Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lighten your load -- a challenge

I remember when I went off to college. I rented a one bedroom unit that was part of a larger, Victorian-era home that was split into several apartments. The floors were lopsided and my bedroom, being a converted porch, was drafty and cold in the wintertime. The summers were likewise sweltering – there was no air conditioning.

But I loved it. Loved it beyond reason because it was my own space. There is a lot of joy in having your own space.

For several months before I moved I gathered together stuff I would need for my new home. Some dishes, glasses, silverware. A set of four mugs sporting different post-impressionistic paintings (Gaugin, Van Gogh). Picture frames, candles.

Each purchase was carefully wrapped up and placed in a box to await my move to my very own place (insert giddily excited expression). It all amounted to just a few boxes. A couple of times I unpacked the boxes just to look at the things I had bought, then packed them all back up.

The objects held a larger than life meaning for me because of what they represented: independence, freedom, the excitement of a new place and new friends, access to all the knowledge I was so hungry for.

I made that apartment mine. I turned it into an expression of me. It was so much fun. Since then, I did the same thing with each new place that I lived, with the notable exception of my most recent home (but all that's changing now).

When I was a freshman in college, my mom died. I inherited a lot of her stuff. I had no idea what to do with it, but getting rid of it seemed sacrilegious. So I carted around with me each time I moved.

Since I graduated from university, I have spent most of my life accumulating. To the point where I now feel weighed down by stuff.

I was only recently that I realized that each time I bought something, I was still buying the experience I wanted it to bring me. When I was feeling overworked and overwhelmed, I bought books and candles and bath salts. But what I really wanted was the time and space to just relax and unwind. More often than not, the books and candles were tucked away somewhere and not used. Because even though I bought them, I still didn't have the time to enjoy them.

When I longed for my home to feel comfortable and safe, I bought quilting patterns and fabrics. Or baking pans or cookbooks.

I kept trying to purchase the experience of feeling at home. Of feeling relaxed and comfortable and in a place I belonged. I suppose what all this means is that I was an advertiser's dream because that is exactly what advertising does – tries to sell us a positive experience.

These past two years have been a time of finding my center, of coming home to myself again. Or maybe for the first time.

The more I unwind, the more I look around and wonder what I'm doing with all this stuff. Stuff and more stuff. I live under a pile of stuff!

Now, quite suddenly, I long for it to be gone. I long for a clean, simple space.

I've gotten rid of quite a bit of it the last several months. But there's still more. MORE.

So this is my plan. I'm going to take the month of October and see how much stuff I can get rid of. It's a challenge. If I don't need it, use it, absolutely love it, it's going.





I will be posting pictures on my Facebook wall of everything I get rid of. In fact, a truck is coming tomorrow to pick up a bunch of donated items for a local charity (goodbye, post-impressionistic mugs!).

Do you want to join me? If you want to lighten your load, too, feel free to post pictures on my Facebook wall of the bags/boxes/furniture/whatever you decided to unload. Even just one box of stuff out the door, one clean closet, will make you feel better.

I am convinced that life is metaphor. If you want to create something new in your life, you need to make room for it. I have a vision of the experiences and qualities I'd like to have more of in my life. Right now, I am clearing the deck to make room for them.

What about you? Do you want to bring something new into your life? Do you need to make space for it?

I wonder just how much stuff, collectively, we can remove from our paths.

Let's do this together, shall we? Care to join?






28 comments:

  1. It's funny. I'm kind of going through something similar myself. Only a little different. It has been more than 10 years since I have had a home that reflected me in any way. 11 years ago it was moving to a home with my parents, and packing my things away because I wanted her to be comforted by HER things around her while she was dying.

    Then it was getting rid of almost EVERYTHING to move 1500kms away, into a tiny unit. Then coming back here, but with a 2 year old. Everything nice away. Then came Sam and more years of children's clutter. Anything "me" put away, safely for "when they're older and won't break anything". Ha.

