Soul Clutter

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By Dave

 

I had one project this summer,

Only one mind you,

But it was a doozy.

 

The job was to clean the house.

And no, I don’t mean clean

Like sort the mail or do the dishes

Or find a place for that box of childhood memorabilia.

 

The kind of cleaning I’m talking about

Is a deep, thorough, down to the roots,

Touch absolutely everything you own,

And determine whether you need it,

Someone else can have it

Or the trash truck gets to devour it the following Tuesday

Kind of cleaning.

 

It’s the kind of work you put off until next summer

And the one after that and the one after that.

Because it’s the kind of work no one really wants to do.

 

Who wants to go through every single thing they own,

Weigh it in the balance of need versus want

Versus guilt because you spent good money

On something you haven’t used since who can remember when?

 

Box after box, bin after bin,

Is consigned to a trip

To the local charity giveaway store.

 

You fill your car’s trunk a dozen times

But it’s still not enough,

Not enough to shed years of detritus,

Items that have outlived their usefulness

But are still protected by the self-delusion

That they must be saved at all costs,

Including your sanity.

 

But when the work is done,

And the rooms are clean

And everything, every single thing

Has a home of its own,

Then the work,

Both mental and physical,

Will have been worth it.

 

While this is true for the clutter in your home,

It also is true for the clutter in your soul,

The things that cling to you like barnacles to a boat.

 

Worries, fear, insecurities—

These all fill the rooms of your innermost being,

Crowding out and covering over

The good and precious parts of your true self.

 

We hold on to them out of obligation, out of guilt,

Out of the habit that tells us we absolutely must do so

Because we deserve no better.

 

The poetic charge of Thomas Jefferson

Compels us to pursue happiness,

But we assume that command is for ones far more deserving.

 

For us, the simple ones who live ordinary lives,

We trudge on from task to task, from sleep to sleep.

Doing what comes next without thinking about

What should come next.

 

What would it look like

If our souls were as clutter free

As the homes we have chosen to clean?

 

Would we find the Joy that went missing

When the Drive and Purpose were given up for lost?

 

The outer affects the inner

As does the inner impact the outer,

An infinite loop of possibility or perdition.

 

So, clean up. Clean up, I say.

Inside and out, make it all clean.

Declare war on clutter, as it has declared war on you.

 

And, when you get buried

Under literal and figurative piles

Of debris and remnants of the past,

Remember these words,

Chanted by So Cal sports fans for years:

“Fight On!”

Sorting Wheat & Chaff

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Creative Commons photo by Orangeaurochs 

By Dave

One of the biggest challenges when minimizing your life is that you have to really think through things as you are sort the stuff that fills your closets and drawers (and floors and chairs as the case may be). What do you keep and what do you discard (or donate)?

If you set up a criteria for things you will hold on to or pass on to others (like my brilliant wife has), this makes the job much easier. Something as simple as 1) Do you love it? 2) Do you use it? 3) Can it be replaced easily and affordably if the need for it arises again?

Sentimentality, however, tends to be your primary foe when it comes to this battle. Being careful and thorough in this process can help you give/throw away that which you do not need and keep that which you might have discarded. Here are a couple examples from my own decluttering journey:

My Class Key —Yes, I was one of those people who bought whatever my class ring company was selling (Well, not everything, but who can resist a class key?). For someone who desperately wanted to be popular, this item was tailor-made for me. But I am not that lonely teenager any longer, so when I came across it again, I should have discarded it immediately. Instead, it clung to me like the One Ring to Gollum. But, as my bride astutely pointed out, it must have not been that important if only the day before I couldn’t have told you I still owned the item. If it hadn’t mattered to me in years, there is no reason to think its intrinsic value would magically blossom from this point forward. 

My First-Year Teacher Journal — I was sorting through old files and throwing away as much outdated paperwork as I could, when I came upon my file for my teaching credential program. Discarding the teaching evaluations from that very difficult year was easy (actually, I shredded them as a form of therapy) and I was on the verge of getting rid of everything else when I came across my required journal entries for the spring semester.

My first reaction was to dump them in an attempt to forget the pain of that year. Thankfully, I decided to read them one last time, and I was so glad that I did. All of the passages gave me brief glimpses into the struggles of that year, but the final entry of the year was so eye-opening. Those couple of paragraphs were filled with my hopes and fears for my teaching career and spoke to me in way few other things could. Had I been hasty, these thoughts would have been resigned to the recycle bin. But a few extra minutes kept this important document preserved for my career scrapbook album and for posterity.

So, when rifling through the accumulated detritus of your life, feel free to take an extra moment or two to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Not Quite the Perfect Number

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By Dave

Like many guys I suppose, I love a good message T-shirt. Whether it is showing my love of a particular TV show, a place I have travelled to, a college I attended (I went to several) or support for the high school where I work (and because the latter are often free, I am happy to take one), I rarely pass by a cool tee without checking for one in my size.

This led to my collection of 42 message T-shirts (If you are a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you probably are geeking out right now). I knew I had “a bunch,” but had no clue how many that was.

The problem was that all of them had a special memory connected to them. Perhaps they were not worth the $15-$20 or so I paid for each (sans the free ones, of course), but they were important to me at one time for one reason or another.

But I had to come to terms with the fact that they were not all important enough to keep, particularly since many of them were fading, chipping or pilling. I could keep the memory of the shirt without the actual shirt, so into the trash or Goodwill bag they went.

Shirt after shirt, memory after memory, was gently retired.

In the end, 20 shirts remained. Besides the fact I normally wear collared shirts to work, I realized a very important fact: I am an adult and probably should dress like one. While fun, I don’t need clothing of my past when they don’t reflect my future.

And the extra closet space is a nice, added bonus.