitchens, laughing, smiling, enjoying themselves. There are couples, it seems, only if the time is taken to go through them all. The same two men are standing or seated side by side with their arms around each other like “pals” on more than one occasion, in different clothes and maybe a change in hair style or length. These were relationships.

Tucked in with these photos are newspaper clippings of accomplishments of each other and their friends, their family.

What is so striking about these photos is nothing. Yet they were held in bottom drawers of dressers under winter clothes. I imagine them filling a roll of film half with these photos and the other half with shots of them with family and women so as not to arouse suspicion at the one-hour photo processing center in their home towns. Or even driving the unprocessed film far enough away. They would carefully cull out the photos and place the special ones in albums to be viewed often and probably alone or just with the subjects contained within. The other photos would be found loose in a kitchen drawer or in the envelope they came in, resting on the coffee table. Or maybe discarded.

So much of their lives were manipulated and restrained for the comfort of others. These secrets and maybe lies would ultimately undo them.

The opera singer, became well known in the opera community of New York City. He was married three times to different women, powerful artists in their own rights. I always suspected he was gay. He was just this side of flamboyant – dramatic perhaps, that was his job after all – and he never had children. Never wanted them. He was happy to be an uncle and he was an awesome one.

But his secrecy made him sick.

Ultimately the “not gay” opera singing uncle would succumb to AIDS toward the end of the eighties. He wasted away. He had denied his actual existence in favor of the persona he thought everyone wanted. And it killed him.

The other uncle lived much more quietly, pursuing the arts differently. He would work in Europe for Fortuny, then in Boston. Later he would open a lighting store, then a florist shop. He would drink and make the unfortunate decisions that come along with alcoholism. It was not easy living inauthentically. Liquor helped.

Later in life he would give it up. He met and fell in love with someone a decade younger who was sober but infected. They never had sex, he told me, but they were affectionate and madly in love. There are photos that make this obvious. Sweet, gentle images of the two of them engaged in conversation, smiling, listening.

But AIDS would take him too. They both knew it would eventually come and were as prepared as anyone can be for such profound, gradual loss.

There would be no other lovers. Instead he turned his life over to AA. For over 30 years my sweet uncle would take in people in the “the program” who needed a soft place to land for a while. He had inherited his father’s house and there were two bedrooms and a Florida room surrounded on two sides with jalousie windows and a back door. He moved into the Florida room to allow the residents of the other rooms some privacy. That’s just how he was.

The house was a very small typical Florida home built sometime in the 40s and 50s. Just one small bathroom, a large kitchen with a window over the sink with a wide sill that my great grandmother would place peanut butter crackers on for the local squirrel population, feeding some of them by hand and a living room big enough to fit an upright piano. His parents had lived in it over 30 years. He moved in with his father to help take care of him in his later years, to be sure he took his meds and didn’t drive after too many cocktails. His dad “knew” but it wasn’t discussed. His mother had passed ten years prior and she would not allow it to be spoken about. She knew too, they were her babies, the youngest of six by about 12 years. But still, you just didn’t talk about such things.

He would, much later after his beloved dog died, check himself into an assisted care facility from which he would not emerge alive. He was beginning to forget things and didn’t want to be a burden. He knew what was coming, he had seen it in every one of his older siblings, except his twin who would escape that fate by dying too young.  Less than a year after he moved out of his tiny Florida home he went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I’m pretty sure he planned it that way.

Their lives were rich, they mattered. They loved wholly and completely. They each left a legacy of art, beauty, laughter and love.

They were great, great-uncles and sifting through their photographic pasts fills my heart with compassion and sadness in equal measure for the lives they lived and the ones they hid.

 

Who Needs TV?

IMG_7736

This morning on the back patio while Kitty Andersen and I were sorting pine straw for craft projects (I know, my life is glamorous and magical and you wish you were me) we were found ourselves in the front row of a spectacular show.

The curtain went up to a great and brief left over rain shower when one squirrel leapt onto the winged elm branch dispatching all pooled water from recent storms from its leaves onto the tin roof.

