An Exercise in Letting Go

Beth Sears Blog

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An exercise in letting go.

This is the biggest issue in my marriage. Or at least it is the looming issue, from my perspective, at the moment.

We have a common issue due to our new status as “empty-nesters”: We need to get rid of a bunch of unnecessary stuff to make way for creativity and new opportunity. Sometimes my husband Rich agrees but at other times, not so much.

Clinging to material things is a source of unhappiness. Heck, clinging to most things causes unhappiness. Who has time for that?

Although it sounds easy to go through our things and sell, give away, recycle or re-purpose them, it has NOT been my experience. At all. Not one little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff; nice stuff. I don’t want to get rid of ALL our things. But when things aren’t dealt with in a reasonable time period (from my perspective), I want to dive in and get the job done.

There is power in the ritual of de-cluttering. It feels GREAT! So, knowing this, I get myself geared up and revved up and excited to clear out clutter.

Sometimes I have success but sometimes, often really, somewhere along the way, I find myself frustrated, alone or just not even interested anymore.

It’s time to look inside myself rather than go to my default mode (that would be the human) and find outside blame for this frustration. I can only control what is mine to control. And where the physical clutter exists in our house is concerning, my human, fear-default brain wants to place blame elsewhere.

In principle, clearing out and cleaning up sounds great. It feels good to take responsibility for our selves and our things. But I’ve watched my husband cling to things and not take action to de-clutter out of fear for so many years that I’ve stopped even looking for it in myself.

This is probably the fifth draft of what was going to be a simple little declaration on de-cluttering my life, piece by piece, to claim creative space of my own.

As I wrote though it became a practice of moving inward and through my OWN fears rather than my frustration in getting my husband to cooperate. There is STILL that element to my personal story because much of the physical clutter belongs to him.

But I can’t control that.

The best way to change anything is to first see things through a lens of love and compassion. The best way to get someone else to change is to BE that love and compassion. I’ve had to start with myself.

That means acknowledging my own difficulty in letting go of things as well as my tendency to want to acquire the newest shiny object that comes into my awareness.

I too approach this cleaning out clutter with fear. Some people want to close the door and avoid the clutter. I do admit at times that my preferred method of dealing with clutter doesn’t work.

My preferred method: Get it done! Go at the problem with all the zeal I can muster and stay with it until it is done. My intention is to only tackle one small area at a time but that is not how it looks to others. That creates a whole cluster-bomb of problems.

A little background, without judgment or excuse.

My belief is that most of us have clutter in our lives that we need to deal with. Most of us have some sort of situation at some point in our lives that can turn a home upside down.

We had the blessing, and I sincerely mean that, of caring for my mother-in-law in our home. She had Alzheimer’s. That meant, for her to be most comfortable, when she moved in, so did as much of her stuff as could possibly fit in our house.

We remodeled our newly renovated basement and bathroom for her. During that time our girls lived out of our older daughter’s bedroom while my mother-in-law lived in my younger daughter’s bedroom. The girls were in middle school.

Imagine the chaos of unexpectedly (this happened within three days) displaced from your room and your things and being forced to live in your sister’s room, when you’re 11 and she is 13.

I spent a year reacting and doing everything I could to put papers and mail and even the girls’ homework, somehow out of her vision. I couldn’t predict what she would pick up and take or what might trigger an outburst.

I tried to control things as they happened rather than making a plan ahead of time. I lacked intention.

The girls were growing up quickly and I it was a struggle to be sure they had everything they needed. I was in over my head. At the time though, everything looked organized.

I shopped and cleaned and cooked and ran a business and cared for her and the girls and even Rich (who also got sick that year). That is the year that we started accumulating things.

Lots and lots of things.

It was almost a way, I think, to maintain that this was still our house. She wasn’t going to take over. Rich bought books. By the case.

Me? I bought lots of things too. I see mine as more practical and easier to get rid of now. I bought extra socks or sweatshirts if we were out and needed one rather than make due or run home and get one. Or I‘d buy a new pair of shoes because I felt unappreciated or lonely. (This was when I discovered shoes. I didn’t understand the desire for shoes until this year.)

The stuff and disorganization stayed even after we had to put her in a caring facility. In some ways, accumulating things became more of a habit after she physically left our home, though not our care. Getting rid of her things felt too hard at the time. It’s hard now.

I’m only now starting to shift through the things and all the emotion attached to these objects. It’s difficult, but with patience and love and determination, this house is mine, and I’m de-cluttering and blessing this house afresh. I need to stay consistent.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault and I feel only compassion for the people we were then: We took her into our home without any training or preparing the house for her, out of love. I spent a lot of time grounding myself, learning and doing a whole lot of spiritual work. I’m letting go of the negative energy and embracing the lessons and love that we experienced.

What areas of your life need de-cluttering? Are there things you’d like to let go – both “stuff” and negative thoughts and feelings?