Letting Go of the “Things” in Your Life

I will let you in on a secret that not many people know. In my garage are several (ok probably 10) boxes full of my childhood. In them you will find old stuffed animals and horse statues, notes from girlfriends in junior high and probably t-shirts I couldn’t part with (luckily no old gum or rocks). I have been lugging these artifacts of my past around for almost 20 years and I can’t really tell you why or what I am hoping to do with them. Sure, one day my sons might play with my Ewok Village and Star Wars figures, but I highly doubt either one of my boys will get excited over my old Barbies and doll house furniture. Every couple of years I sort through the boxes again and cull a few more items out for the trash or donation box. Every time I do this I am flooded with memories of playing doll house with my sister or waking up on Christmas morning to the one present I had really been hoping for. It is kind of nice to stroll down memory lane, but couldn’t I still do that without keeping the actual items? Isn’t it time to let them go? Is there a time to let them go?

I know part of me loves knowing that they are still out there and available to me, but the other part just wishes that a fire would send the whole garage up in flames so I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. I’d be sad yes, but I also suspect on some level I’d be relieved. I’m not that little girl anymore and keeping the items almost feels like an albatross around my neck. It reminds me of the scene in the old Jim Henson Movie Labyrinth where the junk lady is just walking around with all her treasured items literally weighing her down and hanging off her body. It’s a burden but yet, I still can’t say goodbye.

I guess maybe I am still hoping for the happy ending where all my childhood friends and happy feelings will be there if I need them. This will never happen if I give the items away. Okay, it may not happen because it is impossible too, but I prefer to believe the  unbelievable.

I recently read a blog (sorry, I can’t remember which one) where the person suggested that the best way to let go of the past, especially childhood memories, is to take pictures, salvage one or two items that truly define that time period, and let the rest go. This is what I will try to do with my memories this weekend. Who knows how successful I will be, but I’ll keep you posted. I might not be ready to let it all go yet, but I feel confident I can make a dent in the pile and at least lighten my load (9 boxes instead of 10?). I like the idea of taking pictures to keep as memories, certainly pictures will be viewed and remembered more often than items in a box.

Childhood memories are the hardest to part with for me . The rest of life’s tangible items get easier and easier to let go all the time . I have two methods of keeping my life clutter free and simplifying. The first is I just don’t buy things. I know you are thinking that is monumentally un-fun, but I have never bought anything that made me feel as good as money in the  bank does. There is no pair of shoes,  outfit, decoration, or toy that has ever lasted longer in giving me the happiness high than about the same amount of time it takes to use it or wear the first time. After that the high wears off and now you just have something that is no longer new, no longer makes you happy but you still have to maintain or find a place for in your life. Or worse you may have to one day let go of it and the unfulfilled promise it once held of making you happy. This is how I refrain from buying things beyond the necessities (I do not consider new clothes a necessity btw)

  • Think about how many hours you have to work to make enough money to buy the item. This puts things into perspective and gives you a better idea of an item’s true value. If you consider you have to work X hours to buy something specific, you may rethink its value compared to the value of your time.
  • Think of how often you might use the item, if it is less than once a week then you probably don’t need it or you already own something that does something similar.
  • Consider if you already own something that does the same thing or fulfills the same purpose. If you own 10 pairs of shoes, you probably don’t need 11. If you have a rice steamer, you probably don’t need a veggie steamer too.
  • Honestly assess if you have room or a space to store the item when you aren’t using it. We have a small house, to bring in a new item truly means we will be displacing another item. If you are already living fairly simply this means you may not have room for the new item.
  • Does the item align with any of your intentional identifiers? Does it help in your creation of your intentional identity? If one of your identifiers is to be a photographer, then perhaps you should hang on to that tripod, even if you haven’t used it in 5 years.
  • Don’t buy it. If you still want/need/or are thinking of it in 30 days then consider buying it, but ask yourself the first 4 questions here first. Be honest with yourself, impulse buys are usually the most disappointing over time.
  • Don’t watch commercials or read magazines, they only make you want stuff you don’t need. I once read a Parents magazine on the treadmill at the gym. By the time I finished my cardio I had figured out I was not only a lazy parent, but my children “needed” a whole bunch of crap I had never heard of before. Don’t get trapped, just don’t read it to being with.
  • If it doesn’t sustain life, you probably don’t need it.

