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.

 

 

 

What’s Your Why?

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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.

Evidence of a Life Lived

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As far as I can tell I have about a million photos, just in my room. And 20 times more on my laptop and two external hard drives. Oh, and on my phone. And on about 3 SD cards. I guess you could say I’m a visual person.

What occurs to me as I sort through the physical photos is how much I enjoy touching them and deciding if I want to keep them or not. Putting them in piles, tossing some into the trash, then maybe retrieving one or two from there. I go from a stack so tall it threatens to topple to one no thicker than a Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman novel.

And I am filled with satisfaction.

I do not get this same high from sorting through my virtual pile of photos. I never feel like I’m complete, or that I’m doing it right. Didn’t I just put this one in the trash? Or did I move it to another folder? Maybe it’s on my desktop. It’s maddening. And yet I feel like it should be the same.

But underneath all of that the underlying cause of the distress is the fear that I will delete the wrong photos.

I am attached. I loathe to admit it.

This process, the counting and cataloging and eventual purging is revealing all my neurotic tendencies. Why are photos so precious? What if they all just disappeared? What am I truly holding onto?

Memories? Evidence of a life lived? Proof of something?

Is that what all stuff is? Is that why we hold onto things from our past? I think maybe that’s one reason. I also think guilt holds objects in place longer than they need to be. And lack, fear of never having enough. Our stuff tells our story, too. It communicates to others who we are by the selection of items we choose to live with. It’s more than just your style.

But I digress, back to the endless stacks of photos.

It hits me as I paw through one box in particular. Most of the photos are from past work events from a company and job that defined me for a while and definitely shaped my business acumen and practices. I loved working for  this company and the people I worked with. We traveled to Hawaii and San Diego and San Antonio. We had fun trainings in Atlanta and parties locally. Yet I can only name maybe half the people in the photos. The photos don’t tell the story as richly as my memories. I can let them go.

I’ve also noticed that I am quick to toss photos of things that I’m sure I felt were amazing and new to me at the time, but I have since seen or experienced whatever it is over and over again. A tiny alligator in a pond at the Kennedy Space Center 15 years ago looks trivial and silly next to the up close and personal friends I’ve made at the Orlando Wetlands. I am comparing my past to my present. Healthy? Normal?

This shows me that the photo was a novelty, not a memory. I also can’t bear to keep photos of animals in the zoo or Sea World. My sensibilities and education about such places won’t allow me to enjoy them.

I am questioning my own photo motives.

Mostly I think I just really like documenting things. I don’t know why. I’m not sure it’s just for me. I like to share.

I will continue to thin the photo herd for eventual scanning. Photo books are in my future, but will I be able to let go of the actual photos once they’re scanned? I guess we’ll see.

I’m just grateful I have not committed to counting everything I have digitally. Although that may be a worthy endeavor.

Makes me sleepy just thinking about it. Let’s deal with the tangible stuff first.

Drawers of Rocks

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So much secret stuff.

I began on my back patio, seated on a glider at one end I simply looked around. On the whole there’s a lot of empty space to walk around the furniture, but there are silly things lurking inside some of the pieces that have drawers and other hiding places.

I counted all the furniture, potted plants, lighting (lamps that could be moved, not hard-wired fixtures), wind chimes, hanging tea light holders and gas grill. All pretty reasonable. I could probably do without the bar stools, hutch and small desk. I don’t need the grill, it was given to us and we’ve never used it, it should go to someone who will appreciate it.

As far as decorative items go, I have some cool pieces from Bali and other exotic places, but most were procured from a design firm/store I worked for and not from my own travels. Still, there are some keepers among them. For now.

Now for that hidden treasure…

Aside from all the furniture things can sit on, there are three pieces that contain mysterious items inside. Let’s take a look.

In and on the Teak hutch:

  • Balinese dragon cigar cutter – big wooden painted awesomeness
  • Old Indonesian pots
  • Old Indonesian house part – some carved wood thing that used to be on a house
  • Big ceramic cat
  • Wooden vase with curly willow and eucalyptus
  • Plant pots (terra cotta, metal, etc.)
  • Buddha head
  • Laughing Buddha statue
  • Kokeshi dolls
  • Tibetan temple bell
  • Small wooden elephant from India (my travels)
  • Indonesian tube thingy – carved and cool, but no idea what it really is
  • Small glass bowl
  • Incense holder
  • Ashtray – This is a terra cotta donkey “ass” tray. Cracks me up. Still one friend who smokes.
  • Candle holders – so many
  • Decorative rocks – seriously? Why? Two drawers full. Full. Small drawers, but still.
  • Small Buddha tea light holder
  • Candle snuffer – what century is this? Not one, but two.
  • Glass and silver plated coasters
  • Cork coasters
  • Essential oils
  • Eye dropper for oil
  • Ceramic lizard
  • Oil diffuser for light bulb
  • Small metal donkey – admittedly I have a thing for donkeys
  • Balancing kit for ceiling fans
  • Large iron plant hooks
  • Small iron plant hook
  • Loose tiles (for hot pots on the glass table. Maybe)
  • Random pieces of bamboo – for?
  • Chopsticks (pair), because?
  • Random drift wood
  • Heavy iron cauldron under the hutch. Pretty cool if you’re a witch.

In and on the Desk:

  • Bird puppet
  • Indonesian metal bird
  • Bag of tea lights
  • Citronella candle
  • Witches balls
  • Big ornaments
  • Wooden lizard from Jamaica
  • Lighter
  • Decorative turtle
  • Decorative frog – 2 just because
  • Cat toys – big with trapped balls
  • Unused seat cushions
  • Iron lizard candle holder
  • Bee catcher
  • Small rusted bird bowl
  • Soft pad thingys that get nailed into furniture feet – because we wouldn’t want to scratch the concrete

In the bench seat:

  • Hose nozzle – 2
  • Mosquito coil – 2. I don’t even know how these work, if they work.
  • Old metal paint bucket
  • Random candles – so many candles
  • Old rag – lovely
  • Old scrub brush – even nicer
  • Light bulbs
  • Rocks – what is with the rocks!
  • Remote doorbell
  • Bamboo stick
  • Old sock (rag, I hope)
  • Battery operated push light
  • Macrame Tibetan bell door hangers
  • Plastic grocery bags – so many. We don’t even use these anymore.
  • Paper bags
  • Part of a gutter guard screen – ripped and mean

In all the 675 square feet that is my back patio oasis, holds 366 items. Not for long.

I have to say, if someone came along and stole everything on my patio, I would be okay. There are no sentimental items or precious pieces. I love my patio and spend a lot of time on it, so I would miss somewhere to sit, and obviously some of the items, but I’m not at all attached. Good start. It’s not all gonna be so easy.

I know there will be some sticky places and some things will take forever to count – I have been making jewelry for over 15 years and playing with art and photography forever – but I’m committed.

Mostly I am curious to see what I learn about myself and what I’m ready to let go of. And really, how I will feel with less stuff. I’m imagining lighter, but I’ve learned the heartbreak of anticipation and expectation too many times, so I’m open to whatever the experience is here to teach me.

Here’s to a year of purging, playing and practicing mindfulness.

Oh, I forgot the curtains – make that 382.