Did you read the last post about our custom-built dream home? Be sure to read that one – it helped many readers take a step back and objectively question what’s most important in their lives.
The one thing I didn’t mention in that post, though, was about all the “stuff” we accumulated in the gigantic basement of that dream house. When you have the space, it’s easy to fill it. So that’s what we did.
The stuff I had been storing in my grandma’s basement for years naturally ended up in our new house. And Bill’s parents were delighted to give him back all of his childhood things in various boxes since we had the new space. No problem, though. We shoved it all downstairs where we never saw it and didn’t even give it a second thought.
But, when we sold our big house and downsized into a townhome, we had no storage. What to do? We knew we weren’t emotionally ready to deal with all the boxes, and we reluctantly paid for a large storage locker at a nearby facility. Once we moved in to our new townhome, the plan was to slowly go through the locker and sell, toss, or donate most of everything. And of course keep a few things we couldn’t part with.
Can you say “overwhelming”?
Here’s an excerpt from a popular article I wrote several years ago – about my own personal journey – which was published in various magazines titled “I Am Free.” See if you find any similarities in your own story.
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“I Am Free” by Michelle Stimpson, 2005
I did it. It’s done. I can finally move forward. I am free.
Over the last year, I have slowly tackled my past. I had intense counseling, important conversations with loved ones, powerful coaching, and I did some deep reflecting and journaling. But what put the icing on the cake was dealing with the last of the physical clutter and “stuff” that had been like a dark cloud looming over my head for years.
I saved everything from high school and college; I didn’t really have a home-base during many of those years, so everything went into a box. The boxes were filled with letters, cards, papers, notebooks, and all kinds of correspondence from a variety of sources and people. These papers and ‘things’ had been unknowingly holding me back from moving forward in my life.
So my boxes of stuff moved with me from place to place. Some of them were even musty and moldy from being stored in various basements. Too much energy was spent hauling them around and worrying about them. There wasn’t really even much “life” to these boxes…it was just stale energy. But, after dealing with several major life transitions, I was finally ready to confront the boxes head-on.
Because there were thousands upon thousands of things to look at and go through, I was totally overwhelmed. Then I listened to my gut and began to realize that I didn’t need or want to go through everything. After all, if these boxes had been lost or destroyed, I wouldn’t have even known the difference! Can you believe that when the storage manager showed us their great sprinkler system in case of fire, she told us that most people say they wouldn’t mind if the place burned down and their stuff was destroyed?
That spoke volumes to me.
So I glazed through the contents at a pace that felt comfortable. There were select things that I gave special attention to and set aside; some things made me laugh, some things left me disgusted, and other things brought me tremendous joy. Some things I didn’t remember and had no idea where they came from. Much of it all went right in the trash pile.
Before dumping a lot of this stuff, though, I felt a need to put together a general “summary” of my past. It was important to me to make note of certain things and either reflect on them some more, take a picture to hold onto, or share them with Bill or other loved family member or friend. I did some intense journaling of what I learned while sifting through my past, which felt good.
After the exhausting task of finishing up the boxes and getting things ready for our symbolic drive to the local dump, I was compelled to share my story with some of the key people in my life. So, I called my mom. I shared a journal entry with my grandma that I wrote about her in college. I wrote out a card to my Aunt and Godmother, Jane. I sent notes to my friends. I set aside a stack of campus memories for my dearly loved college roommate, Jill, and me to laugh through together.
And, I pulled out a few things that I really wanted to share with Bill who knows me so intimately. I wanted him to know me even more, and I’m glad I made it a priority. We sat by the fire and talked about all of my findings and learnings, and he so eagerly and patiently listened to my stories. He was so interested and was so fully present. I felt important, I felt valued, I felt like I counted. I set aside a pile of things to show him which included a childhood locket with my hamster’s picture, a eulogy I wrote when a dear friend died, a family tree project, a speech I wrote in high school, and a touching letter from my grandpa.
It felt great to formally come to terms with my past. This was way bigger than just throwing away a bunch of boxes. It was so much more than that. It was about me recognizing my past, embracing it, loving it, and being done with it.
I can’t believe how much lighter I feel.
Working on my boxes came at a point when I was ready, and I couldn’t have done it one moment earlier. And getting rid of the clutter in my life that has held me back for so long is certainly an ongoing process.
But in letting go of all of it, I am now able to fully focus on the things that matter most to me. I am truly at peace and living the life that is right for me. I now have the “space” in my life to be me and to move forward – both literally and figuratively.
When you’re ready, you’re ready. And the universe opens up to you in a whole new way with a set of special messages just for you. Yesterday morning, a dear friend sent along a quote by Sandra Sharpe that she probably had no idea I was waiting for. It reads: “What do you pack to pursue a dream and what do you leave behind?”
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What do you think?
I decided to publish this article on the blog because so many of my clients talk about how clutter has impacted their lives. There seems to be a strong relationship between our “stuff” and our “selves”. Often times, it’s difficult to move forward in life until you’ve dealt with your stuff – both physically and emotionally. And of course, that’s where I come in as a Coach. :)
If you could use some objective professional support in clearing out and paving the way, I hope you’ll check out LifeShine!
Lightening your load frees you up to be able to fully embrace the things in life that bring you joy. I can’t think of a better time to start than now. Why wait?