70 is not always the new 50
"How can I find God if I can't find my keys?"
The above subtitle was a workshop I attended in the 90s that dealt with organization while on a spiritual journey. Nothing substantial took place in my life but the title seriously affected my need to get organized. 20 years later I find myself ready to organize my stuff.
At 50, I was at the height of my career and doing well professionally and earning money that allowed me to obtain many items, travel to many places and enjoy my time shopping or looking at what next to buy. Catalogs for clothing and furniture and anything you needed or didn't need came in the mail and I read them cover to cover. Now in my 70s I find I'm smothering in my stuff. I couldn't tell you what I own now nor could I tell you where to find them. It hasn't changed since I was 50 but I didn't care then. Now my mood goes straight downhill every time I begin a search for something important because I have to dig through so much stuff that was unimportant.
I recognize that I no longer need all the things I own nor do I use them. While I accumulated more and more clothes etc., and it didn't stop when I retired, I also found myself having more moments of frustration when I couldn't find something, when I should be enjoying retirement. Now that my interest lie in what I can experience instead of what I can wear, I was led to a podcast called #Minimalism.
February 1st of this year, 2017, I began a #30-DayMinimalistGame to not only remove excess stuff from my home and personal life but to help me find the peace Ryan and Joshua speak about on their show. They often repeat on their show that "When you clear your space, your mind and your environment, you come to a place where you are no longer burden by your stuff." http://www.theminimalists.com/faqs/
. My first thought was deprivation. and that didn't encourage me at all. Then as I continued to listen to their podcasts and later watched the Netflix movie they made, I heard it said that minimalism is not about deprivation. It's about adding value to your life. And value is what I was looking for so I made the commitment to do it to my group of women friends I meet with weekly. It is suggested that you use two people to play the game, but I did it alone with support every week. It helped a lot because I needed to be held accountable to achieve my goal. I also know that I do better when I have direction, a goal. Each week I reported how I was doing and how I was feeling.
The first few days were exciting and easy. Little did I know what was ahead of me. For years I spoke of not knowing what I own. As I said above, often I had to search through many papers, clothes, unimportant stuff looking for something important. I would get so frustrated, I had to walk away to calm down.
The affirmation I said over and over when really challenryged in this game is "Just Do It" That's all I needed to remember. I think it was Josh who gave this answer to a guest at one of their live shows or to someone who wrote in to the show who was having trouble starting. I found it easy to remember because that's all one heard at running club meetings I attended when preparing for a race or marathon. Thank you Josh and thank you Nike.
By day 8 I had to give more thought to the item I selected to release whereas the first 7 days were done without much thought. I was beginning to uncover clothing with an emotional connection to them like my NYC marathon jacket I bought when I did my first marathon
Looking for a consignment shop, I emailed Crossroads Consignment and requested an envelope to send to them to sell my stuff. I packed up the clothing and costume jewelry placing them in the pre-addressed, stamped envelope provided. All I had to do next was take it to a UPS store. I've done that three times in the month. The other items were donated.
Around day 15, going through some special items I liked required more effort unlike the earlier days. I bought clothes based on popular name brands. I purchased jewelry (mostly costumed) at pretty much every place I vacationed or visited. Looking through the items to be selected for tossing, donating or just sharing with my daughters, I saw a lot of money spent for the pleasurene thing I learned from the many articles I read during this challenge about releasing your stuff, is that I purchased for the instant gratification on many of the things but not all. About 25% of my purchases are still being used and enjoyed. The other 75% of my clothes, trinkets, tools, kitchen wares (I don't even enjoy cooking) were not even familiar to me. In other words I saw things that I couldn't remember where or when I purchased them. I will say now "If you don't remember owning the item you find in the drawer, back of the closet, at the bottom of the trunk or in your attic, it should be released immediately." It's dead energy taking up valuable space in your physical, mental and spiritual life.
Day 19 was difficult. It wasn't about selecting items to remove from my home. It's what happened as I was driving back home after dropping off three heavy bags of stuff at a donation center. I became depressed. I felt like crying. But at the same time I felt good that the trunk of the car was empty. I started seeing shelves that haven't been seen since moving here. I saw empty space and it's scared me. I felt alone in the world. I asked, "Where did I go?" And I answered "nowhere." I feel so different; like I was losing something. Maybe my stuff was a shelter of some kind. I went to bed heavy.
Continuing with the challenge the next day, it came to me that I really didn't go anywhere. I'm still here. It was the old me that left. I was the caterpillar that left and for that afternoon and evening feeling heavy, I was in a cocoon waiting to become. I would say that lasted for about three days but the depression didn't. A release was taking place and I couldn't do anything about it. Nor did I want to. It was okay to be there but I admit, I fought it. When I need to get away from my thinking or feelings I read more than I normally do. Instead of one book a week, I was almost at three. I read without remembering what I last read as I started a new book. I keep books on my Kindle and borrow from the library.I'll add here that I use my Kindle to borrow books from the library. I also have my Audible account that is going to be cancelled (I'm still working on that). I decided to do my 20 items and keep the chin up. Afterall, no matter how bad I feel, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. When "just do it" isn't enough, I remind myself that it's the death of the old me and the birth of a new me.
By day 23 the shelves and sparsely filled drawers were looking good. It was no longer scary. I felt really proud of my accomplishment.
With February having 28 days I continued to March 2nd so I completed the 30 days. And it was so worth it. Day 28 I had a new revelation. I could offer some of my things to my cousin and her teenager. After all, there was a relatively new IPOD I didn't need and once again, used for about two weeks. I realized that I could offer my first marathon jacket to my daughter who is running now and did her first last year. I was thrilled when she was excited to have it.
On the thirty first day, I could have released more things.
I'm not going to do another 30 day challenge soon, but I will focus on 2 major areas that causes the clutter. I will consciously pay attention to what I bring into the house and ask myself "It is adding value to my life?" The other is the overwhelming desire to purchase something. I won't stop window shopping or looking at catalogues that come but instead of buying, I will get ideas on how to create new looks with what I already own.
I am requesting gifts, on those occasions that gift giving occurs, that take me on a trip, or gets me a nice dinner out. I will take a plant (preferably perennial) if offered. If I do receive an item of clothing I'll be sure to remove something old to put the new item in its place.
It's been a great ride and I really like knowing what I own. I don't judge my stuff anymore, especially papers and pictures that still need to be released. If having a clearer mind to remember where I put my passport or even my keys, the peace Josh and Ryan speak of, then I'm there. And so it is.