Consumerism is a real problem for most people. We buy items we don’t really need based on a compulsion or belief that the item will make us happy. It is important that you assess the value of “things” vs the value of living creatures. People and animals are always worth investing in, owning the new thing or another gadget rarely is. Really assess your level of happiness and what makes you happy. If you truly feel that only buying new things or owning new gadgets is your source of happiness you need to consider why and how to change your perspective.

As for letting go of what you already have, I suggest simplifying your life. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you own, how big or how small your house is, there are likely items in it that you no longer need or find useful. Nothing feels half as good as purging your house of things you no longer find value in. Nothing feels as cleansing as dropping off a load of boxes to the Salvation Army. The best way to tackle item clutter is to start small in a drawer or closet. Work your way up to rooms and then the house or garage. Consider each item carefully. If you haven’t used it, touched it, thought about it, looked at it, or picked it up in 6 months consider tossing. If you haven’t done those things in a year you absolutely should toss the item. Try not to get nostalgic or convince yourself how you are about to find a use for the item. Trust me, you aren’t. If you aren’t sure and are torn about certain items put them in a box and store it in your garage. Put a date on the end of the box, 6 months out. When the date comes and you haven’t needed the items in the box, and possibly can’t even remember what is in the box, just take it to donate right away. Don’t even open it. You won’t know what’s in there, but that’s ok, that just means you don’t really need what’s in there and you just proved it. Case closed.

I keep hoping my newly cultivated skill at de-cluttering the tangible items in my life will lead to the ability to de-clutter the other intangible things in my life. It seems if you have the skill for one, you should have it for others. I am hopeful of what tomorrow will bring me.

Letting Go- Week 5

Letting go seems to be the “it” thing to do. Whether you are stressed, anxious, sad, or just feeling like you aren’t getting your way, someone will invariably tell you to just let it go and your problems will be magically solved. There are lots of versions of let it go, and all of them are equally vague. Some even follow up with a religious add on like “let go and let God”, which is even more puzzling to me. It is almost like no one really knows how to do it, we just feel better saying it. We all know we should, we all know it will feel better once we do, but in the end no one seems to know how to pull the trigger.

Letting go is not my strong suit so that may be why I can’t seem to do it or to even grasp what people are talking about. People say to let go, but they never say how or when or what I’m supposed to let go of. I could probably identify the what to let go of (we all have things in our lives that are doing us more harm than good), but even if I did, the how would still elude me.

Am I supposed to just stop caring? Just stop thinking about it? Stop trying to improve or change things that aren’t right or fair or good? And if that is what I am supposed to do, then how do I do it? If I could just stop whatever it is, then I probably wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place and no one would be telling me to let go because I wouldn’t be holding anything. This is on par with the woman who is solving her debt problem by overpaying her min balance… uh if I had money to overpay I wouldn’t be in debt.

I have decided that week 5 should be about letting go, because if I never let go then I can never be open to anything new and change in my life is unlikely to happen. There are lots of things I’d like to let go of, but letting go has never been easy for me and it remains one of the most difficult things for me to do no matter what it is I’m trying to let go of.

When I was a little kid my mother would clean out my room every couple of months. She would always wait until I was not at home before she would go through every single closet, drawer, nook and cranny I had. She would organize and throw things away. Before you judge her, let me say what she threw away was most certainly junk or trash that I never used, couldn’t use, or just shouldn’t have to begin with. Whenever I got home to find that her ritualistic cleaning had taken place I would quickly do a mental check on what remained and what had moved on to the great green trash bag in the sky. I would cry and throw a fit about my privacy and how that something or other was my favorite and how could she, but secretly on the inside, I was relieved. It felt good to be rid of the items, it felt good to have space and fewer things to sort through. It felt good to let go of useless items that no longer fit in my life. It felt good to lose them and not be forced to say goodbye or purge them myself. This way I got to reap the rewards without having to do the work. I didn’t have to be the bad guy.

