D-Day

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Day Two

We were warned yesterday that today we would all receive something to take – either pills or a liquid – that will cause something they like to call “controlled diarrhea”. Have you stopped reading yet? None of us is excited about this prospect especially when some of us have to take our medicine just before our treatments – the massages and sandings. The pills are tasteless and I am not worried and I swallow them 10 minutes before my massage.

I march up to the treatment room prepared for a repeat of the day before. Today will be gentler I am told. There will be no sanding – actually called udvartana or something sounding like it came out of the fabric lips of the Swedish Chef on Sesame Street, and it’s done with silk gloves, that’s it, no sand paper – and no basti. Just the massage and steam. Oh, and the eye drops and nose dealios. It sounds manageable.

But something happens to me when I lie down. There is an acidic surge from my stomach to my throat, a sourness, that I try to maintain and ignore. Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be? I manage to make my way through the massage on both sides, albeit uncomfortably. As they lowered Steamy Wonder over my slick body, I took a breath and tried to suck it up. But the steam apparently cooked whatever was already brewing inside and I had to cut my session about 10 minutes short. They managed to muddy my eyes with ghee and have me snort some oil, but that was it.

As I sat up, the therapist handed me a glass of water and I could barely swallow the first sip. Not a good sign.

I went to my room to use the bathroom (by now you know what you’ve gotten yourself into) and vomited my entire breakfast. Both bowls of some sort of spiced rice mush with broccoli. Fortunately, the broccoli did not make a second appearance. And actually I felt much better after the purge.

I never throw up. I will do whatever I can not to vomit. Ok, well, there have been a few times when the wine was flowing freely and I may have been over-served, but this elimination was so much cleaner. There was no shaking with cold sweats. There were no promises to any entity with the power to make this go away as I pressed the side of my tortured head to the coolness of the porcelain. It was more of a quick assessment and realization that that just happened and now we’re moving on.

Then there was the other end.

[A note of caution: When you’ve been soaked by a gallon of oil head to toe, take care when taking a seat on a slippery surface like porcelain.]

Again, I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that it was more annoying than anything. I would start to read a sentence or two in a book and be interrupted again by the goings on in my digestive tract. It went on for about two hours. For others it lasted over eight.

Four coconut waters, a couple of naps and an empty stomach later, I arrived back at the dinner table feeling lighter. Mostly.

We’re bonded now, having gone through the same experience. We eat slowly and gaze up from our bowls of food on occasion to smile at one another. Quiet conversations start and fade out. No one asks how the other is doing, we simply assume our presence at the table indicates we have survived.

Tonight’s lecture topic is all about agni, digestive fire. I do not have enough, most of us probably don’t considering the way we eat and our stressful lifestyles. Ways to increase it?

  • Meditation
  • Pranayama
  • Sipping warm (or hot) water all day
  • Eating only warm food
  • Certain spices – these are specific to each individual dosha (constitution)

This doesn’t have to be forever, just until the body is back in balance. But there is so much benefit in continuing ALL of those practices, so why not? Oh, and here’s a revelation for our excessively-minded society:

Only eat when you’re hungry.

Wait, what? But, what about breakfast, the most important meal of the day? And lunch. I have to have lunch when it’s my time to go to lunch. And dinner, of course, that’s when we all get together and talk about our day (or sit in front of the TV mindlessly shoveling food into our waiting, bored mouths). What about 6 small meals a day?

Ayurveda may actually be the originator of intermittent fasting. Two meals a day is really all anyone needs. But we’ll explore all the food stuff later. It’s too good not to share all on its own.

But for now…

Hungry? Eat. Not hungry? Don’t eat.

 

 

Biyee, Bee-ach

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There was a time when I would scoff at the notion of a whole year being bad. I would internally roll my eyes and externally offer Pollyanna platitudes on the unlikelihood that a whole year could be bad. “A year is just time,” I’d say as I would tilt my head just so and bat my eyelashes. “Time is neutral.”

That is true. And time, like everything else, is made good, bad or neutral by our perceptions.

My perception is 2017 is crap. There. I said it. Pollyanna is withering in the corner like a forgotten houseplant. However, with a little water and sunshine, she’ll be back. She’s tenacious. She is simply incubating, hibernating. I feel she has big plans.

To review, you may recall I came out guns blazing for the GIANT PURGE. I started the year counting all my things, tossing bags of things away, taking multiple trunk loads of things to charities and selling some other things. I was disgusted with everything I had accumulated and equally proud of my recent ‘stuff’ enlightenment.

Then a phone call at the end of January shifted everything. My mother was found unconscious in her home and had been transported to a hospital. She had had a massive brain bleed from which she could not and would not recover. Her passing was peaceful, but sudden. Her death likely caused by the medication meant to keep her alive. A known side effect.

Death is a known side effect of life, after all.

