A couple of weeks ago when we were up to our calves in gifts and all sorts of Christmas baubles, I had a thought: I have too much crap and I need to get rid of it.
Not very holiday-spirited, but I was feeling a bit closed in. The stuffed snowmen on my mantel stared me down as if to say, “Don’t even think about moving us a day before March.” My flocked miniature trees placed strategically throughout the house shed their fake snow as I passed by, and even they, along with my treetop angel, threatened to be houseguests for far too long.
My husband is worse than I am about feeling claustrophobic, so as usual on New Years Day night, against the backdrop of the twinkling lights, he sipped his eggnog and looked longingly into my eyes and asked if I was interested in taking it all down, the Christmas decorations. In times past, I’d complain that I had a headache and say we should leave them up for a bit longer, etc, so that’s what he expected me to say, I’m sure. But something was different that night, the way he looked at me and our eyes locked. I threw all caution to the wind, stood up from the couch and started aggressively removing ornaments. I heard him gasp a little and he ran downstairs and he brought up three, four boxes at a time, sweat forming on his brow. I whipped my hair back out of my face and said, “Alexa, play some southern rock and roll” and that night we reached a new level of ecstasy as we swept the Christmas clutter away and replaced it with next to nothing on all our flat surfaces.
Full disclosure, I wasn’t only thinking of the Christmas decorations that needed to be purged, but also the years of collecting old things that needed to be thrown out. Like old school backpacks. Filled with old school papers and notebooks, pens, protractors, and even socks and shorts. I never went through the kids bags at the end of their school years to throw those unusable things away. I always thought, I’ll go through it soon enough, but “soon enough” never came, and we even moved into another home, and I allowed movers to move those backpacks into our new fresh home.
I’m starting 2019 by cleaning and clearing out. It’s hard and emotional at times, but good and necessary. I’m keeping the sweet handwritten “momma, I love you” and “daddy, thank you for all you do” notes, and throwing out the “everyday mathematics” journals. I think it’s ok that I’m not keeping my son’s Algebra notes or my daughter’s biology tests from 2012. I told myself that letting go of the past is good so that I can make room for living in the present, and for the good things coming in the future.
I may not have consciously been thinking about those old school papers in the backpacks in our storage room, but I believe they were taking up precious energy that I’m no longer willing to sacrifice to the god of the past. I’m excited to let go of those things, to let go of the notion that the past was better than my present and is better than my future. Oh my goodness, I don’t believe that for one second. My past had its precious and wonderful moments, but now I have an even bigger amazing family and beautiful friends for whom I want to be present. Plus, I want to be present for ME. And I’m no longer willing to fill that space up with items that no longer bring me joy.
I’m not going to say it’s been easy. I’ve had my moments of anxiety. Should I throw this away? What will “so and so” think if I get rid of this? Oh, she/he made this, what kind of mother throws handmade things away?! I have to realize that these thoughts only create anxiety for me, and the anxiety isn’t serving any real purpose except to assuage any false guilt I put on myself. No one else is feeling guilty or making me feel this way. I’m doing it to myself. So, I’m giving myself permission to throw old things away, and keep the beautiful memories that no one can take away.
Here are a few thoughts I hope you find helpful as you move forward into 2019 with a cleaner and more clutter-free life.
*Start with one room at a time. Don’t do a whole house thing, I think that might drive us mad.
*If you feel the anxiety rise, let it come, cry it out, let the tears flow, and express what you feel. I did that yesterday with some of the little papers and things I threw out, and it just felt good to cry. There wasn’t anything specific I was tearful about. Was it that my children weren’t babies anymore? I don’t think so, because truthfully, I don’t have the energy for that anymore and I enjoy them now as adults. They were awesome children and now they’re awesome adults. Was it because they didn’t always have an ideal life? No, I made my peace with that. I used to get sucked into the perfection trap, but no one is a perfect parent and most of us do the best we can. Make amends with your children if you need to, and then move on. The point of clearing out the clutter is that you can have the mental and emotional space to live in the present and enjoy yourself and your relationships.
*Be loving and gentle with yourself. We are deserving of all love and all the good things this life has to offer. You are worthy and you are enough! and YOU Matter! Take breaks from cleaning as you need to; it’s hard work! Also, we deserve joy and all this clutter keeps us from it.
*If you’re having a particularly difficult time letting go of an item, maybe you’re not ready to let go of it, and that’s ok. Keep it for now, but be open to letting it go. When things no longer serve the purpose of bringing us joy, then it’s time to let it go. I haven’t read this book, but my friend Alyssa told me about Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and how she suggests holding an item in your hand and thanking it for bringing you joy, and then simply let it go. Gratitude goes such a long way in our healing and growth, doesn’t it?
*Pinterest has some cute ideas on how to reuse or recycle or upcycle old things. Or do what my best friend did and rent a dumpster and fill that bad boy up. Come to think of it, I might need one.
*Remember that when it comes to our children, they usually don’t care about their old things like we do as their parents. It’s just not the same experience for them. We’re going to save this stuff for like 3 decades and they’re going to look at it and throw it away. Am I right? That’s OK, too.