Many people I know are in the process of sorting through and letting go of mountains of possessions--either their own or their parents' or other relatives. That is the reality of this time of life, and the process (Note the word "process.") can be daunting and laden with regret.
Why haven't I done this before? Why did I gather all of this in the first place? There is a tendency to scold ourselves or the parent who has closets packed full--scary full! Or there can be the tendency to ignore--to be aware of all that is hidden away or even in plain view, but not wanting to tackle it.
Decluttering, Shedding Our Stuff
What we have accumulated, mindlessly or not, has been gathered over the years, decades for most of us, and there is no reason to believe that simplifying our stuff will happen over night. Not unless a dump truck pulls up in front of your house and you indiscriminately dislodge your hold on everything you own.
Although there are lots of books to help you figure out how to sort and disperse and prioritize and let go, such as Organize for a Fresh Start, Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life by Susan Fay West http://organizeforafreshstart.com and SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, A Four-Sep Guide to Getting Unstuck by Julie Morgenstern http://www.juliemorgenstern.com/Products_Books_WOIE.php, no book will do it for you. At some point you have to open the closet door and make decisions and DO IT.
Moving into a much smaller house makes this process a necessity, and frankly, I welcome it, even though it takes time and energy and focus to cut through all the layers of accumulation.
Creating a Not So Big Life
What I realize is that with the sorting comes evaluation and reflection. And that's where The Not So Big Life, Making Room for What Really Matters by Sarah Susanka http://www.notsobighouse.com can be a touchstone and guidebook. Susanka, an architect and visionary of the "not so big" philosophy in homes, encourages us to "identify what stands in the way of living the way we'd like to be living," and suggests that our "love affair with stuff is a surrogate conceited by our heads to obscure the real longings of our hearts." Perhaps that seems harsh or that it doesn't apply to you, but now is the time to ask yourself "what would happen if we stopped to consider the possibilities inherent in the word 'enough'?
In this book Susanka addresses not only our accumulated stuff, but also how we use our time and energy. She proposes "life-remodeling," and not just house remodeling, because "the real problems are not the ones we can name and therefore do something about with relative ease, but the ones that are hidden from view…to make your life Not So Big means to be free from the driven, automatic behaviors that keep you asleep at the wheel, while propelling you willy-nilly through your daily routine."
I think of the Buddhist term, "Hungry Ghost," which is a metaphor for the part of us that is always unsatisfied and ask myself the question, What does the decluttering in my life free me for--not just from?
Reading the Susanka book reminds me that it is not enough to reduce the stuff in my life, but that I need at the same time to discover what is truly life-enhancing for this stage of my life. I am someone who thinks chronologically--first I get rid of x, y, z, and then when I have cleared the physical space, I can explore what is fulfilling now. Instead, this is a time of "both…and."
How does one do that? Well, no surprise, Susanka recommends creating stillness in your life, meditating, and being intentional about deepening your acquaintance with your true self. The paradox is that living a life in line with your true self means setting aside the attachment we have to our "small self." The Not So Big life is actually one that is vast, limitless and without our own self-imposed boundaries and lowered expectations.
How exciting is that! Bring on the dumpster and create more room for life!
What a good New Year's book this is and one that can accompany you with its wisdom and guidance throughout the new year. I would love to hear what living "the not so big life" would mean for you --and how your own decluttering is proceeding in your own life.