My project for this spring is to get rid of all the stuff I don’t need. I’ve been reading Feng Shui and come to the conclusion that a radical decluttering is the only way to create a spot of clarity in my mind and clear out all the stagnated energy in my life. However, giving up your stuff can be hard to begin with. My hoarding problem is mainly caused by the fact that I like making stuff out of reuse materials, and I save every bit of material that seems to have potential, often only resulting in wasted closet space.
So I started easy: clothes that are too small, colours I can’t wear anymore because they don’t go with my new hair, dresses that only suit one occasion. Books I’ll never read again, CDs whose contents are on my laptop in a digital form, random objects I didn’t even remember I had. Those kinds of things are easy to get rid of and make a significant start for the project. But only a start. Because the real difficulty of decluttering, and I believe this is more or less the same with everyone, is this simple thought: What if I’ll still need it some day? You know what you’ll surely keep, you know what you can surely get rid of, but the inbetweeners usually take the flow out of the entire project. Jeans that might still fit some day, a skirt you might still find a matching top for…you know what I mean.
But I found an unexpected inspiration to finally overcome my doubts. When I came across this quote by Paulo Coelho, I made an instant association with my de-cluttering project.
“In life, a person can take one of two attitudes: to build or to plant. The builders might take years over their tasks, but one day, they finish what they’re doing. Then they find that they’re hemmed in by their own walls. […] Then there are those who plant. [U]nlike a building, a garden never stops growing. And while it requires the gardener’s constant attention, it also allows life for the gardener to be a great adventure.”
Consumerist culture is like building. You collect a wardrobe full of beautiful clothes and stuff the advertisers make you believe will enhance your life in various ways–and in the end you’re imprisoned by the stagnated life energy and the material possessions you can’t part with.
On the other hand, someone who takes the attitude of a gardener in their life will know that all material possessions are only borrowed. They can buy everything from recycling centres and second-hand stores, thus saving a lot of money (and natural resources!). When they no longer need something, they can return it to the cycle of reuse, giving the object a new life. Everything they have was once the property of someone else and will belong to yet another person after they are done with it; the gardener won’t have an emotional attachment to the object because they know they don’t really own anything.
Because, really, what’s the use of having hoards of unused stuff clogging your storage space and stagnating your energy, just because you don’t know what you might still need some day? When you sell or donate all that, someone else will make better use of it. Like the old skirt that was being eaten by moths in my grandmother’s attic and that I now wear as a dress. And now that I got a new dress I had to give up several items of clothing in exchange, to keep the process going. As clothes are my biggest issue in decluttering, I found support in another quote by the same author:
”Everything that contains our energy should be in constant movement.[…] Get rid of any clothes that were not intended for you [and] wear all the others. It’s important to keep the soil turned, the waves crashing and all your emotions in movement. The whole Universe is moving all the time, and we must do likewise.” (Brida, 2008, p.121)
Decluttering your home and clearing out your storage space shouldn’t be a New Year’s resolution that you keep for the first two weeks of January and then leave the project unfinished. Keeping the soil turned should be a permanent way of living. All those Feng Shui articles promise that when you clear out the space in your home, energy will start flowing freely and your life will become easier and happier. I haven’t yet experienced the long-term effects, but today I called the local recycling centre and had their van pick up four big cardboard boxes full of stagnated energy, and I could truly feel the good, fresh energy flow in. Actually there isn’t much left anymore, but at least I now only have clothes that I wear constantly. To keep the waves crashing and the soil turned.