As a child I was something of a hoarder, if you ask my husband he will tell you I still am. What he doesn’t know is how big of a hoarder I was. I used to hoard rocks, not because I liked them or used them, but because when I saw them outside they seemed lonely and cold. I used to save old gum. Seriously, no joke. Big wads of chewed up gum in various colors and flavors all stuck to the top of my jewelry box in a massive giant clump. It wasn’t like I was going to ever chew those again, but I couldn’t throw them away either. It felt like I was telling the gum, “you’re no good, nobody loves you, you are no longer useful”. Perhaps I clung to the gum and broken toys because I knew all too well what it felt like to be neglected or tossed aside for a toy that made more noise or had more flavor.

I no longer keep secret stashes of used gum (thank God) or even broken toys, but I do seem to cling to just about everything else. I am no better at letting go in adulthood than I was in childhood. The only thing I have gotten better at is not acquiring new things in the first place. If I don’t bring new things (items, experiences, people) into my life, then I never have to worry about the day when I might have to let go of them. Nothing lasts forever, but if you never have it to being with then you never have to say goodbye either. If only my mother could just swoop into my life and make the judgment call on what should stay and what should go, I could once again have that overwhelming feeling of a fresh start, of a clean jewelry box, and less life clutter. Unfortunately, I am no longer a little kid, and even if I let my mother cleanse my life like an exorcism it wouldn’t really be me letting go, it would be her. And doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose behind letting go?

So this week I am going to identify what needs to go, in a figurative and a literal sense. I would like to find a good way to let go, one that both respects and nurtures the little kid inside me who would rather compile a mountain of chewed gum than throw it away, and one that respects others and doesn’t do damage to them. I would like to release the burdens I have been carrying around that are no longer productive, useful, or even my burdens. I would like to say goodbye to my fears, anger, frustrations and patterns that continue to prevent me from living intentionally and obtaining the life I want.

I’d like to have the final, last, knock down, drag out fight with every aspect of my life that isn’t working so I can start fresh and build again with better supplies.

Out with the old and in with the new. Gone with the useless and in with the useful. I’d like to say what I mean, be heard, and make change happen. I’d like to find space in my life for the happiness I deserve. I’d like to stop letting others, and their insecurities, dictate how I live and what I feel. I’d like to make my family and myself strong, happy and awe inspiring (of course if we end up being enviable that’s cool too :)). Now all I have to do is let go.

I think we all have things we need or should let go of. I think an uncluttered life is a peaceful life. I think the heart and the mind work better when our lives are simple or simplified. Not having to worry about the minutia of life is a great way to live, and having fewer minutia to worry about is a great place to start. There are several kinds of things that you may need to let go of. I’ve listed some below.

Tangible items

Patterns

Beliefs

Habits

Friends

Family

Notice I didn’t list stress, or anxiety. I mean duh. Of course you need to let go of those, but in order to let go of a feeling or unconscious physical response, I argue you must first let go of whatever is producing that response. And the 6 things listed above are the most likely culprits to why you feel bad, are stuck, anxious, or stressed out. If you can attack the list and find ways of letting go of those items, then the negative feelings associated with them should GO right along with them.

Each day this week I will talk about one of the things on the list and suggest real, doable ways of letting them go.  It won’t always be easy, but by the end of the week I’d like to be free of some things that have been causing me strife, so that next week I have free space to let in or create the intentional life things I choose.  Stay tuned!