    And now I have a nearly 10 year old and a 5 year old. Old enough that I feel I can start 'pretty-ing up my home again. Only now, none of those things are 'me'. Not one.

    So, I'm nesting. I'm ready to get rid of the cheap, plastic crap. I'm ready to bring in pieces that are just beautiful. For no reason other than that they are beautiful. That it makes me feel happy to look upon them.

    So I'm on the hunt. New occasional furniture - places to put treasures. I don't know exactly what I'm looking for. I'm determined not to buy simply to fill a space. I figure I'll know it when I see it. If I fall in love with a trinket, then I'll see if it's possible. I've already sourced a beautiful quote I want to put up on our entryway to the new house.
    (sorry. Took over your post).

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    1. When I did my room over I made a commitment to not bring anything into it that did not have personal meaning for me. That means the art on the walls, the books on the bookshelf, the stuff in the drawers. It all went out of the room and only the things that made me feel good, that were a reflection of who I am, came back in. Right now it's still partially empty and that's okay. I'm in no hurry to fill it back up.

      It sounds like you are doing something similar. Reassessing and filling up your space with things that reflect you. It feels good, doesn't it?

      And feel free to take over. :)

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  2. That is exactly what I'm doing out here - with the latest phase of my mom checking out I realize I hold onto every shred of everything because she does and without her seeing that I hang onto everything she gives me, I won't have her approval. In September I realized looking for her approval was a pointless undertaking - now, the boxing begins. I will take pictures of the things I will miss.
    I am hanging onto all my shoes. Please, I'm not an animal.

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    1. Isn't it amazing how much we 'honor' our families by continuing to play out their issues? Wow. We can spend our lives trying to rectify past injustices.

      I truly believe that the physical stuff that surrounds us is reflective of what we carry inside -- both the wounds and the beauty. When you heal those wounds, you no longer need the external stuff/people/circumstances that reflect that wound. x

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  3. I'm in! I nearly have a whole car full of donations already! But I'll keep going and share the pics :). I filled two skips as I got ready to move and it was so nice to just toss (also donated two cars worth of stuff already) or donate. I've got a big job ahead today. I had my things spread across two rooms at my old house but now have just one room but a lot of boxes of 'stuff' I've got to make fit! I woke this morning thinking its time to let go of those things not needed! I need space and less to have to deal with do that our lives can be soo much more (time, love, less chores more fun!) .

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    1. Yay! Can't wait to see your pics. Moving is a great way to pare down. You're sort of faced with going through everything and having to make a choice. I imagine that, like me, you are shedding a lot more than just your physical belongings. You are starting out on a new path, a new life. What a great time to reassess and get rid of anything outdated. x

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  4. Simplify. I have gotten rid of soooooo much and there is alot more to go through. I got tired of waiting for my husband to fix/repair the things that he took such great pleasure in taking down. I know now that he will not be completing any of these project.

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    1. Ah, those half-finished projects. Lots of those around here!

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  5. It seems so obvious and yet I have been missing this message for so long! I am a bit of a hoarder and 'my space' has been quite cluttered for a while. There are boxes still not unpacked from when I moved about 2 years ago. So much old crap I am hanging onto and I know it needs to go but I never seem to get around to clearing it out. Only adding more. Lately I have been feeling self-concious and not very good about myself at all. Funnily enough I couldn't stop buying clothes! No surprises it didn't work in making me feel better either. I'm now taking better care of myself and that is what has brought me out of my funk. I'm really inspired by this and intend to clean out my space too - Thanks Kristin!

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    1. Sheri, that's great! I'd love it if you wanted to post pictures of whatever you decide to toss/donate. Something about the visual...

      And yes, isn't it funny? We keep doing the same things to try to feel better, even when they don't work. It's freeing to finally see that and choose something else. x

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  6. I've got a blog post coming up about our annual pre-christmas toy cull.