Landing in the rubber tree a single blue jay called to his friends. First, he nattered, almost clucking, I had never heard a blue jay do that before. Then he let loose his powerful ear-splitting screech. It was this call that produced another, then another. The meeting was called to order. There was disagreement, as there always is at these things, resolution, some discussion and then eventually adjournment, but not before one attendant stomped off in a huff.

While the remaining executives were in the throes of their strategy, five squirrels rushed across the top of the fence, stage right, the first one stopping short with each one following bumping into the next, and one less than present fella tumbling to the ground. They regrouped and continued along behind the bushes, the rubber tree – we lost one to the rubber tree, seems even squirrels have squirrel moments – then on to the orange tree. All the while they chattered and giggled.

The blue jays squawked directly at the fuzzy gray mammals causing them to stop and look around while wringing their hands as if to say, “Wait, shhhh, did you hear something?” When the answer was clearly no, they continued on.

FullSizeRender

This went on for quite some time. Kitty Andersen abandoned her sorting duties for a better seat atop the stone elephant. Not until the jays flew away and the squirrels pounded across the tin roof to the other side of the house, did she feel ready to get back to work.

Perhaps tomorrow Mr. and Mrs. C will make a guest appearance.

Not Anti-Social

Dragonfly IMG_1136

I gave myself a one month reprieve from social media. Let’s call it restriction. Or social media lite. I promised myself I would visit Facebook only to post for business and not to scroll and share videos. I would post only to Instagram for personal use – maybe a photo or two a day – and I would endeavor to blog on the daily and post from WordPress to Facebook.

How did I do?

  • I blogged every day but five. I wrote every day but 2. Sometimes it’s better not to post than to post crap. My personal standard.
  • I was able to get in and out of Facebook with little conflict, but did get a little sucked in on my birthday.
  • I didn’t post to Instagram as much as I expected, which tells me a lot (we’ll get to that).
  • The cravings went away after about a week.

Here’s what I have observed in that month:

My compulsion to pick up my phone and scroll has more to do with wanting to distract myself from the multitude of conversations competing in my head than with wondering what’s going on in the world. When I am in creative mode, I often wander to the kitchen or back porch or grab my phone to steer my thoughts away from the problem at hand. It usually works and the solution materializes, but using more content isn’t the answer. Instead, when I grab my phone to scroll I lose sight all together of what I was noodling in the first place and I am sucked into the couch never to fully recover creatively.

No one asked me where I was. No one wondered why Allison wasn’t posting sloth videos anymore. This was less troubling than confirming of what I postulated would be the result of my absence. We have lost the ability to wait, to be patient, to allow thoughts, ideas or even people to surface in our minds. We are victims of the media. I know that sounds ominous, but think about it: We respond to what is right in front of us. If my friend Mark posts a ton, I have very specific opinions about him based on what he wants me to believe about him. Also I think about him more than some of my closer friends because he shows up in front of me more often. Do I really care what Mark is doing? Only if he pops up in my feed. I wouldn’t actively seek him out. Conclusion: If it’s in front of us we feel compelled to respond, if it’s not, we don’t think about it at all. This is a problem. This is a loss of critical thinking. I know it’s just a portion of the time we are walking around talking and breathing, but it is reshaping us.

In reference to the above Instagram comment: I didn’t post as often I thought I would. I thought I loved to take photos, to capture moments and magic to share. It felt noble, like I was reminding everyone of the beauty of the world, a force for good in the sea of Chicken Littles. Turns out I’m just as attention hungry as the next guy. Because, overall, there is less engagement on Instagram it is somehow less gratifying. Which led me to just one conclusion: I’m doing it for me. I suppose this shouldn’t be revelatory, but it was informative nonetheless.

I used Facebook differently in my time off. I didn’t scroll and that felt like a win and key, but I did go on other than to post for business. I went to specific friend’s pages to see what they were doing. I know a few pregnant ladies so I checked in to see how they were; a friend was traveling and camping and I knew there would be beautiful photos of the mountains so I spied a few times; and I checked in on family. It all felt reassuring and like the correct use of Facebook for me.

In the time I wasn’t scrolling I was able to maximize my time. I continued to organize and purge my home – a commitment I made to myself at the beginning of the year. I wrote more, as I mentioned, and I had meaningful conversations with friends. Actual talking on the phone – can you imagine?! I spent time at stop lights observing what was around me – mostly people on their cell phones, and I read more actual books.

