Back in the spring of 2017 I wrote about finding a random box of shoes in my shed. You can check out the details here…
I took care of that box and a number of other belongings that have emerged over the year. And then this weekend, I had a new experience that I suspect is NOT unique to me, so thought I would share with you.
I’m visiting my parents this weekend.
While here, we’ve been working together on de-cluttering a few areas of their house (yes…this approach is contagious J)! We discovered a few drawers of things that belonged to my brother. It was determined that these things could be moved from their prime location, to a box in the basement where he can go through them at a later date (BTW, I don’t always advise this approach because you can end up with lots of boxes put somewhere out of sight and out of mind without being fully dealt with, but it can be a good way to go as a start or if others need to get involved).
As we moved the box downstairs, I said in a very satisfied way something like, “I’m glad that I’ve gone through all my stuff that was here and taken care of it”. And then a little voice in my head said, “Have You?” So, I walked over to the area where my “stuff” had been stored, and I was horrified to see at least 5 large boxes of things that I had obviously NOT gone through in any recent time.
In follow up, I took one box upstairs, and with some trepidation, opened it up. I discovered old school stuff from K-12. My kindergarten journal, elementary school reports, high school essays and the like. Obviously at some point in the past I had gone through things and decided that these items needed to be kept. Fortunately, with the benefit of more time passing and having a new life approach, I was able to look at the things there with much more distance and while I looked at each item and appreciated many things, the only items that will continue on in my life are the kindergarten journal, a journal from about grade 3, a collection of stories written throughout high school and one book I think my 14-year-old daughter would appreciate now. It was liberating to realize that I could let go of all the other stuff.
After that positive experience, I decided to go through the next box the next day.
This time, I hit an internal wall. This box was filled with old journals, baby books, photo albums.
While I was able to take a couple of photographs of the t-shirts that sat on top of the stuff for future memories and then discard, I simply was unable to separate myself from what I found in the box. At the same time, I also knew (and know) that I don’t want to keep all the stuff in there. This disconnect of two equally powerful emotions made me freeze for a few moments. It could have kept me stuck, unable to make a decision, and then caused me to be critical of myself that I couldn’t make a decision (Check out this post on the inner critic for more info on that response…).
Fortunately, I stepped back and re-evaluated my plan.
I took a quick look at everything in the box (here is a photo of a few of the pages in my childhood autograph book from 1979), threw out a couple of obvious things, and then sat in the memories of the others, laughing with my mom, and texting some photos of others to my cousins and friends.
Then I closed up the box and put it back where I got it from.
This is not me forsaking my plan to simplify and say good-bye to things. This is me knowing I’m not ready for this box yet. But I will be ready in the summer when I come back here. Then I will have a car to bring back with me any items that I do plan to keep. Between now and then I will also have worked through why I don’t need to keep it all or how I can keep the things that are really meaningful.
That’s what I believe an authentically simple life is about.
Paying attention to the conflicting emotions and conflicting values that emerge as we take new steps to re-create how we live in the world. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. And if we forsake those old habits too harshly, it might not be as easy to hold to the new ones.
Or maybe I’m just buying time, I’m not sure, but I do know that this summer, those boxes will be done.
So how can this help you? A couple of thoughts…
This post is obviously about physical “stuff”. But the same kind of things can show up in other places in your life. Relationships, work, family, and more.
Where else does this happen in YOUR life? Email to share with me!
My offer to you: If you’re tired of the treadmill you’re on, and you’re ready to tackle that thing in your life that keeps showing up like my “stuff” does, and you want some support, click here to book a strategy call. We’ll talk about what working with me might look like.
To you living authentically,