The reason we have so many things is not just because we have kids and toys and other things but because we do not throw away as much as we should.
We have to deal with these items in a mature way. It is is logical that if you are not using these things, or if you have outgrown them, or if they no longer suit you or your lifestyle then we should be getting rid of them.
No one enjoys a cluttered space so when you are reading the articles, or the books, or friends are telling you about their de-cluttering efforts you feel inspired.
Then you go home, have a look at your mess or try to pick something up but you just couldn’t possibly let it leave your possession. You might need it. Your kids may want it someday. Someone might find out that something they bought you – you threw away.
Or…… you do a little bit and it feels like a lot. Until within weeks it all snowballs again. Then you feel like you are ALWAYS de-cluttering.
You know that there are serious road blocks in your de-cluttering but you can’t figure out what they are.
I mean why do you want to hold onto that handbag you never use?
- You feel guilty that you/ someone else spent money on it.
- It’s useful…but you don’t use it.
- You could get it fixed/cleaned up/might come into fashion again
- You have made it yours. Like a kid, when you go to give it away you sub-consciously think “No, mine!” even though you don’t really want it.
- It’s become part of your identity. Or it was part of your identity and who you were at the time.
- It’s a memory. You went here/were with that person then etc
It’s essentially a piece of leather/plastic/canvas that has no identity, feelings etc but you have projected onto it something it’s not. It’s no longer money. You will not get that money back if you don’t hold onto it. You will never revisit that time in your life again.
We need to understand that objects don’t change who we are and we will never feel “good enough” just by getting a something new. We all know how good it feels to wear something brand new right? Isn’t that joy? No. Joy is an ongoing feeling you feel about your life. New clothes are new for a minute and then they are not. They didn’t change you or the way you feel they just gave you a burst of feeling or euphoria which then leads to suffering when it is no longer new/ needs to be thrown out. We think it made us happy but it didn’t. It was a vehicle that may have given us more confidence or made us feel better than we did at the time. In fact, it can cause a lot more problems because we hold such an unrealistic projected image of it. We need to work on our self, not our clothes, otherwise we will always need to buy more clothes to get that feeling back.
We also think that if we buy something it’s going to make us a certain way. Like if you get a new couch and you imagine all your family snuggled on it, how good it will look in the house, how people will admire it, how it will allow you to feel luxurious and content. But then you get it and you are terrified of the kids spilling something on it. So much so that you become an absolute tyrant and you start projecting this “hitler” vibe instead of “cool lady with cool couch” vibe that you thought you were buying. We didn’t buy the couch we thought we were buying a feeling.
The couch hasn’t changed us. We changed us.
We need to stop projecting “Who We Are” onto objects.
We can’t throw things away because we become attached to them and make them “mine”.
We also buy way too many things and feel guilty about that too. We think that if we hold onto things it might stop us buying more things. But it never does. So we accumulate.
We essentially need to break away and break up with objects before we can move on.
We can’t let go of that part of ourselves. You see. It’s hard.
Is there something wrong with this?
They are objects and not people. We are spending more time tinkering, storing, re-organising and thinking about our things than we are having experiences with those we love and enjoying the moment, in the present.
You will not lose those precious moments you had with your baby by getting rid of the baby things. What you will get is more time to spend with your toddler/big kid/ adolescent and they will appreciate that a hell of a lot more than you hanging onto their booties and spending hours re-organising things to keep it all.
When we get rid of things we start gaining perspective about the present moment. Be here now. Stop being in the past – yes those memories are beautiful and you can conjure them anytime you need – but the present is what is important.
By keeping these outdated things we are keeping ourselves outdated and not living fully in the present moment, embracing who we are now and who are family members are now.
Your things are not you and you are not losing any part of yourself by throwing these things out. You are not losing any part of your memory with precious people.
So you can see why some people have serious addictions and hoard things. It’s a psychological minefield.
These things that were supposed to make us happy are making us miserable and over-whelmed.
So the problem I am finding with all the de-cluttering articles I am reading is that they are dealing with the consequences of the problem and not the problem. Then when we try and follow their easy steps to throwing things out and we feel like we are throwing out part of ourselves. We think we will be “less than” and “have less” if we throw things out.
We build up these grand fantasies of who we are and then we need all of our possessions to prove that this is us, this is who we are. When our possessions don’t live up to the reality and don’t make us who we thought they would, we are disappointed
I love this quote from a book I’ve just read, Yoga And The Quest For The True Self, “Oh my dear students, you build such big mansions of the self. But its fine, really. Because when you clean them out of all your many belongings, you’re going to find that they are just great big spaces in which God can live.”
So we need to remember:
He who dies with the most toys does not win.
No matter what the advertisers tell us this stuff will not change who we are – we are beautiful just as we are.
By keeping this stuff we are avoiding the present moment. Reality as it is now.
We need to work on the way we need to feel, not buy our way into it because it doesn’t work.
So my 5 step process to de-cluttering is as follows:
- Realise that you are keeping these things because of your obsession with “me” and mine” and drop it. Let it go. In yoga, the sanskrit word for this is Asmita or I-ness. Which is one of the Kleshas, or afflictions. These afflictions are what is causing us to be estranged from our True Self. (The others are ignorance, attraction, aversion and clinging to fear of life and death) There is nothing wrong with the things themselves, it’s the attachment to things that is out of proportion. Things do not change who we are, we do.
- Imagine yourself as a toddler and you are trying to keep a toy everyone is telling you to share. You didn’t want it, in fact you haven’t played with it for years. You can see from the outside how irrational it is to keep something that you don’t want anymore. Keep that feeling as you fill up the trash bags and pass on to charity.
- Remember that the reason you are here, cleaning out things and spending precious time on it, is because having too much stuff is making you suffer. We need to let go of our attachment to that feeling of suffering – leave the guilt behind and get rid of it. What if you only had things you loved in your house and the things you loved had prominence, instead of being shoved in to a cupboard you can barely close?
- Clinging, craving, greed these are feelings that could describe an inability to giving up your stuff. Then if you give it away you feel guilt, sorrow, panic, anxiety. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I try and focus on the people who may receive my things as I pass them on. I imagine their faces lighting up. I imagine that it brings them some joy, or comfort or relief that they have found what they are looking for. I try and focus on the good and being of service to others through giving.
- Go through each room and leave only things you love in the room. Bless yourself and your space and be grateful for what you can give others and how well you can treat yourself. Take these gifts immediately to the charity/ donation place and be done with it. Focus on the present now. Focus on your life as it is now.