Stuff: Lighten up

“One of the reasons people get old – lose their aliveness – is that they get weighed down by all of their stuff.” ~Richard Leider

“There isn’t even room for a puppy to lie down.”

That’s how one friend described our other friend’s house. Patty had a neurological episode, similar to a stroke. When it became clear after hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation that she needed to move to be with her family, women from our circle stepped in to clear out her home. Yikes! To our dismay, the house was jam packed. Stuff was haphazardly stacked from floor to waist high, cabinet contents spilled onto counters, and even the bathtub overflowed. A mail-strewn path barely allowed access. A squad of friends pulled together to help clear her apartment and storage units.

There can be silver linings to unfortunate events. Helping our friend not only brought us closer together, it also inspired this. Patty’s gift is to remind us we don’t know what circumstances lie ahead. Just because we may have less stuff, doesn’t mean we’re better prepared.

Contrary to the bumper sticker message: “He who dies with the most toys wins,”[i] we seem to have forgotten that enough is good and too much becomes overwhelming. You may like your stuff, but what about those who get to clean up in your wake? The ease of online ordering and Prime delivery can turn us from human beings to human consumers. Excess becomes a nightmare delayed. We can keep it under control until something like a sudden debility reveals our dark secret. Ignored bills and junk mail become a deluge. Heaps of belongings have not only a physical weight but a psychic heft, including fear of exposing the mess and debt incurred by excessive spending.

Assess the Essence

Let there be light. A block of marble has a statue inside waiting for an artist midwife to guide its birth. Chiseling stone, chipping away excess, and finessing until the core emerges. When renaissance artist Michelangelo was asked about the statue of David, he explained: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” The sculptor discards purposefully, freeing the essence from a hunk of stone.

Likewise, the raw materials of possessions have an angel inside. Who are you? Who would you like to be? The things we surround ourselves with provide a partial answer. It’s our life-long endeavor to discern the dream of who we’re meant to be and let that vision emerge. Our belongings are a physical manifestation of identity and aspirations. The seed is hidden; its flourishing awaits your tending.

Releasing material goods can be a spiritual and practical process. Clutter-clearing guru Marie Kondo sees the tidying process as both ritual and chore. With the reverence of approaching a religious shrine, Kondo enters a residence and takes a moment to address the house. She senses its center, kneels down, and bows. Our living space is our inner sanctum, the holy of holies. Becoming more intentional, curating what crosses the threshold, and deciding what things we hold onto becomes more than simply sorting, storing, and discarding.

Reframe clearing as nurturing. What do you ask of your surroundings? Are you looking for joy and tranquility or energy and creativity? Like a miner who sorts gold nuggets from silt, decide what qualities you seek and filter out the remainder. Determine whether a particular possession or activity deserves a place in your life. The emotional weight of physical clutter is distracting and can block clarity of thought. Removing unnecessary items from your environment releases the psychic threads of inanimate objects that no longer serve. Your environment simultaneously reflects and affects your mindset. If you’re looking for inner calm, aim for outer order. For a lighter or brighter demeanor, craft your space to mirror those same qualities. Remove excess so the essence can emerge. Live your truth by shedding dead weight and silencing the noise of too many things begging for attention.

Let go. Pass it on.

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”[ii]

To keep or not to keep… Tidying your environment can be a proxy for clarifying your life’s vision. Committing to the discernment process is the first step. Imagine the life you want to live and what you need to get there.

What seems to be getting in the way or blocking the flow of energy? What thoughts, objects, or relationships feel toxic, draining, or heavy? Releasing can be painful. Stumbling blocks can trip you up. Clutter has a sunk cost. We’ve already spent time and money. Relinquishing can be emotionally taxing, leading to decision-paralysis. We delay because we can’t decide. Psychic connections to an object, whether of a peak moment experienced or a love lost, can make discarding the symbol feel like abandoning a memory or person. Getting rid of something that’s still “perfectly good” brings judgment—we threw away good money. And then there’s not wanting to increase the earth’s garbage burden. We hate to add to the waste, but finding a suitable home for our discards feels like complicated matchmaking.

Reasons to keep something include:

  • Useful: Do I need it and use it?
  • Beautiful: Does this make my heart sing? How many lovely items can I display or store?
  • Sentimental: Does this remind me of a peak life experience?