While trying to manage my grief – that’s a joke by the way, grief has its own agenda – I was also now tasked with managing her service and her stuff. She was on the edge of hoarding. She did not buy useless trinkets and appliances she would not use, but fabrics, yarn, beads, and crafting supplies she had big plans for. She owned hundreds of books (as do I) and had stacks of magazines that doubled as end tables. Baskets full of crystals, motivational and affirmation cards, CDs and sticky notes everywhere.  Now it was all mine. A two-bedroom apartment two hours away full of her stuff and some family memories. And her life.

Was this a cosmic joke? I decide to purge and now I have an additional whole house to deal with?  It wasn’t so funny. I would learn in the 11 months to follow that the Universe has a very wicked sense of irony. But it’s all for my growth, right?

To summarize:

  • A mentally ill cheeto gets sworn in as president and my mother checks out.
  • It is left to me to sort, keep, purge and organize her stuff, her service and my own grief
  • A planned trip to India to take others began with a hotel fire in Delhi. Like the hotel I was in.
  • Larry (the hubs) begins suffering from serious insomnia. It gets much worse.
  • Bills for my mother are still pouring in. I don’t have to pay them. I can ignore them. Only I can’t. There seems to be some sort of urgency to them.
  • There are countless doctor’s appointments, reiki and acupuncture for Larry that I have to schedule and drive him to because he is tired and dizzy. Nothing seems to be working.
  • My anniversary is forgotten. And I angrily don’t care.
  • He’s out of work. Short-term disability. A planned trip to Europe is looking threatened in the face of his malaise. I assemble a team of helpers and decide to leave. I need to leave. I have not had any space to myself for months and I’m at a breaking point.
  • While in Berlin we hear news of a little disturbance in the Atlantic named Irma. Shit. I did not return until two days after she marched across my state. There was quite a bit of physical and mental clean-up to contend with. I felt I had to make amends for not being there.
  • Anxiety is a new side effect of the insomnia. More doctor’s appointments, less sleep.
  • Thanksgiving is at risk, the holidays are becoming more stressful.
  • Christmas parties become the impetus for arguments and ramped up anxiety, decorations are delayed and the Christmas Spirit is hiding somewhere in the attic. I have gained 15 pounds in the last four months.

Instead of releasing all my stuff to create more space, both physical and mental, I was given more. More actual things to go through, more situations to navigate, more challenges.

Be careful what you wish for.

But here’s the thing: there is always beauty and magic. One year can be defining, it can be difficult. One incident in the year cannot define it. The beating down every time I got back up, the ground shifting underneath me as soon as I felt stable – that can define a year. But more importantly it can define me.

Growth is messy and hard. It sucks. Can I just say that? I’m in the business of growth and self-development and it sucks. And it’s necessary. And it’s beautiful.

Here’s the other side:

  • I am reminded of my abundance by the things I have in my home. I am grateful for all of it even as I release it.
  • The loss of my mother brings with it the love and appreciation of so many whose lives were touched by her. I am able to be with her things and in her home and to take as long as I need thanks to an understanding landlord on her end and amazing business partners and friends on mine.
  • I get to go back to my spiritual home with my friend Karin, and actually take new people to share it. I meet a Vedic astrologer named Mustang Jack who told me what I already knew but was afraid to embrace. I get to see my Indian friends and be soothed by the rush of the healing waters of the Ganges.
  • After India my journey continued with Karin to Spain where we drank delicious wine, watched flamenco dancers and took trains to amazing places.
  • A little overnight trip for my birthday took the hubs and I to a remote island with white sandy beaches where we sat silently together to witness a stunning sunset.
  • The insomnia and whatever else was going on created space and opportunity for real, honest and meaningful conversations between Larry and I.
  • I boarded a plane to Switzerland alone and spent three glorious, healing days finding my own way through two cities and wandering along riverbanks before joining a friend.
  • My friend Sarah met me in Zurich and we traveled to Berlin, Prague, Salzburg and Munich taking in the culture, architecture and food. I got to see the Fred and Ginger building live and in person!
  • My brother booked a flight to come for Christmas.
  • People are coming out of the woodwork that have suffered through insomnia or anxiety or both to offer support and advice to Larry. He’s not alone.
  • Friendsgiving. Amazing food, awesome friends, laughter and intimate conversations under warm low light
  • My brother, niece and son were all here for the holidays. We drank a lot, ate a lot and played reindeer games.

All in all it was just a year. The waves were higher, the water more turbulent. But stormy skies make way for the best sunsets. I learned more about myself through these challenges and some of it was not pretty. At all. But I believe I did purge. I was able to peel away some of the layers of pretense and armor.

I didn’t often ask for help, mostly space, but everyone I considered a friend offered so much support and love and even those I didn’t know that well became little lights in the darkness through their kindnesses.

It was just a year. It’s all perspective.

As I write this on January 1, 2018, it is raining, cold and windy. That feels somehow appropriate. Cleansing. Preparing for the journey ahead that will be this year.

 

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.

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.

Space Clearing

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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.