I have been having a major clean-out of my house. These days, I live in a small inner-city house. After living in a big home for a long time, there were numerous clean-ups to get to the point of fitting into the little house. Three years have passed and it seemed time to reassess what was genuinely useful or beautifying and what was clutter.
I had a large collection of wall pictures acquired over decades, all of which I loved and each had a special meaning to me. My walls were full of them and the rest were stacked in numerous spots in the house taking up valuable storage. They were first on the list for de-weighting. I told myself that just as I had loved them, someone else could love them too or, at least, they could serve a purpose elsewhere even if they were never loved in the same way again. Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t love and appreciate something. It means releasing the thing so that it is free and so that new energy can come into our life. If we surround ourselves for too long with things we have loved for many years, they become stale. Most of the pictures were put on the nature strip over the Christmas period as a present to anyone who wanted them. They quickly found their way to new homes.
I looked at the furniture anew and reaffirmed that simplicity is best. Out went a lounge and numerous cupboards. The next day, I happened to notice the new residence of the lounge. It was sitting on the front verandah of the rented house across the street. I can see it from my desk window. I sent it a blessing, “Be happy in your new home. You served us well. You are a little worse for wear but you are not done yet.”
Unbeknown to me, my daughter was simultaneously cleaning up her own place. After telling me about her clean-up, she said, “Don’t you remember that starting Christmas night and going into Boxing Day and beyond, we would always have major clean-ups as children?” I knew we had periodic clean-ups but I had forgotten when they happened. She continued, “We would take our three bags (one for rubbish, one for storage high in a cupboard, and one for charity) and we would sort out everything in our bedrooms; making space for the new Christmas additions and getting rid of the old.” After a pause, she added, “It’s ingrained in me.” Although I had forgotten the time of year for clean-ups, it must have been ingrained in me too because right on subconscious cue, the sorting began.
Cleaning up our lives is important not just for practicality and aesthetics but, also, energetically. If we want to understand someone, we only have to look at their living space. The things around us are extensions of us, just as our relationships are. A cluttered house will invariably come from a cluttered mind. A sterile house comes from a rigid mind. A friendly place comes from a generous mind. A creative house comes from an imaginative, free mind.
Of course, these decisions are not necessarily all ours to make. We usually live with other people. We may have a hoarder partner who needs patient convincing. If we partner later in life or re-partner then the number of accumulated belongings that we are trying to fit into a single cohabited home multiplies. We may have the need for a lot of work stuff around us. We may have a lot of family members in a relatively small abode or small children with a need for numerous, varied toys and activities. We may have resistant teenagers who need cajoling. One of my sons is strongly minimalistic, even monkish. He has always been that way. I used to have to convince him to hold onto a few precious things for the future. He would put presents he had just received and didn’t want (which for a minimalist is just about everything) into the charity bag before nightfall. My other son hates change and, likewise, has always been like that. He hangs onto everything. Any change in the house is resisted and has to be prewarned and then negotiated through careful convincing that the change will be to his benefit. He only concedes with suspicious caution.
Whatever our home circumstances, we should try to make the spaces which are under our personal control, ordered, peaceful, beautiful, interesting, and open. That can only have a good effect on other family members and may inspire further clean-ups. The energy of a good idea spreads out and has a force of its own. May our sorting, discarding, reassessing, and lightening be reflected in a mind and spirit which is, also, ordered, peaceful, beautiful, interesting, and open.