Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I wake as a child to see the world begin
– John Denver
Going away from home is a good way to review your life from a distance. As you probably know, I have been away for three weeks to visit my family and new nephews (and they were awesome – I want to scream from excitement just thinking about them). As I was all by myself and had many quiet moments to think, it was a very good time for me to examine my life.
Things you notice when you are out of the routine of daily life cannot be easily recognized when you are in one place. That is why we have to get moving from time to time. Taking a step back has allowed me to notice many things. I think this is why people invented time off. It is the space between work, kids, house, cleaning and managing our finance which makes us appreciate what we have. That space is nearly as important as the rest of our time.
Vacations are such great spaces. Every time we take time off, go on a holiday, camping or a weekend away with friends, I come back recharged, motivated and appreciative. I think we really do need to build spaces into the weekly, monthly and yearly routine.
As we approach the end of the year and it is time to have the “closing ceremony” and review what we have achieved, I found out during my visit that there was a neglected section in this whole New Year celebration and that was creating space for the New Year to enter.
I have been writing for many years about goals and motivation and purpose and why we have to know where we want to go if we want to get there (by the way, if you want to get to 2011 you need 2010 wishes for the new year – the more you write, the happier you will be). However, during my visit, while I was away from my daily routine, I realized that many people are stuck in the rut. The more aware people have goals, but only few make the effort to open the door and allow the “new” life to enter.
The idea came into my mind when I visited my parents and discovered the house where they had raised 4 kids was now too small for only 2 people, because it was full of boxes, blankets, appliances and clothes that could dress a whole battalion.
When I opened the fridge, I was shocked. In the packed mess of boxes and jars, only my mom knew what was in the depths of her fridge. They are only 2 people, but they still buy and cook for 7. You see, my parents’ house was so full of things they had been collecting and holding on to for years, those things did not allow anything new to enter their life anymore. They had blocked themselves.
Years ago, when we lived in California, we had a friend who was going through a marriage breakdown. Rhonda and Joe loved each other, but were not very happy and separation was one of their options – a tough option, because they had two kids.
Rhonda, who was very “alternative” in her approach, searched for a cure to their relationship breakdown, until a woman told her they were unhappy because their house did not have the right energy.
I remember how we laughed about it. That woman, I believe she was a Feng Shui consultant, told her to buy new furniture and donate or throw away the old ones. She also told her to throw away anything they had not used for 2 years to “clear the energy” and “freshen things up” at home.
“And how will wasting thousands of dollars help your relationship with Joe?” I asked Rhonda.
“Well, this is what she said. Some of the things we hold on to get us stuck and we need new furniture to allow new energy to come in”.
“I didn’t know furniture had energy” I said.
“Everything has energy”, Rhonda said, “Don’t you feel happy when you buy something new. This is ‘new’ energy”.
“I am very happy when I buy something new”, I said, “But I personally would rather buy things in smaller chunks to keep me happy the whole year, rather than spending all my money at once”.
“Well, I told her the same thing, but she said the problem is not buying new things but getting rid of the old and because it is harder, we tend to avoid doing it. We buy in small chunks and move the old things aside, but the old energy is still there”.
“We buy things to enjoy them, not to get rid of them”, I said.
“But when we do that, we change the balance between the living space and the possessions. It is like ordering new furniture and not opening the door for the delivery man to bring them in”, Rhonda explained. As a very alternative person, she had given the subject a lot of consideration.
“When we buy things, we buy to keep them for as long as we can. Don’t we?” I hesitated.
“There is no problem with buying things that will last for a long time, as long as we use them and they make us happy. If we use them, their good energy lasts, but when we buy new things, we need to let go of the old. Trust me, it is a torture to do it bit by bit. It should be easier to do it all in one go. If you can’t get rid of your old things, you end up accumulating things and have less living space and more ‘dead’ possessions”.
As she said that, I immediately thought about myself (which is what we all do with the things people say to us). We had moved to Texas with 5 suitcases and two years later, we had moved to California with a full U-haul truck. Within only two years, we had accumulated a lot of stuff.
I thought about it and tried to pick things I could get rid of in my mind. It was tough! I only did it in my mind, but I already felt the pressure. “Well, we must have a dining table… we bought the beds only two years ago… and the TV we ordered especially from New York”, I thought.
“Can’t you just get rid of some of the things in the house or change the upholstery?” I asked Rhonda. It was funny, it was not even my house we were talking about, yet I felt so bad for her.
“No. Changing the surface is like patching your house. Underneath, you know it is your old sofa. A new cover is good for cheating visitors, but everyone who lives in the house knows what is hidden”.
“OK, you’re right”, I said, “But we’re talking about furniture. How is that linked to your relationship with Joe?”
“If we are accumulators, we do the same with emotions. We keep old emotions and do not allow new ones to enter our life. Imagine that our furniture absorb the emotions of the people living in the house. If they have experienced joy and laughter, we can keep the furniture longer, but if not…”
It made me think of the furniture in our house. We had been accumulating them for two years and they probably held much of our sorrow (see 35-hour baby).
“But isn’t it too expensive for you?” I asked.
“It’s not worth more than our relationship”, Rhonda said.
Good point. Besides, when Rhonda had first told me about their relationship breakdown, I had immediately imagined court battles and lawyers paid by the hour. Nothing would more expensive than that.
About a month later, we moved to Thailand. Rhonda and Joe changed all the furniture in their house and lived happily ever after. Seriously. It has been 14 years since then and they are still together, quite prosperous and very happy.
During my visit, 14 years after Rhonda and Joe’s home makeover, I managed to find the correlation between letting go of old possessions and letting go of hard feelings and allowing the new to come in.
Two weeks before the end of the year is a good time to plan the new year with fresh new goals, with new desires and with new tactics to achieve them, but they cannot enter your emotional home if you do not clear enough space.
The world around us is a reflection of how we see ourselves.
Because they are so linked, when you change one, you change the other
– Ronit Baras
How to clear your mental space
- Go over your clothes and give to charity all those you have not worn for three years. An empty closet will make it easier for you to buy yourself new clothes and recreate your self-image.
- Go over your kitchen cabinets, look at every pan, fork and container and ask yourself, “How many times have I used them over the past year?” If you have used something once, twice or even never in a year, maybe you do not really need it. Clear the space for items you use often and enjoy them often.
- Go over your book shelf and find the books you will never read again (especially old text books). Give them to the local library (yes, it is tough, but it will make you feel better). My math teacher gave us exceptional sample lesson plans, like pure poetry. I kept them for a long time and then I have realized I never looked at them, because every time I needed a lesson plan, I wrote a new one based on the new circumstances. Cookbooks are another wonderful example. I have a book where I keep all the recipes I have tested (tasted) and liked. In the last two years, I have found all my new recipes on the Internet. If you are like me, do not buy cookbooks, because their energy will not last long.
- Go over things in your house that need fixing. They are keeping broken energy that needs attention around you and create a sense of imperfection and neglect. If you do not need a broken item, throw it away. If you do, fix it or throw it away and buy a new one.
- Once every 3 months, play an imaginary game of moving to a new house and clear your fridge and cupboard. I have lived in 20 houses in my life and many of my moves were to a new country, so it is easy for me to imagine this. The shopping you do afterwards will give you a wonderful feeling of renewal.
- Live by the Gin Rummy rule. Every time you buy a new piece of clothing, furniture, appliance, tool or book, you must also get rid of an old one. If you find it hard to let go, imagine you are playing Gin Rummy and you can only hold a set number of items in your “hand”. Choose the things you are willing to give up in advance.
Happy New Year! May you have many wishes and may you have the space to let them in.
Until next year, be happy in life!