Recently, I had a CODE Model Coaching™ session with my sister. I’ve been feeling congestion in my chest lately complete with a stuffed nose and a fuzzy head. It’s not that I’ve had a cold. I’ve just felt clogged up. There has been a sense of weight in my chest wall as if someone was sitting on me and restricting my ability to breathe freely. And I’ve been very weepy but haven’t had a clue why I’ve been crying.
We talked about feeling clogged and congested and cluttered and stuffed and stuck. And what I got to, with her complete listening and guided questioning, was clarity.
When my Aunt Marion died, most of her goods came to my mother. Some of that, Mom gave away to family and some of it she kept. I know that she didn’t purge anything from the boxes that were stored in the basement of the house. When my Dad died, my Mom got all of his things AND my Dad was a pack rat. His motto seemed to be, “Why throw something away? I might be able to use it some year in the future.” And so there were boxes of old electrical equipment and outdated cable converters and old head phones and old cameras and extraneous wires – lots and lots of wires! And when my Mom moved, all of that stuff came with her and ended up in the basement of her condo. Then when she died, that stuff was divvied up between my sisters and me. More stuff which came to me and ended up in the basement of my rented condo where it joined all the books and papers which I had been collecting since I was in university.
And there it stayed – alone and unlooked at and gathering dust – until I bought my first condo. Then almost all of it [with the exception of a few pieces of furniture which I gave away and old university papers which I pitched] moved into a storage locker at the movers because I had no place to put all those boxes in my new condo.
That was over 19 years and approximately $32,000 ago! I’ve moved once since then and still those boxes sit in storage. Even last year, when I was seriously thinking about moving out of Peterborough, I got an estimate from the movers for the cost to move everything I own – what is in my condo and everything in my storage locker to my new home. I remember looking at each potential new home and considering where I would put the stuff once I moved. Which room would I designate as the ‘storage room’?
I’ve been weighed down by stuff! It has become a burdensome load. I thought that I had purged things when I bought my first condo. Sure I got rid of a lot, but then I had 17 years in that condo to accumulate more stuff! Then I thought that I had purged things when I retired. True, I did go through everything that I had at school and I gave books and curriculum materials and lesson materials and resources away. But I still took 12 storage boxes of materials that I had accumulated over 33 years of teaching out of the school. Then I sold my first condo and bought a new and smaller one. And again I gave stuff away – furniture and pictures and I pitched so much dusty stuff out. Yet, on moving day, I still had more boxes and bits and pieces put into my storage unit at the movers.
And there it is – taking up physical space. And I’m only really reminded about all of this stuff that clutters my life once a year when I pay the storage bill. It truly has become ‘Out of sight, out of mind.
And it’s not just the books and old furniture and even a decorated Christmas tree that are in my storage locker that I’ve been hoarding! I have a great shoe wardrobe some of which I have yet to wear. As I write this, my oldest pair of shoes [which still fit!] is 48 years old. I have lots of clothes – good quality clothes – most of which I don’t wear anymore and some of which I have yet to wear. I have lots of purses but only use 4 different ones consistently. I have good jewellery but rarely wear my rings or earrings or necklaces anymore. I have a safety deposit box with things that I haven’t seen in over 15 years. I just pay to keep it safe. Stuff! Stuff!! Stuff!!!
Having the stuff around me has meant that I must have some consequence and monetary worth – I mean I bought it all! And having paid for it, well…I can’t just give it away, can I? And, for the things which I’ve inherited – well I’ve believed that I have a responsibility to those who gave it all to me to pass it on to the next generation of the family as if the things were a form of legacy. I’ve also believed that if I were to let what they gave me go, then I would loose my connection to them in my life.
I watch TV shows on extreme hoarders and ask how they could let the stuff become so important in their lives? Yet that’s what I’ve done. I’m just neater and more organized about it.
As I think about it, it isn’t only material things which I’ve been collecting and keeping and hoarding. I’ve also been hoarding relationships with friends and my family. Sometimes I think that I latch onto the people who have been important in my life like a limpet mine. [Think WW11.] I want to keep them close to me and I strive to keep them in my life. I’m afraid to let them go. I fear that I might then be truly lonely. If they chose to leave, I wonder what I’ve done wrong so that they would chose to leave me. I’m even afraid of sharing friends with others! Then I might not be as important to them as I have believed they are to me. And then I might be shunted out sight and thus out of mind and, therefore, alone and left behind.
And in talking with my sister and thinking about it all on the drive back home, I realized that I’ve been holding on to beliefs which do not serve me. I’ve been hoarding them too! Some of the beliefs centered around how I should be and what I ought to think about myself and family. Some of them centered around my personal sense of connection and worth and worthiness. [I know that having stuff surrounding me is tied to that.] Funny that I discovered that I had even set up a ‘new’ belief that I should expect that I will still have to confront the old beliefs, values and attitudes and that I will have to recognize them for the clutter that they are and only then will I be able to move beyond them! Talk about hoarding things!
At some level it seems, I have not wanted to let anything or anyone or even ideas go from my life.
What I know now is that what all of this hoarding of stuff and holding people and things and beliefs close to me has been doing is taking up psychical and emotional space in me.
I have started the process of getting rid of physical things in my life – things which I’ve dragged around with me from place to place. Things which have given me an odd sense of comfort just because I’ve had them in my life but which I don’t use.
When I got home, I set my de-cluttering of my life in motion. I contacted a local church and am giving away all my church music. I’ve spoken to my voice teacher and I’m giving away all my duplicates of music to him. I’ve begun to go through my clothing and remove every piece of clothing which I know that I will not wear. The same thing with my shoes. Garbage bags filled with clothing to the Goodwill boxes and shoes to ValueVillage or the Sally Ann. Then I’ll deal with boxes of books and odd bits of furniture.
De-cluttering my life of the beliefs which I’ve hoarded – beliefs about family and friends and my relationship to them, beliefs about myself, even beliefs about how to let go…that de-cluttering will look different. It won’t be overt. And I know that it is happening in tandem with the physical clearing my path forward.
So, as I continue to move through my own process of getting clear of the old to create space for what I want in my life and to create space for what adds juice and life and energy in my life, I encourage everyone to invest the energy and time and courage in themselves to do the same. It does take courage to overcome the physical and emotional inertia and get started and to keep going. It does take courage to be ruthless to consider every thing and every relationship and every belief for its potential to add to life NOW and, if it adds nothing NOW, to give it away and let it go. AND I know that I am worth it. I AM and will always be so much more than the things I have hoarded in my life.