For my birthday, my husband gave me a book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’d skimmed it a few years ago, and thought I had incorporated enough of its lessons that I could count myself accomplished — after all I am *so* much tidier than my parents!! But no: this time I actually read the book straight through, and got to work transforming my home — and my sense of self.
The premise is simple, its application unrelenting. The criteria for determining whether clothing, books, papers, or memorabilia should stay in one’s possession is to actually hold the thing, and ask: “Does this bring me joy?” I thought I’d already winnowed my belongings to what was “most important” to hold onto, and surely I’d already considered the “joy” element of each item. But, once again, no. When I followed the instructions to pull every single item of a given category out of closets and drawers and touch them, I discovered how much (unnecessary stuff) I was holding onto. Which is where we get to the crisis part.
What makes this little book so earth-shaking is that it asserts, and I can confirm, that “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” This project was not simply about clearing clutter. This was a quest to shed everything that’s been holding me back from the Me I now want to be. But that process provoked a significant amount of anxiety!
In pulling out all my earlier writings, workshop notes, letters, and books, I felt my attachment to who I had wanted to be rear up for examination. I had gathered all that material because I wanted to know things, and I believed that those sources were clearer and more developed than my own ideas. Letting go of all that (codified, organized) information meant that I was taking a leap of faith, that either I had learned the lessons, or I could learn whatever I needed to know, on my own, through my own experience. I had to talk myself into trusting that I have access now to new information and inspiration — and releasing all of that old stuff was the only way to see it.
On the other side of this process, I feel soooo much better! I’ve asserted faith in my own experience, my own insights, trusting that whatever I need to know or have now will show up exactly if / how it needs to. And my space now beckons with invitations for rejuvenation and creative expression, rather than scolding me with papers and unfinished tasks. Ah, sweet relief!
In response to this post, my greatly respected fellow teacher Idelle Packer beautifully linked my clearing process to the essence of the Alexander Technique: “I look forward to talking to you about trusting what we know, making our lives more spontaneous, and really having fun with our knowledge. After all, we put in the time and did the work to know what we know. Now we can have fun passing it on in new and creative ways. Going through the objects in our home and office appears to be just the right metaphor to lightening up.”