“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” –John Burroughs
I’m sure I’m not alone in stating that I have way too much stuff. So much that I don’t even notice half of it, much of which is either pointless or has outlived its purpose in my life. Given that the first week of August is “Simplify Your Life” week—which coincides with the rudimentary beginnings of Autumn—it’s as good a time as any to release and let go of unnecessary items that have accumulated. It’s also in keeping with the theme of Autumn.
It’s amazing how much clutter we can accumulate. There’s even a 12-step program for those that are excessive in their drive to acquire and accumulate. It’s called—you guessed it—Clutterers Anonymous. Although I’m not that extreme, I can certainly relate to it—especially when I look at the top of my desk!
One way to amass all this stuff is by shopping and finding and purchasing things you don’t really need because they’re a bargain or are on sale. For example, I like Sharpies. Those are the very cool permanent markers that come in all sorts of colors. I especially like black ones because those are the ones I use when I sign my books and cards. And they can’t be dulled by too much use but instead must still have a point on them.
There’s a drawer in my office where I keep various office supplies, including three bins of pens, many of which are Sharpies. A couple weeks ago I was at Costco and as you know, there is no such thing as a small quantity of anything there. Including Sharpies. I was looking for some envelopes in the office supply section when lo and behold, I spotted a package consisting of two dozen black Sharpies for an unbelievably low price! Not only that, but you get a free bonus blue Sharpie! How could I pass that up?
So the rampant consumer inside me took over, hypnotized by such a great deal and that inner voice that said, “Must have Sharpies!” Got home, unwrapped them, went to place them in the drawer and realized that I’d run out of space in the bins. So that meant I had to re-organize the drawer and release some of the older pens that didn’t work as well. Yikes!
Okay, now that I’ve calmed down and see the errors of my ways, I’ve gotten, as they say in Iowa, a “burr in my bonnet.” That means an idea that won’t go away. It started to gel after that trip to Costco, when I realized it was time to do another cleanse. No, not a physical body cleanse—though that wouldn’t be a bad idea—but clearing out a lot of the “stuff” that was no longer purposeful whether giving away, recycling, or trashing some of these items.
Thus began a process of evaluating what could be released and what I would still want to hold onto. One of the first things that came to mind was a storage space I’ve had for a couple years. I rent it for a ridiculous amount of money each month to hold onto the stuff that just sits there month to month gathering dust. I’m determined this week to clear it out, with the caveat of renting a much smaller and less expensive space for any excess. The question for this week—actually this whole month is, “What can I release, recycle, give away, and what do I want to keep?”
If this speaks to you and you feel it’s time for some letting go of “stuff”, start by making a list, then outline a plan of action. Then of course, take the actions you’ve outlined! In our busy lives it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fact that excessive possessions tend to complicate our already complex lives, so simplifying our lives can start with eliminating the clutter and all the excess “stuff.”
George Carlin had a great routine about “stuff” that really says it all: George Carlin routine on Youtube.
In one part of the monologue he says,
“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. . . All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get . . . more stuff!”
It’s also possible that too much clutter is a reflection of your emotional state. If you think that’s the case, some questions to ponder are: What emotionally am I hanging onto? Is there unresolved anger toward someone? By hanging on to things of the past am I holding myself back? Is there grief that needs to be felt and released? Have I forgiven others or myself for any perceived transgressions? Often in the process of eliminating excessive physical belongings these and other kinds of feelings will surface.
Another area to consider is the possibility of spiritual clutter. Do you have a sense of your purpose and mission but fear acting on it? Do you consciously or subconsciously prevent yourself from acting on what you are here to do? Do you keep yourself busy all the time with distractions and relatively unimportant tasks to avoid doing whatever spiritual discipline keeps you on your soul’s path? Like emotional clutter, spiritual clutter will often start to dissipate as you take action in clearing the physical clutter. And vice-versa.
In addition to devising a plan of action and following it, one of the simplest reminders of—well, simplicity—is to take a walk outdoors, breathing consciously as you do, and communicating with your Higher Self. In addition to clearing out physical, emotional, and spiritual “stuff,” take at least a few minutes every day to do so. These days the world is a complex place to navigate and will likely become more so, yet the more we focus on the simple things, on what’s truly important and meaningful, the less chaotic and hectic it will be.
“Each day, awakening, are we asked to paint the sky blue? Need we coax the sun to rise or flowers to bloom? Need we teach birds to sing, or children to laugh, or lovers to kiss? No, though we think the world imperfect, it surrounds us each day with its perfections. We are asked only to appreciate them, and to show appreciation by living in peaceful harmony amidst them. The Creator does not ask that we create a perfect world; He asks that we celebrate it.”—Robert Brault