    The girls school run this fabulous fundraiser where once a term we can bring in items we no longer need or use and they pay the school 20cents per kilo. The money raised is used for the grade 6 students graduation party. Each term I do a big cull and think I've donated everything possible, 3 months later I find there is even more stuff to go. Amazing.

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    1. What a great fundraiser! Wish our school did that. I could earn them all kinds of money! I culled some toys today, but have far to go. When you do your post, why don't you post a link to my FB page so others can see and be inspired?

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    2. Marita, what a great idea for a fundraiser! Wish our school did that. I culled a couple boxes of toys just today, but there much more to go.

      When you do your post, why don't you post a link to my FB wall so others can read and be inspired?

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  7. It's something I do at least once a year. The air feels cleaner afterwards. You can really breathe. It's liberating.

    Love how you're spreading the decluttering bug.

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    1. It does feel cleaner afterwards, doesn't it? I love that feeling. I love going to sleep in a clean and well-ordered home!

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  8. OMG, I think you've just given me permission to get rid of dirty laundry that has been at the bottom of the pile for so long I don't know if I'll ever get to clean it or even need it again?

    Some of it is in bags from when I first got some help to clean our house after years of neglect due to caring for my hubby. I believe it has been well over a year, and I guess I haven't needed any of it, have I?

    We have so many clothes as at one time, I had more money than time to wash, so I would buy heaps of socks and underwear, etc, as I didn't have time to wash them.

    I need to ponder on this.

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    1. You could just wash them and put them straight into a bag to donate! Or...just throw them out if you can't face the piles. I think you'll find, once you get rid of that pile, however you choose to do it, that every time you walk in the laundry room your heart will lift and you'll feel like you can breathe. I think you should do it and take before and after pics. x

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  9. It's so liberating to do this. I'd suggest to maintain trying the flylady system ... it works like a charm. Her philosophy is that you can't organise clutter and I'm in the throws or dealing with paper clutter in a big way.

    Enjoy the freedom ... and then I hope you'll find the time to paper yourself with those bath salts and candles you've purchased as well :-)

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    1. Paper clutter it hard, isn't it?! I've been trying for several months now to come up with a good working system for handling mail, school papers, bills, etc. I'm getting there! And yes, it is a sort of liberation.

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  10. ooopppss ... pamper not paper yourself.

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  11. I've been doing this for three years now. Each move meant more decluttering, more letting go of stuff I no longer wanted or needed. I still have a lot of stuff, but I try to use it all, to set it up in a way that feels home for me. All the candles are always burning and all my pretty soaps are constantly being used. I've put my paintings up on display, but still have heaps of stuff I need to sell, or let go in some way. It's an ongoing journey for me....

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    1. That's great, Dorothy. I remember reading a post where you talked about the difficulty of going through boxes of stuff from your marriage (or maybe it was a comment you left). It's hard, because when you pull out all the old stuff and make a decision about what to keep and what to toss, you are dredging up the emotional stuff that goes with it. It can be quite a task. So glad you are burning candles again and using your soaps. I am too. We even burn a candle sometimes at the dinner table. The kids love it. x

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  12. Such a great idea! Unburdening comes to mind...
    Enjoy!!

    I must do it as well!!

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    1. Yes, it does begin to feel like a burden. Unburdening is freeing! Can't wait to see what you post! x

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  13. I love this post! I'm in a similar place of needing to shed STUFF, and this is good motivation. I don't know if I'll be posting every day, but this is now a goal. Thanks for the push.

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    1. Linz, that's great! I find it easier to tackle when there are several people doing it for some reason. I don't plan to do it every day, either, but just have it be my focus for the month. Good luck! Can't wait to see what you post.

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  14. Life laundry! God but you're brave! Having done it last time I moved house I can testify to how cleaning the process is - both physically and spiritually.

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    1. Life laundry -- I like that. Apt term.

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