A key to clutter, and why stuff becomes too precious to use, but too important to lose
Just under a month ago, when I first got back from my five weeks overseas, I picked up a single item off my coffee table and took it downstairs.
Four hours later, well past my bedtime, my inner engine was going full steam, as I methodically stripped all the walls of the decorations, many of them beloved, to put them into the garage for staging to consignment.
Since then it has been non-stop. A combination of intense enthusiasm as well as a willingness to move the hell on to the next chapter has fueled this wholesale offloading, but along the way, as my regular readers have noted, there have been superb lessons.
As a forever student doing my level best to understand how and why I ended up in messes made by my own hand, with a quick eye for the comedic value, these four weeks have been rich with material.
Many of you Dear Readers have offered condolences for the process of releasing stuff to which some part of me has become attached. On the other hand, I am enjoying the hell out of that process, which has allowed me to question any number of motivations, compulsions and reasoning (otherwise known as impulse buys, swiftly followed by vehement justifications such as BUT IT WAS 75% OFF!!!)
In that exquisite way that the Goddess invites us to look, and not just look but see, and not just see but to understand, these weeks have been among the richest of my entire life. I am right now in the middle of sorting through my office, which entails letting go of once-held dreams of businesses and logos and hopes. It is exceedingly healthy to do so. It isn't just the weight of the files.
It's the heft of the heavy sense of failure and loss as I let go of file after file of proof that perhaps, after all, some things I wasn't meant to do. That is so freeing.
However, the bigger piece of this, as I have done this over and OVER again my entire life, is how I have bought things for a life I wanted to live but never did. But it's deeper than that (you knew that was coming).
This article really underscores for me the process that I was going through each time I bought that UNBELIEVABLE DRESS or that INCREDIBLE SCARF or whatever it was that I had to have. I had eight jammed wardrobes of had-to-haves that never got worn.
I didn't understand why until I read this:
...When you forgo using something – for whatever reason – if you believe that you were waiting to use it, the possession will start to feel more special. You’ll want to save it for a later occasion. And as you search for the right occasion day after day, it becomes more tempting to hold out for a future occasion. The less you use it, though, the more special it feels, and the cycle continues.
Ultimately, the likelihood of using the possession becomes more and more rare – potentially to the point where that originally decent wine is now vinegar, or the blouse is out of style, but you’re still holding on to it. The more this happens, the more stuff you have lying around. (author bolded)
My entire wardrobe fell into that category, along with all the scarves and shoes and jewelry. I was forever worried about breaking something, spilling something on a gorgeous blouse, always and forever waiting for that right day or perfect moment.
Always and forever waiting caused me to accumulate more and more, and have to get bigger and bigger houses, into which I pressed and organized my "somedays."
Well, a VERY full 2488 square foot house later, those special moments never came. Others did, and for those I got my hiking pants ripped, my boots filthy, my noggin boinked a few times and it was worth it.
Long before I got to this house, I offloaded likely several other households full of such purchases. At some point, you'd be right to point out that I had a shopping Jones. Well of course I did, still do to a point. As I've pointed out elsewhere, I am a classic Obsessive-Compulsive; the moment I quit one habit it morphs to another.
It's a permanent game of whack-a-mole. For now, however, that habit has largely been channeled to writing too much, which thank god doesn't empty the bank account.
Hasn't filled it, either, but that's besides the point.
The greater point is that as I steadily release, downsize, give away, sell off and hand off for this monumentally important late-in-life move, I am again allowed the grace to watch, assess, giggle like mad, make fun of what I do, and give so many of these gorgeous things back to the Universe.
Each time I walk into Fine Consign here on 7th Avenue in Eugene, I see my lovely things winking at me as though they were all in on the Big Joke. Of course they were.
When I had eating disorders, a big stash of cookies caused me to feel "safe."
When I smoked compulsively, a big stash of cartons caused me to feel "safe."
When I worried that I would never be enough, look good enough, a massive collection of designer duds allowed me to feel "safe."
Sexual abuse survivors have a terrible-awful time feeling safe in their own skin, and we tend to try to wrap ourselves in some kind of external armor. For some, like me, it was fat, from compulsive eating. There is just no peace when the hyenas are at the door (I like wolves, so will not insult them).
When the hyenas co-habitate, there is only management, not wholesale eviction.
That's why you learn to laugh.
This is just what I do.
Back in 1974 before computers were widespread, I had an astrological reading done which arrived at my military complex in that very odd script common at the time. What struck me then, and still does (OF COURSE I STILL HAVE IT, SILLY) is that the reading pointed out with scarifying accuracy that my moon in Cancer meant that I would be a great collector of things (hoarder) that I would later release in all directions.
Binge and purge. Story of my life.
The challenge, as I do a simply awesome purge of stuff, then, is to ask a much better question of my aging self:
What do I wish to collect now? What then shall I gather and then hand out later?
If I have learned anything, that answer is in a box of materials I packed up last night: all the written notes from twelve years of adventure travel. There are thousands of stories in those pages, and they need to be exhumed from their relative embalming into out-of-sight, out-of-mind boxes on my shelves.
I am stunned by how much stuff I had no idea I had. There is something wonderful about being in a space small enough that you trip on your extra stuff, like inside a tent.
And I need many more of these:
Experiences. While this of course seems obvious, this means that my deeply-ingrained habit of marching straight to the local shops to select this, that and the other which will end up nailed to a wall or on a shelf somewhere will have to change.
Friendships. All that time we shop and scroll is time better spent being in life. My father used to call the clerks at the stores where he bought things his "friends." Dad had no friends late in life. They liked him because he spent money there. I have often made the same mistake.
Friends aren't purchased any more than they are simply gathered up like so many attachments to your Facebook page.
During a long talk with a friend of mine, I made a comment which was wiser than I was feeling. I realize that by looking at a thing, seeing a thing, I already own it. It's in my memory bank. I can visit it any time I like, and walk away knowing that its beauty and interest added value.
It doesn't have to be packaged up and end up cluttering up my home, and needing to later be carted off like all the other things in my house that waited for a special day, that perfect moment.
There is only one perfect moment, as any student of Eastern wisdom will agree. I have difficulty with that, but I am sure working on it. At least I am slowly reaching that point where I can better live those perfect moments, for the more I strip away, the less I choose to keep, the less clutter that demands my attention.
And that allows me to live life right here, right now, unfettered. And that is a fine way to start living at any point in life.
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