The Joy of Less
My husband and I separated in 2010. I moved from a 3000 square foot house in upstate New York to a 1000 square foot house in North Carolina. It was challenging to find a place to put everything but, somehow, I found room. There was much to adjust to in terms of living alone and making a home for myself. I was grieving the loss of 31 years with someone and it often seemed overwhelming. Looking at all my “stuff” was part of the work of letting go. I began a long process of going through every possession I had to determine what to keep and what had to go. Any item that brought up a negative feeling or memory went to a bonfire or the thrift store. I let go of family items from deceased relatives that I had clung to because of the memories.
The process of going through boxes, drawers and closets brought the realization that many “things” were purchased on a whim or because they were a good price. This process seemed to lift a weight from me that I didn’t know was there and stretched out over 5 years. I felt lighter with every trip to the thrift store. I experienced a marked improvement in the feeling of space in my home. There was a wonderful satisfaction of knowing what I had and where it was. I started letting my intuition guide me as I repeatedly went through drawers, closets, boxes and bookshelves. It seemed like items would jump out at me saying,”take me, take me”. It became fun to give by intuition. I would get a hunch that a friend or family member could use an item and was usually right on the mark. That became the fun part of giving.
I realized that I sometimes purchased items to fill a need in me, an emptiness. This realization brought me to healing tears. My emotional needs could never be met by a “thing”. These needs could only be met by me or through loving relationships. Advertisements show all the time how their products bring joy, energy, youth, happy relationships when one uses them but it’s all a part of the need to sell. I also disconnected my cable service which drastically cut down on any influence of advertisements.
My mother grew up during the depression. Her father died at a young age leaving her mother to raise children on her own until she remarried. Needless to say, she had challenges providing for herself and her family. My mother carried the imprint of this experience into her life with us. She kept two freezers fully stocked and the cupboards always had two to three of each item at all times. There was always lots of food in my house growing up. I went on to have my own family and continued to pattern. At first, it was a freezer and then I had a pantry; both were fully stocked. I then went on to having an extra refrigerator in the garage. I would fantasize about going to the grocery store with an unlimited budget so I could stock up on everything. It seems a little crazy when I reflect back on it. I had to go through the pantry to see if any items were past the expiration date which took time. It seemed even crazier when I started living alone and decided to stop stocking up on food. I allowed my cupboards and refrigerator to have space in them just like the rest of the house. I noticed that I felt calmer about the whole arrangement. Space does create peace. The letting go of “stuff” or dropping out of society’s race for accumulation is a relief.
I once worked with a woman who seemed to frequently get deliveries from clothing companies at work. She always looked fantastic and I complimented her on her outfits. She told me that every closet in her house was jammed packed with her clothing and that she didn’t even know what she had. I didn’t reply but I walked away recognizing that she was caught up in the accumulation frenzy. I went to help a friend sort through her closets and drawers. She told me she hadn’t done this since her first marriage. She had clothes in sizes she hadn’t worn in years. She admitted that it was emotionally hard for her to let go of anything. I hauled large garbage bags of clothes to the thrift store and she admitted it felt much better after we completed the cleaning.
It seems like many people could benefit from simplifying their lives. There’s a lot of joy in the giving and in the space that is created by doing so.