Why do I have such a hard time cleaning my house? I go through drawers and closets filled to the brim with beautiful, wonderful things; things I keep, but rarely use. There are family things, childhood things, luxury things, collectible things, pretty things….a whole lot of THINGS. For a long time, I rationalized that these things were valuable and, thus, necessary for me to keep. Pshaw….I was a hoarder. Want to know why? Because my sock drawer was no different. I couldn’t let go……of anything, apparently.
I’m ashamed to admit that I had socks from when I was 18 years old! They were waiting there, unused for decades, in the hopes that one day I would need them. In reality, the chance of me putting on that 1980’s pair of tube socks decorated with little skulls was slim to none….and we all know that. At any rate, it’s a sad life for a sock. Some other poor socks were so old that the elastic has deteriorated…they met a sad, lonely end. There are people with no socks out there who would look GREAT in a pair of 80’s tube socks and I’m sitting here holding on to them in the slim chance that I will ‘need’ them one day. Well, that’s enough. It was time to clean. It was time to stop being a sad, old 'sock miser’. It was time to start letting go of a number of things I was keeping unfed, isolated and imprisoned in my house. Letting go to help others that may want and need those socks was important, but this exercise was more to help myself. Hoarding isn’t healthy. Period. Holding on, stockpiling, collecting, saving….for what?! I was immediately reminded of my grandparents…my beautiful grandparents. They spent their whole lives working, saving money, buying special things that they wrapped in tissue and took out once every 3 years to show me. Things saved, cherished, hidden….and, in all honesty, unloved. With the exception of the five minutes every 3 years when they showed these items to me and told me all about how special they were, they never got to really enjoy those things!
Well, for me, letting go had to start small….with the sock drawer. And it moved onto my tshirt collection…who the heck needs 87 tshirts?! It continued into my drawers. And ended in my cupboards and closets. Bags and bags and bags of things. Things that someone else can love now.
It was tough. There were so many things I didn’t want to part with. Whenever I had those moments, I would liken the object to a living thing: a plant, a dog, a person. I would ask myself if this 'living thing’ had received enough nurturing and attention for it to remain in my life…or if it would have withered and died under my care. I got my answer quickly and proceeded to keep it or allow it to go to a better home. More often, it was the latter.
I came out of this deep house cleaning feeling so much lighter and freer. After all, having all that stuff didn’t make my life feel any safer, happier or more meaningful. The quote that inspired me during this was from Bruce Lee: “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” We talk about simplifying our lives all the time. How many of us really walk our talk? If you’ve read my other articles, you know I am a big proponent of “baby steps." Well, this was no different. The house-cleaning was step one. I felt so great after that, than I wanted to proceed and implement this in other areas of my life.
On to step two: time management! Rather than stacking appointments and commitments one on top of the other, I began to spread them out. The world was not going to end if I gave myself a good amount of time between appointments, rather than the usual 10-15 minutes. So, I gave myself 'cushions’ of time to soften my day. And everything flowed better. I wasn’t having to rush because I had time to get from one appointment to the next. If I had an unexpected delay, I had a time cushion and it was fine….no longer was my day ruined by a brief hiccup in the schedule. If there were no delays, I had time to relax between….read a book, sit on a park bench, stop for a latte, or chat with a neighbor. With my scheduled appointments, it was easy to schedule the time cushions in. It was a bit more challenging to schedule leisure time with friends….I had a hard time not feeling pressured to squeeze in time to spend with my friends. So, whenever I was feeling undecided about what to do in this case, I asked myself how this invitation made me feel. If thinking about this event made me feel anxious or irritable or stressed….I graciously declined. After all, who wants to be with an anxious, irritable, stressed-out person? I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by being there with a bad attitude! I began making time with my friends that worked for BOTH of us and the time with them became happy, pleasant and enjoyable for all! I was no longer playing a martyr at the end of the day….collapsing in an exhausted heap on my sofa while sharing all the ways I sacrificed myself to make others happy. Yes, this second step took a bit of time and diligence. But I was now showing respect for the things I valued in my life by giving them the time and attention they deserved. I want to go through life enjoying the process….not running feverishly like a hamster on a wheel. In the end, it was about reconnecting to what is essential to my quality of life…..peace and 'flow.’ Peace and flow are crucial to my ability to live happily. Changing the way I manage each day had made a gigantic impact on bringing peace and flow to the forefront of my life again. I don’t want to dilute my life with 'inessentials’ anymore.
Does it sound like something you may want to try? My suggestion is to start small. Clean a room in your house and let go of 'inessentials’. When you see how much lighter you feel, you may feel compelled to go bigger and bigger….and bigger!