For today’s post, the first of a new year, I thought I would touch on the topic of resolutions and goals indirectly by talking about attachment.
Decluttering: The Harder Part
I posted recently on decluttering, but in that post I mainly talked about consumption habits, i.e. how we all manage to accumulate things (sometimes magically, it seems). But the more obvious part of decluttering is the letting go of things we already have. For me, this involves confronting my paper obsession.
I love books, as you may have noticed. And magazines. And photos. And posters. And letters. And let’s not forget the paper paraphanalia of ordinary life, including but not limited to: receipts, academic records, financial and tax records, Life Hack-style articles, health insurance documentation (OMG, don’t get me started), work history documents, and previous research.
I suffer from attachment to all of these things, even the ones I don’t like! There is some fear in me that “I will need this slip of paper” or that “I will want this book” at some time in the future, therefore I should keep it stored in a binder, on a shelf, in a box.
That Moment of Release
But guess what? There comes a moment when you decide, “No, this book will not get read in the coming year and it’s not worth it to me to drive it across the country in my little car, where space is at such a premium.” After that moment, you look at that book and think, “Why on earth have I kept this so long?”
I don’t know what Buddhism says about clinging to books in the hopes of reading them someday, but I am beginning to understand the teaching about attachment: that letting go of things frees you to think and feel more generously, expansively. In my one small paper corner, I can see the benefit of letting go of that fear, that neediness, and allowing other parts of life to take its place: joy in the moment, self-awareness, reflection on my life purpose.
That feeling of “Why on earth have I kept this so long?” might sound reproachful, but it isn’t. It’s actually funny. Once we let go of something and see it for what it is, instead of the part of ourselves we’ve invested in it, it’s delightfully comical. Magically positive. Just try it, and tell me if you don’t agree.
Shedding Emotional Weight
I have been helped in this process by a strong motivational force: a Chevy Cavalier can only fit so much. This type of crucible may not be available to you at the moment though, so how to motivate yourself to undertake this relentless, ongoing process? Try picturing yourself weighed down by a bunch of rocks, and envision them dropping off of you one by one. What do you feel like after– lighter, right?
Picture what specific lightening you would love to receive, and then keep that in mind as you go through each session of decluttering. In your case, it could be cookware inherited from grandparents that you hate using, or a car that you’ve had forever that doesn’t fit you right, or your kids’ childhood toys that no one needs anymore but are still taking up half of your garage. Choose one thing that has been haunting you– make it a good one– and see what you can do about letting go of that emotional fear of losing it…by actually losing it.
Bonus points if you give it a second life in someone else’s home, but no points if you let that consideration slow you down from getting it out of your space. The goal, remember, is to free your own mind to do bigger, greater things.
Make it an amazing year.