Why I Purge
I grew up in a home in which often you couldn’t get to the other side of the room because there was too much stuff in the way. Cleaning meant trying to clear pathways and stacking stuff on top of other stuff which lined the walls of every room. Excess “stuff” elicits piles of emotions and memories for me: the fights, my mother’s sickness and need to be in control, the anxiety we all felt in our home. The suffocation. The time she spent frantically going through old newspapers in the garage, in the winter, at 3am, because she had reached her “deadline,” set by my dad. The bags of old newspapers had to go. I remember my dad threatening to move out. And my sister, her high school self, embarrassed to have friends over to see the place. I grieve the lost time. The time spent tending to, fixing, moving, searching for, and emotionally being weighed down by stuff, rather than time spent on what we really cared about most. I know it wasn’t worth it.
Maybe hoarding doesn’t resonate with all of us, but I imagine excess stuff and distraction does. What if we were to think of what surrounds us, whether it be people or things or food or technology, from the lens of the value that it does or doesn’t bring to our lives? Does this ______ remind me of who I want to be? Does it align with how I want to live my days? Is it something that brings me closer to myself, to those I love, to the creator? For me, in a year of much uncertainty and loss, and as I continue to grieve, these questions are hard.
As I’ve more recently acknowledged how lonely I feel a lot of the time, it is clear that the most valuable things to which I could dedicate my time are meaningful connections to those I love and time spent in creation with them. I think of family members, of dear friends, of my beloved, who all live lives of perceived abundance, yet who are yearning for connection, for direction and closeness. I think about my capacity and the disconnect between how I spent my time and what really feeds me. We only have so much time. Make your home, your fridge, your relationships ones that are worthy of it. Henry David Thoreau’s quote comes to mind, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” The hoarding in my childhood home is but one example of the tragedy of life lost. My prayer is that we may have the courage to confront the ways in which we allow for distraction and instead choose a life-giving path.
Purging, the exhale, will only feel like loss, will only breed resentment, will only result in emptiness if we don’t accompany it with its necessary partner. Inhale. The invitation. The opening to something greater. The space for connection. Reach out, together we learn to let go.
*For some great “how-to” tips on purging see Ellie’s post (http://livingenough.com/2015/12/the-courage-to-purge/)