This post is the first in a series devoted to the benefits of clearing away the clutter from our lives.
I grew up in a house full of stuff. The bookshelves were full. The junk drawers were full. The closets were full. Every surface had something on it. Most of the stuff was never used, never moved, and not even nice to look at. My mom felt better surrounded by things, even if the things didn’t have a purpose in her life.
To deal with all the stuff, I began to mentally ignore my surroundings. As a kid, I’d escape through T.V. shows where everything looked beautiful on screen. I’d escape to friend’s less cluttered homes, where I felt more comfortable, wishing I never had to leave. Later I found other ways to escape but that’s a story for another post. All the stuff at home was over-stimulating, especially to a highly sensitive person like me.
Too much of a good thing is—a bad thing.
My first apartment started off with minimal furnishings. In those days, I was on a tight budget. The minimalism didn’t last long. Before I knew it, I looked around and saw a bunch of second-hand stuff cluttering up my space--mostly cast offs from friends that had somehow made their way into my sacred dwelling. Back then, I almost always said yes to an offer of something free, never questioning if I needed or wanted it. I held a pretty hefty belief in lack, which my bank account also reflected.
Two years into adulthood, I inherited my grandmother’s home. A modest two-bedroom house, shaded by three beautiful oak trees, and full of 80 years of personal possessions. I found myself in the same situation I’d grown up in, totally overwhelmed by stuff. I wanted a solution but I wasn’t sure where to start. Every time I tried to get rid of something, I’d stop halfway through. What if I need this someday? What if this is valuable and I give it away for free? What would my grandmother say if she knew I didn’t keep her (fill in the blank)?
All it takes is one small step.
I began slowly. I gave away or recycled almost everything I could. I found homes for the big stuff, like 20 bolts of upholstery fabric. I made many trips to the city dump. My progression was slow but steady. During this time I was making other changes---eating better, learning to meditate, becoming more intentional in every way.
Eventually I looked around my house and found that it felt good. The space was a reflection of me and it was one I felt comfortable being in. I couldn’t help but notice that I felt just as good about being in my own skin. It fit just right, which hadn’t always been the case. It was only a beginning, but a seed had been planted, nurtured, and was beginning to bloom.
Emptiness is clarifying, not terrifying.
I’ve spent the last 14 years de-cluttering my life. What began as an effort to become more organized became a journey into mindful living that has transformed my body, mind, and soul.
Looking back, I know that each area of my life is a mirror of the my areas. If my home is cluttered, then I can almost guarantee that my thoughts are cluttered. If my space is full of stuff that I don’t need, then I’m willing to bet that my body is probably full of stuff that it doesn’t need. The list goes on. What about my friendships? My inbox? My commitments? Clutter causes stagnancy and I want to be in the flow.
This series is devoted to de-cluttering our lives, one area at a time.