Monday, November 19, 2012

10 Things--How To Declutter--Matters of the Heart

By now you know that I've set a goal for myself to remove 10 things from my home every week day until the end of the year (click here to read all of my 10 Things posts).  I'm still going strong, but I am amazed at how little things seem to have changed around here.  I'm going on my 4th week, which means I've released more than 150 things, big and small, but you can't really tell by looking around.  Rather than being discouraged by this, it's made me realize how little I miss those things, and it makes me wonder why I held on to them for so long.

As you probably know, emotional attachments and feelings of obligation are one of the biggest stumbling blocks to releasing superfluous stuff from you life.  We come to associate objects with emotions and people and relationships, and it feels treasonous to toss those things away.

Let me tell you how this whole 10 Things thing got started for me.

I have a collection.  It's a collection of beautiful things that I love to look at.  It's a collection of things that people I love have given to me over the years.  But.  But, I had nowhere to display them--there were so many of them that they didn't each have a place in our home.  And so, I placed them here or there, kind of haphazardly.  And it made me unhappy to see them that way, just so much clutter on a shelf.

My brain told me I should release some of them so that I could display the ones I had left in a pleasing, attractive, non-cluttered-looking way.  But my heart told me that I couldn't just callously discard these gifts from people who love me.  I know how much thought and effort and love I put into giving gifts, and I couldn't just toss out all that thought and effort and love that someone put into a gift for me.  And so, I felt stuck.  This collection, which is beautiful, which I love, came to be a symbol for everything that I don't like about myself, my life.

I really was stuck.  I knew something had to change, I just didn't know how to get over the hurdle of emotional attachment.  Until one day, I had a conversation with some friends.  It wasn't a real conversation--it was all in my head.  In fact, I think some of my facebook friends got a chuckle out of my post from that day: "Totally just resolved an issue that's been nagging at me by having an imaginary conversation with (real) friends..."

But I imagined talking about my collection with a couple of friends, and imagined what they would say.  I imagined what I would say if someone asked me.  Amazing how it's so much easier to see the truth in someone else's situation, isn't it?

So I imagined my one friend told me that the object is not the person.  The object is not the relationship.  The object is not the emotion I associate with it.  I will still love and have a relationship with the person who gave me the object, even if I release the object.  This is true, by the way, even if the object is something given to you by a beloved relative or friend who has passed away--you will still have your memories and emotions and relationship even if you release the object.  I can totally see her saying that to me.  Maybe I should ask her if she really would.

I imagined my other friend, who, by the way, gave me some of this collection, told me that the givers of these gifts intended them to bring me pleasure.  That they would be appalled to learn that they were instead bringing me grief, and they would insist that I release the things that were causing me harm.  I can totally see her saying that, too.

So I knew what I should do.  One day, a couple of weeks ago, I sat down with my collection, and I pared it down to my very favorite pieces.  It wasn't easy.  But I know that I wasn't discarding relationships--I was making more space in my life for real relationships with real people by letting go of these things.  And with each piece chosen to leave my collection, my soul felt lighter and brighter.

I don't really miss those things.  In fact, the next day I decided to release a few more pieces.  I feel peaceful now when I look at my collection that is smaller, but beautiful--just my very favorites.

I know it isn't easy, and for some of us, it's definitely harder than others.  But I want you to know, friends, that it is so worth it, to really examine your feelings surrounding your stuff, and to shine the light of truth on it.  It's just...stuff.  And stuff can imprison, if you let it.  You can do this.

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