Sunday, April 01, 2007

Why We Keep Things: Part I: Aspirations

As anyone who has read a book on organizing or decluttering, there are many reasons why we keep things. Of course, 'reasons' may not be the best term, because so many of them aren't actually 'reasonable' but rather imaginary or irrational. Still, let's proceed with that term for the moment.
Of all the reasons, there's one that has been rumbling around in my brain lately. It's the one that has us keeping those old magazines, that shirt that we bought but that doesn't quite fit, those tarot cards or yoga mats. They're the things that represent someone we WISH we were but aren't. Those things are the tangible expressions of our aspirations. Who we want to be. And what we actually do with them, allow them to sit in closets, exist stuffed on shelves or corners, hide in the garage. Think of those things not as items but as the physical manifestation of personal traits. We wish we were the type of person who would take their yoga mat to the park at six in the morning and do asanas. We wish we could always be stylishly dressed. We wish we could creatively express ourselves, through art (those dried out watercolours we bought in a fit of inspiration and hope), tarot or other divination tools, musical instruments.
In the meantime, while we continue along the same paths we've always taken, those wishful things sit and sit, waiting for us to be that dream person. The hard truth is that, if we actually do want to become that 'dream person', we need to let go of the present. The ruts we are stuck in include the clutter. The dream things are clutter until they're actually used. Until we become happy and content with the person we are, the fears that hold us to our old paths will rule. Letting go, not of our dreams themselves, but of the physical things we told ourselves represent those dreams, will actually allow us to truly pursue them.
Free of the clutter that keeps us stagnant, we may actually have the space in our lives for that morning downward facing dog, for an hour spent reading that tarot book or sketching the local wildlife.
So, don't let fear dominate. Don't let those dreams and wishes keep you stuck. Reach into your closet and let it all go. Let it go. And suddenly, there is room for joy to come in the door.


clutter buddy said...

This is one of the finest pieces of writing that I have read in a long time! You know that I have read many, many books on clutter and this is the first time I've heard it put this way. We all know about the reasons we keep stuff, the 'just in case', 'i paid good money for that', etc, etc. This is a new way of looking at it that makes perfect sense. It might still be a tough leap of faith, but thinking about it this way might make it easier to get rid of some of that really hard clutter, the stuff that is just really emotionally STUCK!

Well done!

M said...

This is a wonderful, enlightening post. I'm one of those folks with a yoga mat in her closet that is still unused in the box! Thank you for another perspective on why we keep things. I think this will help me with those hard-to-part-with items as we get ready to move soon. Take care.

Beth said...

Wow, This really makes alot of sense. I'm glad I can still glean bits of wisdom from your journey.
I need to go fling something, in your honor.
Miss you.