Returning from holidays always gives me a fresh perspective on my stuff. I look around my home, and the things that seemed so vital to me a few short weeks ago now seem old, dusty, and irrelevant. After being surrounded by other people’s things day in and day out, I had a mind-shift. I realized that all this stuff isn’t bringing me what it promised. It’s time to de-clutter.
Too Much Stuff?
You may have this issue of too much stuff. Maybe your stuff is filling up your garage, hogging up the space where your car should be. Maybe you have stuff under your kitchen cupboards, or maybe your stuff hides in the attic and basement. Most of us in the West have a lot more stuff than we need, and as Madonna taught us about living in the material world, our modern-day gurus are encouraging us to minimize and simplify. But why? Doesn’t it feel good to finally be able to afford the stuff you couldn’t before, and to treat yourself after working hard for your money? After all, the shrines of today are the mega-malls, complete with feeding stations, play-zones for cranky kids, and benches for our tired companions. We enter these temples of consumerism with a vague idea of what we want, and leave hours later as the sun is setting, the fresh-air knocking us over as we waddle to the car to deposit our unanticipated, impulse purchases. So when acquiring stuff is a national and international past-time, what’s so wrong with it?
You Can’t Hide what’s Inside
I am not saying don’t get stuff. God knows I love a good bargain as much as the next guy. What I am saying is approach the stuff with wisdom. Before you bring more stuff into your home, take stock of what you already have. Karen’s Kingston’s book Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui offers practical ways to pare down what you already have, with simple explanations of why it’s important. Basically, she reminds us that the outside is a reflection of the inside, so when your inner space is in disarray, it will tend to reflect in a messy, cluttered living space. She explains that as people attempt to make conscious changes in their lives through personal development, they will naturally come to a phase where they want to purge the old. She argues that instead of spending years in therapy, clearing out your stuff can begin to shift old beliefs and patterns. Of course, there is a condition known as hoarding, and for that you will require professional support, but if you just like your stuff and have too much of it, the philosphy works. If your outer environment is constantly messy, disorganized or unusable, it may be time to look at what is going on inside.
Old Stuff vs. New Stuff
Old stuff carries energy. It carries the thoughts, behaviours, and patterns of the old you, or whoever may have given the item to you. Though it’s been years since she passed on, when I wear my grandmother’s old jewelry, I can hear her voice in my head! I grew up on hand-me downs, and my mom insisted washing the clothes right away to get the other person’s “house-smell” out of them and make them feel more like ours. Mom was picking up on energetic imprints, without ever knowing there was a language for it. Just like our fingers leave a print when we touch glass, so our bodies and minds leave an energetic “fingerprint” when we spend a lot of time with something. Karen Kensington gives the example of how things become ours in her book mentioned above:
“Suppose you are out looking for a new jacket. You find one you really like, leave it for a moment to check that there isn’t one you like better, and along comes another shopper who picks up the jacket and looks interested in buying it. Panic wells up inside you – “That’s my jacket,” you are thinking. And then there is the relief when the other person puts it down and moves on, or the awkwardness of butting in and telling him or her you were there first. These feelings can be very intense, but realistically, it is only a jacket that minutes before meant nothing to you.” (pg. 42)
As time goes by, that connection to the object gets stronger. So why does this happen? Because the ego, that part of you that like to predict and control, likes to own things. If there is one little piece of this unpredictable universe that the ego can control, it is happy, because the ego is always looking for security and sameness, at any cost. The ego is the part of us that can’t bear to part with old stuff, even if it no longer represents who we are, or no longer brings us any satisfaction. But the truth of who we are is what I discovered as I returned from my holidays from with new eyes. Our stuff does not define us. Our actions and interactions, how we make people fee, that is what lasts. And I am just as quick as the next to swoon over the newest model of Mercedes or the latest gadget from Apple. But I am learning how we must purge the old to make room for the new.
Unless you have been deliberately de-cluttering, you probably have lots of stuff that you could let go of. There are many reasons people don’t let go, and you can learn more about those in the book, but the exciting part is what happens when you do let go. Freedom. Who knew that a couple of garbage bags dropped off at the consignment store could take such a load off? So if you have the courage, look around at your living space and inside the nooks and crannies where the cutter is hiding. Take a good, long, honest look. Does the space represent who you are today? Or are there too many pieces of the past drawing your mind and energy into what can not be changed? Is your home an “it’ll do for now” living space, or have you created an environment that feels sumptuous, luxurious, restful, and reviving? When you take stock, you will see what changes could be made, and then, in perfect timing, you will start making those changes.