All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
A huge part of moving house – especially moving into a smaller apartment – is decluttering. Well, at least for anyone who doesn’t follow the “take out an equal amount that you bring in” mantra religiously. Suffice to say we hadn’t. 🙂 Add to that the fact that we had a very sloppily planned move (with little to no effort put in pre-move decluttering), and you get the end result of too much stuff cramped in too little space.
When decluttering, we’ve tried to follow Flylady’s rule: if you don’t love it, don’t use it, and don’t have a place for it, you need to chuck it. Emphasis on tried, because it’s all too easy to get stuck with the golden oldies, “I might need this someday” or “I paid good money for this”.
Interestingly enough, while we’ve been moving, I’ve also been dipping my toe into The Sedona Method, a self-help system where the key focus is letting go of limiting beliefs, emotions and thoughts. I have yet to invest a cent in it, but I’ve gone a long way with the free resources available on the main site (mostly audio releases in the articles section) and elsewhere.
In a way, the whole Sedona thing is kin to decluttering the mind. You constantly get a stream of messages coming in to your consciousness about the world and yourself in the world. Pretty soon, all your mental cabinets are full of junk (“I’m useless and ugly”, “Everyone is out to get me”, “I can’t do sports”, “My friends are so much more awesome than me”) that you can’t fit anything else in.
You could try moving to a bigger place – but unless you learn how to declutter, pretty soon the new place will be as cramped as the old one was.
Your mind is trying to squeeze through between boxes and piles of age-old stuff that you “might need someday” (if you find yourself at the playground age four one day, the plastic tractor self defence tactics might come in handy) or you’ve “paid good money for” (in the form of energy spent trying to work through the problem or hide it from others and yourself).
I might need this one day
With physical stuff, you get the “but it’s perfectly good” resistance. For that, I love Flylady’s notion that the stuff is still at Goodwill, and you can go visit it there if you miss it. If you really need it back, you can buy it back at the Goodwill or at the store, or maybe borrow it from someone else.
For me, there’s an added layer of “if I throw this away and have to buy a new one, I’ve contributed to drowning the planet in garbage”. True, there are some items even the Goodwill won’t take. But then again, if the Goodwill won’t take it, is it still perfectly good? And if you’ve used it threadbare, could you just recycle the materials?
With mental clutter, though, it’s easier. There’s a back door. If you let go of a thought or belief, and notice you were actually better off with that belief, you can always start thinking that again. It’s like having an endless shelf at the Goodwill where you can go and reclaim any beliefs you once had, if you find yourself missing them.
Chances are, though, that with both physical and mental clutter you won’t even remember them once you’ve chucked them. All you’ll notice is the empty space.
I’ve invested so much in it
The dress is fabulous. I bought it for a friend’s wedding, and wore it once. Maybe twice. Haven’t worn it since, but I’m still holding on to it. I bought it at a boutique that I used to really admire as a teenager. “One day, I’ll be a woman who shops there.” The truth is, though, that I grew up to be someone who doesn’t shop there, or wear the styles that they offer.
I know I should maybe give up the dress. Donate it to someone.
But I remember how I searched for the perfect dress. How I pondered whether or not I’d have enough money to splurge in the dress. How I marched into the store, tried it on one more time, and pulled out my wallet.
As you can see, I’m still in the process. The story of the dress is stopping me from decluttering it. 🙂
For beliefs, thoughts and emotions, the process is no easier. While on the surface it might seem like a no-brainer – would I rather keep this feeling, or would I rather be free – the truth is that it’s scary to let go of some of it.
Someone I know has a chronic illness. They’ve had it for years, and whenever I meet them, the first thing they talk about is the illness, and how it’s making their life miserable. They’ve had several different suggestions on how changing their habits and lifestyle might help ease the situation. For some reason or another, though, they maintain their old ways and keep complaining.
Say they woke up one morning and the illness was gone. What then?
Who would they be? What would they talk about? What would their identity be constructed around?
They’ve invested a lot of time, money and effort into the identity of “being the person with X”. For all they know, there might be nothing else underneath – just the illness and their reactions to it.
No wonder it’s scary to consider letting go of that.
For beliefs and thoughts, however, there’s always the endless Goodwill shelf. If I let go of a belief and notice I’ve lost all that time and energy, I can always get the belief back. What I’ve noticed, though, is that more often than not it’s actually a replenishing experience – like the energy was bottled up inside the belief and is now at my disposal again.
With the dress, I guess I’d have the empty space (and the empty coat hanger) at my disposal if I let it go. Plus I wouldn’t have to give up the story. I’ve got the photos, and now I’ve got the emotions documented on my blog. I can always come back here to visit them if I really really need to. 🙂
Thank you for stopping by! Feel free to comment on anything that you found intriguing, in one way or another, and until we meet again – keep catching your own insightings!