Now what?

  • I am going to continue to blog often, I’ll keep that everyday goal right in the front of my brain so I can come close.
  • The notifications will remain off on my phone so I am not driven to see who is doing what and who is liking my posts.
  • I will use Facebook as a means to check-in on, and engage with, people I know and love. A scroll here or there for a set period of time perhaps, but not as procrastination from my real work.

Overall I feel I have learned something about myself and about the culture of social media. At least for my generation. It was a worthy experiment and I can see a lot of value in continuing to honor the boundaries I set. It got me focused on writing again so I’m hopeful to get back to those book ideas, perhaps in lieu of blogging a few times a week. Or more. I like my brain on writing.

Now, about texting…

 

 

 

What Goes Around

IMG_7695

I’m having a bit of a crises of conscience.

I can’t help but wonder if I am contributing to the whole stuff deal by having a small space in an antique store. Am I perpetuating the very thing I’m attempting to control or eliminate in my own life? The collection of stuff?

I’d like to think in this whole big drama we call The Stuff Show, that I am on the right side of things. I see myself as a mild and minor protagonist. I am not heroic for saving someone else’s trash and converting it into treasure, I’m simply a cog in the wheel of a much larger machine.

I know that hoarders shop antique stores. But I also know there are people like me who appreciate pieces of furniture and useful items like vintage mixing bowls or an old paint splattered ladder and will purchase items judiciously after careful consideration.

There is so much stuff and most of us are just moving it from here to there. Too much of it is getting moved from here to the dump. Or tossed because the newer better thing has just come on the market.

In my own way I like to feel like I am helping to preserve history. The older I get the simpler I want things and so many of these items I buy and sell have magnificent stories. For instance I love the scarred kitchen table that can go on and on about the peas that have been shelled and corn that has been shucked at its side. It explains that many of its scars are from the slip of a knife off the cutting board or a pot placed on its surface before it was cool. The chair with the sagging seat talks in hushed tones about the many visitors it has had whereas the silver plated hand mirror would never say a thing about the secrets of others.

I don’t for a minute believe I am setting a bad example by repurposing or reselling cast off items. I am not creating a new problem. And I don’t believe I’m adding to one.

Put simply, I find neglected and forgotten items, love them back to health and offer them back out to the world. I am feeding consumerism and that part feels a bit inelegant, but I am not creating a need that doesn’t exist. I cannot control the habits of others. I am suggesting that if you need an item, check an antique store first, or a thrift store, or your own closets and drawers.

In The Stuff Show, I am a minor foot soldier on the team of good intentions. The Generals are the minimalists and the ocean cleaners and the zero wasters. I’m hopeful that we can all work together to create a minimally furnished world of beautifully patinaed treasures.

There’s a Monster in My Closet

IMG_7674

There are days that I feel like the purging will never end. I worry that I will get the house “set” and decide I need to rearrange or pick up a new hobby that brings more stuff in. I wonder what would happen if I just decided to pitch all the CDs. I toy with the idea of emptying one room completely and mindfully putting each thing back in after a ridiculous amount of consideration.

Then I realize I’m just in the middle of this process, not even quite in the middle of the year I’ve allotted myself. All of these things will resolve themselves in time.

Today I dove back into my room. The once sparse and organized closet with a handful of projects is threatening to buckle shelves and blow the doors open with the addition of the crafting supplies of mom’s I somehow I had to have. More project ideas presented themselves to me and now I am left with the task of sorting and storing. Do I purchase organizational boxes, as I have all but vilified, or do I make it work some other way, or do I let most of the stuff go?

In addition to all the closet stuff there are piles of papers on the desk that need filing or shredding; books that need to be reshelved or maybe even released; CDs to be burned; and matted photos that will likely be given away.

I am ready to let go of the photography for photography’s sake which has led me to this little thought spiral crises. If I can so cavalierly toss away photos that I once loved and was happy with, what’s next?

This was my inheritance.

