Real Decluttering

Amongst the many calls for transformation in January, we hear the call to get more organized – to declutter.

Now, let me first say that this suggestion finds purchase with me. We are a family of stuff. I often joke that I live with three hoarders. And I am nowhere near monastic in my relationship with stuff, I am simply more willing to give some of it up when things get too crowded.

At any rate, the short version of the logic behind decluttering as organization is simply this: once you have too much stuff for your space, no amount of organizing will suffice. You will always be fighting the tide – and losing, which is what happens when we fight the tide, by the way.

I am sympathetic to the simple truth of that idea. Perhaps it appeals to me so much because I live with three hoarders.

book-collection-education-159751Once you have too much stuff for your space, no matter how much Tetris you play with it, no matter how many pretty containers you try to sort it into, it just won’t fit and it certainly won’t fit neatly or in a way that is pleasing to the eye or soothing to the soul.

So, the natural answer seems to be to begin a process of getting rid of some of the excess.

There are people who have made their entire careers out of helping people actually DO this work.

There is an industry – and a very full one I’d like to add – that helps people find ways to approach and re-organize their stuff.

As this desire takes hold as part of the New Years’ promise of better ways and better days, I see a criticism of the declutter movement that I had felt but not heard before.

This argument centers around the idea that this entire problem is on that only people of adequate privilege have. And further that the approach of getting rid of things that you’ve already paid for and could, at least in theory, use again, is but a further demonstration of that privilege.

I see the logic there.

AND

I know that when I had less – when my economic privilege was decidedly less, I still had things that I didn’t want or need. I still had a hard time organizing those things as my spaces were also smaller, my containers nonexistent or of the cardboard box from the liquor store variety.

In short, I think it is possible to have a clutter problem without being rich or spoiled.

Why do I think that is possible?

I think it’s possible because our culture encourages the satisfaction of the soul by way of accumulation.

NOW, before I say more about that, let me be clear that I am not about to equate stuff or the wanting or getting of stuff with sin. I think that it is perfectly possible to have a lot (or even just slightly more than enough) of stuff and have it out of sheer pleasure or need or more likely a combination of both.

I do not think it is morally wrong to either want or get stuff.

What I do think is that for many of us, the getting of the stuff is a misguided attempt to fill much deeper needs AND that using stuff in this way means that we will never actually have enough AND that we will therefore face this decluttering task on an ongoing basis.

Singer-songwriter David Wilcox has a line I think I’ve quoted before: “When you lay your dreams to rest, you can get what’s second best, but it’s hard to get enough.”

We cannot get enough stuff to convince us we are enough as people.

We cannot get enough stuff for our children to prove our goodness as parents or ensure their success in the world.

We cannot get enough stuff to make up for jobs that make us miserable.

We cannot get enough stuff to stem the loneliness of untended or one-sided relationships.

We cannot get enough stuff to generate a feeling of connection, the magic antidote to addiction.

Stuff cannot fill the holes of the soul. The holes of the soul require deeper work than shopping and organizing.

The way to approach that deeper work in a lasting way isn’t just to surrender our excess stuff, but to declutter our minds, our hearts, our calendars.

The way to address the holes of the soul is to apply the same level of honesty about the stuff that all of the experts recommend (Is it serving me? Does it still fit? Is it just here because someone else gave it to me?) to our thoughts, to our habits, and to our choices so that we can choose better:

So that we can look at the thoughts of not-enoughness and recognize how they play out. So we can challenge them and attempt to move toward a peace of self-affection and assurance.

So that we can assess our situations at work and see the part we play in creating our own dissatisfaction and can either change our outlook and approach or get real about reconsidering what we do or where we are doing that work.

So that we can have the time to tend to our relationships and see the ways that we contribute to their meagerness.

So that we can find the courage to move into the world with enough vulnerability to actually truly connect and to offer that same connection without so much need attached to it.

So declutter your physical space as you like.

I get that urge too, and for the way I am wired, a less full visual plane is a good thing. But don’t stop with that clear out. Watch what happens in your world of stuff AFTER that process. Notice if more stuff is coming in. See yourself replacing that clutter.

beach-bracelet-daylight-723501Perhaps more importantly, notice what happens to your relationship with your stuff if you take the plunge on a deeper kind of decluttering. See how much easier it is to not need and want so much when you begin to see, to acknowledge, to comfort and to heal the holes that act as vacuum for all of that stuff in the first place.

