Yesterday my small upright freezer finally gave up the ghost. It’s been a loyal servant, first serving my parents well, then being gratefully handed down to my family when they upgraded to the super deluxe version of a chest freezer. The seal has gone, the door won’t close properly and the food now is suffering from frost bite as I try to keep it working, but I finally gave in and it’s outside on the final defrost before it makes it’s lonely journey to the tip.
But once all the manhandling, huffing and puffing was finished , with the grateful albeit moaning help of teenager number 2 we had moved it, I found that I had been storing some ‘Stuff’ behind in the vacant space. It was dusty and covered in lathe and plaster from when the roof had caved in a few years ago!
What did I find? Well two boxes of unopened pillar candles, these had journeyed with us from Reading over 20 years ago, 4 bottles of wine (empty of course) that I’d used as decoration from our pub in Yeoford which we vacated 9 years ago.
I stopped and then looked around my lounge room at all the stuff I had accumulated, but mainly the books that we had read just gathering dust on shelves. My husband has a whole bookcase just for his. So I rang him at work and asked him, “how many more times do you think you’ll read your books?”
“Why?” was the puzzled and concerned reply as he thinks he knows what is coming…….
“Well…” I explain the above and then he gently says “Yep you can clear them out but donate them Karen, don’t chuck them out promise me.”
He knows me so well, he knows that in times of high anxiety, I find solace in decluttering. I find the need to remove the unnecessary from my life. The need to clean, sort, to make order out of what I perceive as chaos.
It gives me a sense of control, the one thing in that moment that I can do, that I have the say over what stays, what goes, where it goes.
Why do we hold on to so much stuff? Where does the need to carry around both mentally and physically this stuff that is of no use to us anymore, that we won’t use, isn’t productive or positive.
Books we haven’t read in 10 years, but keep because they remind us of a time when we were younger, freer, or just had the time to read. Yet, do we keep them, to now remind us of lost youth, how much more pressured life is now, do we use them as a stick to beat ourselves with. We should make time to read.Why don’t we have the time? What is wrong with us?
The same can be said about the comments we hold onto in our heads, comments said in passing by a parent, sibling, friend, colleague, boss. We can’t remember who said them, they won’t remember saying them but the comment they have stuck.
“Are you really going to wear that with your legs?”
“Don’t you think you’re a bit too old for that now?”
“MMMM it’s ok, I guess, but I wouldn’t wear it!”
“Well this class behaves for me, can’t see why you are having such an issue?”
“You can’t be following through on the behavior policy?”
“I find management very amenable to my requests, you can’t have asked in the right way?”
“What’s wrong with you? you always look so miserable, don’t you know how to smile?”
“God she’s got a face like thunder”
They pile up, they clutter our brain, and gather dust , they are still there in the corners, hidden away behind piles of stuff, ready to pop out at the most unexpected moments, when we least expect them.
Why can’t we let them go. Is it because if we do we are afraid of what else we will find? Are they hiding a bigger group of thoughts, that we don’t want to confront. Will it leave an empty space that we need to fill up and that scares us into getting more stuff.
Or is it time that we let them go, declutter our mind and fill the space with kinder comments. Search the even darker recesses which we don’t often go to because they are hard places to reach, and find not the critical voice that we listen to on a daily basis that only has a thin layer of dust on. But really go back, far into the corners.
Don’t be scared of the spiders, because they too have a purpose, look under the boxes of wallpaper, half full tins of paint, old squash rackets, (who played? no idea) and look for the shiny things that are of real value.
Keep the things that mean something real, the comments that are important, that make us feel special, that connect us to the now.
That card from a student who barely spoke all through year 10 and 11 but when they got their GCSE grades wanted to thank you because it was your class they felt safe in, because they knew it was you who believed in them and told them every day that they could do it.
The lost mug that says you are the best mum in the world that was decorated by them when they could barely write.
The wedding album when you know you looked amazing and he had that smile that said you were his and he still smiles at you that way even when you are cleaning!
The voice that says, ‘you know what! you got up today and got dressed and that is enough.’
The ‘good job done today’ that is meant by someone who sees how hard you work.
The wagging tail that greets you every time you walk through the door even when you’ve only been to the bin, as if you’ve been away for ever.
It’s time to let go of STUFF, clear out the unused, the not needed, the negative. Donate what might be useful in the physical so someone else might get benefit, but the rest……. I don’t need. It’s time to move forward, let go.
I need space, I must silence the critical voice, dust out the crevices, make room for the helpful, the positive, declutter the stuff.
Nobody is saying it’s going to easy or a fast process, I have started box by box, I will declutter the house and in that process I will be decluttered and let go from all my own stuff!
How will you do yours?
Here’s some ideas to kick you off