My mother loved to craft and create and she had enough supplies to make something for everyone on the planet. She would create one thing she loved then decide to make 200 more of them and then be disappointed when they didn’t sell. I don’t want to go down that road. Any more.

I don’t want to do those artsy craftsy things I love for money. I will absolutely still accept financial compensation for things I make, but it cannot be why I make things. It was those things she made first that were magical. Each subsequent item was not as special. Maybe it was smaller, with less or more embellishment or somehow skimped on. Maybe it was just that there was now way more than one that it lost its magic. Whatever the case, I think I get it now. When I would make a piece of jewelry for myself it was always the first thing that sold. If I tried to make something for someone else in mind it fell short.

But back to the stuff of this room.

On the floor scattered in no particular pattern are half filled boxes and well-meaning piles that point to some sort of attempt to organize.

There are also three bookcases that will need to be culled with a strict hand. And my own files that need to be thinned of last year’s papers.

But one thing at a time. One ball of yarn in a bag to go to a friend. A book set aside for another friend. A small pile of photos started for gifting.

As much as I want to complete it all today, tidy up my room and sit down to watch a movie, I know the sweetness and the lessons are in the time.

Oh, I’m still going to watch that movie, the stuff will keep.

 

The Yoga of Stuff

bigstock-Buddha-hands-holding-flower-47788762

As I continue to eliminate the unwanted from my life I am constantly rubbing up against the ten tenets of Yoga. I can’t help it, I teach this stuff, I’m immersed in it. Just in case you’re working on your own purge, I thought I would share these gems with you today. Some seem more applicable to purging than others, but on some level they all kind of fit.

I’ll present them all to you simply and in English. Keep in mind that each of these is asking us to first look at how we are treating ourselves in thought, word or deed, then how we are with others. We cannot fully love another – without strings, conditions or barriers – without truly love ourselves. I know, that’s why it’s called a practice.

I’ll also fit them into the Minimalist/Purging framework, although I am certain you will recognize how these may apply more broadly to all of life.

The first five are restraints, those things we practice NOT doing. The second five are observations or those things we DO practice.

Not harming – Seems simple enough. Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others. How might you be hurting yourself with stuff (other than tripping over it)? One way may be holding onto items that evoke negative or sad memories. Perhaps just having too much stuff is limiting; there’s a lot more to clean and manage that may be taking time away from what you’d really love to do. Or maybe too much stuff is simply stressing you out, clogging up your energy and creating general malaise.

Not lying or truthfulness – If you were completely honest with yourself would you really hold onto so much?

Not stealing – Obviously don’t take other people’s stuff, we’re trying to unload our own, remember? But what if we’re holding onto things that we’re not using, haven’t used for years, that could be useful to someone else?

Moderation – Be mindful about what you bring into your home, what you purchase, how much you have. Chances are you don’t need more organizational systems for your stuff, you need less stuff.

Non-attachment or non-hoarding – I probably don’t really need to elaborate.

Purity – Here’s an opportunity to visit your intentions with each of your things, especially when you’re considering bringing more things in. I like to equate purity with space and clutter with toxicity.

Contentment – Does your stuff bring you contentment? Hint: If you are constantly looking for things, probably not.

Discipline – This one is two-fold for me. There’s the obvious discipline of not bringing more unnecessary stuff into your home or life, but there’s also the structure to have what is already in your possession organized. A place for everything and the discipline to put it away when you aren’t using it.

Self-study – Watch your reactions to things. If you decide you’re going to clean out your clothes closet, notice what you are attached to and question it. Is it something you hope to fit into one day? Is it encouraging or frustrating? Is it even still in style or appropriate for where you are now? Could someone else benefit by having it?

Surrender – Ultimately, it’s about letting go of attachment. Trusting the process. When you create more physical space it allows room for more to come in. It’s not so much a shirt for a shirt, but more like a shirt for increased creativity or a raise at work or meeting a new special someone. Letting go is not giving up, it’s opening the door to opportunity.

Whether you’re a woo woo energy person or a chemical engineer I trust you know that more space and less stuff is good for you. Maybe these 10 guidelines will help, maybe you can redefine them to better fit your situation.

When you can come at this with compassion for yourself and your stuff it can be a very liberating experience.