See how much easier it is to release things that no longer serve.

See how much easier it is to create a life full of things, people, and experiences that spark TRUE joy.

Make Room

I am hearing it as a clarion call this morning: “Make room.”

I have been making room in my mind – through clearing out old thoughts, adding spiritual practices that encourage a peaceful, and sort of minimalist outlook.

This call is, I think, one to make room in my heart and in my home.

What is taking up space in my heart and in my home? Old junk, old junk that doesn’t serve me anymore.

Now just to be clear – that stuff that’s taking up the space, it wasn’t always junk. It was hurt because of loss. It was anger at the violation of a boundary. It was a gorgeous dress that fit just right and was needed for a wedding. It was fabulous shoes for non-arthritic feet. It was facial and skin products for younger face and skin. It was all either necessary as a signal from my soul or wonderful and helpful for the rest of me at some point (well, okay, except for the occasional bad purchase, but I think that goes without saying). By saying it’s junk now I am not categorizing it as junk eternally and shaming myself for having it. I am not judging myself for having this heart and space junk. I am simply recognizing it for what it is.

art-blur-close-up-580631How do I know it’s junk? I know it’s junk in my heart if it keeps rearing up and getting all mixed up with current problems. I know it’s junk in my heart if it escalates other hurts and tries to make me create bigger arguments out of small ones. I know it’s junk if I don’t really want to look at it, but I can feel it. I know it’s junk when it feels old, heavy, and like something I thought I’d dealt with before. I know it’s junk in my heart if increasing maturity has helped me to recognize that the problem that junk came from was never really mine to begin with (don’t worry if that sounds alien, it will come).

I know it’s junk in my space if it makes getting to the things I’m looking for difficult. I know it’s junk in my space if it’s gathering dust from disuse and disinterest. I know it’s junk in my space if I feel bad when I look at it either because I’m judging myself for acquiring it or judging myself for not making use of it or judging myself because it no longer fits, helps, or serves me. I know it’s junk in my space if it keeps surfacing with no real purpose, asking me to get rid of it and get on with things.

And friends, I’ve got a lot of junk.

There was a time I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see the individual pieces. I couldn’t see the contours because there was so much that it just took on immense proportions. I had so much old hurt in my heart that addressing any piece of it felt like a way to open a Pandora’s Box full of gut-wrenching devastation. But slowly, I found some edges. I was able to identify some pieces. I could start to get purchase – find a hand or foothold so I could move forward with just a little bit of it. I could heal those old hurts… but first I had to feel them.

I had to stop stuffing them in a closet because they were inappropriate, inconvenient or just too big to handle. I had to stop ignoring them because I had things to do, people to attend to, piles of laundry – ANYTHING to not actually feel. I had to stop deciding that I couldn’t handle feeling my own pain. I had to learn that I, in fact, CAN deal with how I feel and that when I do that, I actually feel better. You see allowing some of that stuff out of that closet lets all of the other stuff shift a little and suddenly it’s not a mountain of pain, but a structure built of individual bricks and stones that can be dealt with in pieces. The important thing here is that it’s not a one shot deal. No matter how much you deal with these things, well human experience says there will be more and if you don’t deal with those, they will become junk.

What do I do when I know I’ve got heart junk? Well, after I admit it to myself, which can take a very long time, I actually set aside some time. I make an appointment with myself to feel it. I know that sounds nutty, but that way I can deal with it when I feel most safe to do so – when I am alone, when it is peaceful, when I don’t feel like my reaction to that pain will spill over onto the little empaths in the house. They can see me in pain, but they don’t need to see it all of the time. It is mine to feel when I am ready and to share as I wish.

What do I do when I’ve got space junk? I ignore it for a long time. LOL. I wish this were not true, but it is. And then when I can’t take it anymore, when I feel like the stuff is starting to be the master of the house, I whip out bags and boxes. You know it: donate, trash, gift/rehome, put away. And I try to be really honest about those categories. I am a firm believer in reusing and repurposing, but some things really are just done.

abstract-blur-bubble-612341Just like in my heart, some things really are just done. I don’t need to give them to someone else. I don’t need to reuse them for current problems. It’s time to feel it and imagine that the water from the shower is washing it off of me. It’s time to say out loud: “I now release this pain and seek healing for me and for anyone else involved in it.” It’s time to get rid of the junk. It’s time to make space.