Under-the-bed storage boxes. Industrial post shelving. Baskets. Ceiling racks. Anything that slides, stacks or surreptitiously blends into your decor.
These items were once my drug of choice.
I envisioned and executed an organized household with everything in its place. Photographs in acid-free archival boxes. Cereals and pastas lined up in clear bins. Shoes displayed like little works of art.
But marriage to a man who was chronically unemployed, several moves across the country and back in search of work and cheaper and cheaper housing destroyed my passion for organization and groovy devices. I became lethargic and apathetic.
Photographs were purged at every move and the remaining ones stuffed into old shoe boxes. Food was left behind with the neighbors and shoes dumped in a box that might not be unpacked for a year.
Eventually we separated and the stress and the relief were immense. I was left in a three bedroom house filled with a lifetime of stuff, his stuff, my stuff, our stuff; it was time to really evaluate my relationship to my stuff.
At first, my goal was to get rid of his crap. I sold furniture that had any value just to pay bills. I rented out two rooms to men who had moved to town without cutlery or bedding and they were grateful to leave the homemaking to me.
Suddenly there was empty space in my life and only me to decide how it would be filled. Yet, the repeated and reluctant purgings of the past years had caught up with me. I was not going to rebuild the life I had before. I was 45 years old, unburdened, and the potential was shimmering.
Somewhere around this time, a friend loaned me a book about Feng Shui. I had no idea!
My nifty under-the-bed storage containers were disturbing the chi in my bedroom which was damaging my sex life. I had a cactus in my relationship corner. A cactus. My prosperity corner boasted a trash can with a lid held down by a pair of dirty, old shoes so that my dog could not open it (he knows how to work the foot pedal and used tissues are his cotton candy). My travel corner was home to dirty laundry—no wonder I never went anywhere!
I was suddenly organizing like never before. But this time was different. Rather than the simple desire to keep things put away, I was evaluating everything I owned, how it worked in my life and if it did not, out it went. Intention, not appearance, was the order of the day. From several shoe boxes of photos, I whittled things down to a dozen shots that meant something. I gave away clothes, shoes, housewares. I broke up sets of things. I ignored monetary value and only kept what I valued. The rest did very well on eBay.
Our stuff represents more of who we are than we could ever imagine. Rubbermaid is the 386th largest company in the U.S. because we are so attached to our past; we would rather sleep on top of it than let it go.
It is hard to let go of the accumulated possessions of a lifetime. They represent dreams, relationships, triumphs, those glory days that will never return. And that’s it. They will not return. But new days, brighter days are still in the future. And a home that has become a shrine to bygone gods will not shelter new dreams, new endeavors or new relationships.
So, as I sit in my new spacious, one bedroom apartment that I share with my dog and the things I need and enjoy, let me offer some places to start purging. Start slowly.
First, go through old photographs.
Save only ones that make you gasp, laugh, sigh or tear up. The rest go.
Get rid of anything stored under the bed.
I have met people who sleep on top of power tools, photos of estranged parents, ex-husbands and ex-girlfriends. They sleep on old newspapers and magazines filled with bad news. They sleep on top of clothes they will never wear again. These things are seeping into your dreams.
Go through the house and find anything that is broken.
If it is broken, fix it or get rid of it.
Go through and find anything that makes you feel less than prosperous.
Old dishes given by your parents, furniture you found on the street. Believe me, you will be happier with an inexpensive set of fun, pretty plates and glassware, than an entire set of Lenox china and Waterford crystal that reminds you of angry Thanksgiving dinners from your childhood.
Remember that old 1980s bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins”? Now I know that he with the most toys does not even know how to play.
Like elephant journal spirituality on Facebook.
Assitant Ed: Gabriela Magana/Ed: Brianna Bemel