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5 Ways Facebook is just like High School- For WOMEN

Seems like I’m reading a lot of studies and articles on the dangers and pitfalls of using social media and Facebook in particular. The studies sight everything from envy of other people’s posts to anguish over seeing an ex tagged in a photo, as being the reasons we all feel terrible after looking at our newsfeeds. Maybe this is why there are so many sarcastic “cards” and images floating out there as well- it breaks up all the behind your back bitching and bends it on its ear to in front of your face bitching, done with a smile and a wink so CLEARLY I wasn’t talking about you- oh so subtly not mentioned in the subtext.

I recently made the decision to limit my own Facebook time to see if it would affect me. One could argue I just took up another platform of social media by starting a blog, but I argue its different because I don’t have to hear about your trips to Europe or see your sprawling mansion but instead I get to indulge in one of my special happy places, writing. I removed the Facebook app from my phone thereby forcing me to go to extra steps to compulsively peruse the lives of others and I found that while I was willing and able of going through those steps my use did significantly decrease- and *gasp* I did in fact manage to live happily not knowing what someone else had for lunch. Interestingly enough, I also discovered that my absence seemed to bother others more than it bothered me and in some weird way- that only women can manage- I actually made enemies of some friends simply because I made a conscious choice to alter my life and pretty much everything in it. Who knew not hitting a like button compulsively like a lab rat could create such imaginary drama? Not this girl. So that was when I realized that Facebook is the new High school.

40 is the new 30 (thank god), Orange is the new black (I really must watch this show) and Facebook is the new High School. Here are the top 5 reasons that Facebook is just like high school:

1. Now you actually get to re-know the people you did know when you actually were in high school. So, not much has changed only now you only have to worry about how your hair looks in pictures and not for 7 whole periods. Being “friends” with people you knew in high school  really only has two purposes, one you missed them and wanted to rekindle some of that old high school juju, or two, you just wanted to stalk around with their permission and laugh at them in private because they got fat, still have a mullet, or married an ugly woman. I’ll be honest with you, and please don’t all my friends from high school get up in arms about this or you’ll just be proving my point, there is a reason people drift apart and don’t reconnect, and that reason is their friendship was based on nothing more than the common school or friends they shared. We are supposed to let go of the majority of these people. That is not to say they don’t have anything to offer to you now, it is just to say that just like the good old days IN high school, Facebook puts a bunch of people together that call themselves friends that ordinarily wouldn’t bother. I’m telling you, don’t believe me? Look at your friends list. How many are high school chums you don’t speak to, see or even have visible on your newsfeed? Yep, just like the halls of high school and as the bell rings we all post our best face on FB hoping someone will finely decide to like us or will feel badly that they don’t.

2. It doesn’t matter what you post, when you post it or why you posted it, invariably someone, somehow, for who knows what reason will decide that not only was your post about them, but it was the worst most hurtful betrayal of all time and they will cut you off, cut you out, or become passive aggressive toward you for no reason. (I imagine this blog post is going to do that too) Hm.. if that doesn’t sound like high school then maybe you didn’t go. I swear I could write a post about my son’s poop and there would be someone on my feed who’d get all up in arms that I was really insulting her on the down low and disguising it as a post about poop but it was REALLY a post about her new hair cut. Trust me it happens all the time, everyday on Facebook. And yes, it is only women who do this. Sorry ladies but I’ve never had a male friend stop talking to me because of a sound bite I post related to me lifting weights at the gym.

3. The popular kids are never going to think you are cool. It doesn’t matter how many photos you post of yourself doing cool things in exotic locations or how fabulous your life appears to be. Unless your last name is Kardashian, or you actually are the worlds most interesting man (after all it has never been his bad), I promise you those kids who dissed you in high school are now dissing you on Facebook. Please stop trying to make them like you. It is a waste of time and effort and odds are if you just lived a genuine life filled with activities and people who really care about you, you’ll be a lot  happier than you ever would have been if the popular people did in fact like you. So do yourself a favor and tell your 16 year old self its ok to have bad hair or be seen without makeup. Tell her she has value and move on. Its just embarrassing for those of us who are your real friends to watch the desperation happening.