How do you decide what makes something a keeper? Be aware: beauty and sentimental objects can easily get out of hand. There are many beautiful things in the world. They won’t all fit in your space. Focus on matter that matters.The same with physical objects with memories attached – the tangible reminders of intangible emotions – diplomas, yearbooks, or a flag that draped a loved one’s casket. You need to find a balance that’s right for you, but if keeping means having to rent a storage unit to handle the surplus, it may defeat the purpose.

A Plan:

If you are willing to take the time and are so inclined, go through your stuff slowly and methodically. Set up a schedule or a routine that allows you to mindfully sort, give away, or dispose. Take time to tend while you can.

  • Visualize the end game. Picture how you want your space to look; how would you like your life to look like at the end. What steps will make your image a reality?
  • Plan your work; work your plan. You house didn’t get stuffed in a day. Break up the large project into do-able chunks. Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unrealistic timeline.
  • Be discerning. Keep and display what you love.
  • Enough, rather than more. Recognize limits. Knowing what’s sufficient is a virtue.
  • Simplify. Know when to add and when to take away.
  • Embrace your preferences: if something works for you and the others you live with, that’s what matters.

Sorting treasures from trash is simple but not easy. Letting go is like peeling an onion:

  1. Start with yourself. What do you want and need? Keep what’s useful, beautiful, or sentimental, but not too much.
  2. Ask family and friends what they would like or want. Don’t wait. Give it to them now and share in their enjoyment.
  3. If things have monetary value, consider selling them. Cash is more liquid than possessions.
  4. Donate still usable things to charity.
  5. Recycle or dump.

When Patty had to move in with her family, the gift to her circle of friends included these lessons: Life can change in an instant. Secret stashes and storage units eventually come to light. Even if you don’t open an envelope, the bill doesn’t go away. Excess may not bring happiness. Overload may implode. Maybe we don’t need this much stuff…

What counts? Figure out what matters most and commit time, energy and resources to those people and purposes. Invest in experiences, so the memories become the souvenirs. As you become mindful of end-of-life, you may be drawn more to spiritual essence and less inclined to material collection.

The sculptor visualized David trapped inside the stone. What is waiting to be born in your life? Expose the truth that sits at the core. As you move forward, focus on what you need and some of what you want, and be willing to let everything else go. Be grateful. Share the wealth. You can’t take it with you. Less stuff might mean more joy.

Reflections:

  • What excess needs to be removed so the essence can emerge?
  • Does your space reflect who you are or who you want to be?
  • What things would you grab in a fire, after making sure your loved ones were safe?
  • Are you happy with how quickly you can find the things you need without significant searching?

When Patty had to move in with her family, the gift to her circle of friends included these lessons: Life can change in an instant. Secret stashes and storage units eventually come to light. Even if you don’t open an envelope, the bill doesn’t go away. Excess may not bring happiness. Overload may implode. Maybe we don’t need this much stuff…

What counts? Figure out what matters most and commit time, energy and resources to those people and purposes. Invest in experiences, so the memories become the souvenirs. As you become mindful of end-of-life, you may be drawn more to spiritual essence and less inclined to material collection.

The sculptor visualized David trapped inside the stone. What is waiting to be born in your life? Expose the truth that sits at the core. As you move forward, focus on what you need and some of what you want, and be willing to let everything else go. Be grateful. Share the wealth. You can’t take it with you. Less stuff might mean more joy.

Reflections:
• What excess needs to be removed so the essence can emerge?
• Does your space reflect who you are or who you want to be?
• What things would you grab in a fire, after making sure your loved ones were safe?
• Are you happy with how quickly you can find the things you need without significant searching?

© Joan S Grey, 19 March 2021 ∞
IndexCardCure™: “Lighten Up” from Good Goodbyes
www.indexcardcure.com

“Lighten Up” is a chapter in the Prepare section of soon-to-be-published Good Goodbyes: A Mortal’s Guide to Life. Stay tuned for other chapters.


[i] Attributed to publisher Malcolm Forbes

[ii] William Morris, 19th century designer

5 thoughts on “Stuff: Lighten up

  1. Joan, you express beautifully what I’ve been trying to live these last few years. Have made progress – just not there yet. 🥰 SOFOY, V.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. Thanks for the inspiring boost. So many ideas, so well expressed on HOW TO accomplish this and great insights on what is holding me back!

    Like

  3. Pingback: Spiral Clearing | IndexCardCure™

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