4. You will invariably feel worse after logging in to Facebook than you ever felt before you bothered, just like going to high school. Somehow the hours outside of high school were always more enjoyable than the hours inside it. Inside you have to put up with an onslaught of images and words being thrown at you and many of them aren’t very nice. They make you feel like less or make you wish you were more, just like Facebook.. Even if you don’t think it is affecting you, trust me it is. Even just a really cool video my husband shows me of someone doing parcore (sp?)will ding me just a little bit (yes the little fat kid inside me still wants to be cool) because I will never be able to do that and it is so freaking cool. Or the dog video of the border collie doing a zillion amazing tricks making me feel like I’ve let my passion die or at least lost it somewhere because if I was a really cool person I could totally teach my dog how to do those things, after all I used to get paid to do that!. It may not be as obvious as, I wish my body looked like that or I wish I lived there, but it is still happening. It is the human condition to want to experience everything in life (or maybe that’s just me and the hubs) so seeing that others are experiencing something while I sit on my couch eating ice cream just thankful my kids were in bed before 9, makes my life seem dull by comparison. Of course I always forget that lots of people would kill to have a cool husband they actually still love and beautiful little boys like mine-that’s right eat your heart out suckas!

5. This one is probably the most significant one, and again, sorry ladies this is only you. Men really are the better sex- I’m sure I’ll regret ever saying those words. Facebook Is just like high school because you spend most of your time on it trying to unravel why someone is mad at you by becoming some kind of technical forensics sleuth and dissecting the entire history of Facebook. Hm… lets see, lets go back and find the last post she commented on, then lets see if I wrote a post that she might have thought was about her, hm, then lets see if one of our mutual friends wrote something she might have seen and decided was about her but that I somehow was involved even though I was changing a poopy diaper when that was posted. Wait, no here is a post from Tuesday that was posted right after I tried to call her . Wait was that the day I tried to call her? Was I mean in my message? Crap I wish I could hear the message again in case I accidentally had a mental break and instead of saying I miss you lets talk, I really said you fucking suck because you never call me. Wait when did she stop “Talking ” to me. Let me just check my timeline. But seriously my husband has never turned to me after looking at Facebook and said, you won’t believe this but so and so is totally mad at me and I have no idea why.

 

I suppose I could just delete my Facebook account, but I do think it has it’s uses. I have reconnected with old friends and found true soul mates of life on there. I have discovered things about people that make me love them so much it hurts. I have been graced with a collection of core FB friends that bolster me up when I am feeling blue, and not because I post some weird cryptic email about feeling unloved (pretty sure at least 5 people I know will think this is about them), because I don’t do that- Seriously, am I the only one who hears Carly Simon singing? I am terrible at keeping in contact with people just terrible, so Facebook has allowed me the opportunity to remain close to those that matter without having to become a different person to manage it. I am thankful family can see my boys grow up there and that I can see that others are just as lost as me. No, I think I’m on Facebook to stay, but that being said, I now plan to treat it just like I did high school.

Sometimes I’m there, sometimes I’m not. I do not derive my self-worth from anything that happens there. I do not judge my “friends” for what happens there. I do not stay friends with them just to make fun of them behind their backs. I do not assume any post is about me unless my name is actually called out in the post.  At the end of the day, I didn’t like high school the first time, there is no way I want to repeat it and certainly not by choice. I’m not sure why anyone would. I wish everyone on Facebook would do the same; but since it is just like high school it will likely remain largely what it is. A fake environment we all flock too hoping someone will like us and never understanding why they don’t as our insecurities rise as we base our value on how many likes we get.

PS. Um… Could you please like this blog on Facebook? Thanks, I would feel really cool and super special if you did. Better yet, share the post so others will like me, thereby increasing my total self-worth like a hundred fold! PLEEAASSEE!!!! Share and like :) -Tongue firmly planted in cheek, but in all seriousness, if you like it share it, no pressure.

And or those of you too young to get the Carly Simon reference….Yes, “you probably think this post is about you”