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Face your clutter and be free

Whew! JoAnn and I have been going through the clutter in our house for the last three months preparatory to our proposed move to Denver, and I'm happy to say we should be finished by early next week. That's when we plan to put the house up for sale.

It's been a laborious and stressful process, in some ways, going through everything we have accumulated over the years and deciding what still belongs in our lives -- and what doesn't.

More than once, one of us has said, "It's a good thing we are doing this now, because I wouldn't want to do it in another five or ten years. We aren’t getting any younger, you know.”

Letting go of RV was hard

Letting go of our RV, a wonderful, magical passport to freedom and adventure that has taken us to California, Oregon, Yellowstone, British Columbia, Texas, and a lot of places in between -- that was a tough one for both of us.

Apart from the fact we’d have nowhere to keep it in Denver, it felt like that chapter of our lives was over.

We called the RV Tanner, because that was the name of the little stuffed bear – a cute guy dressed in a kind of African explorer’s outfit -- that became our mascot on our trips.

We would be rolling along through some great empty space in Texas, and JoAnn would suddenly pick Tanner up and wave him happily in the air and call out, "Hurray for Papa Bear. Hurray for Papa bear." So Papa Bear (that's me) -- who did who did all the driving on our trips -- would feel a charge of new energy -- good for maybe another hundred miles.

Kind of strange, but also magical, how an apparently inanimate object can become imbued with its own special nature and character.

We stood in the driveway watching as the new owner drove off in our RV and JoAnn couldn't keep back the tears -- had a little cry for both of us.

Dealing with clutter key to happiness

But what a necessary thing it is, a crucial thing, from time to time, to go through our “stuff” and make the hard choices about what to keep and what to let go of.

It’s how we stay fresh. It’s how we stay free. It’s how we stay young and happy regardless of age.

I was browsing through Gretchen Rubin's blog at The Happiness Project and this excerpt from one of her posts struck a chord in me.

“One of the most striking things I’ve discovered since starting my happiness project is the influence of clutter on mood. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm; a messy coat closet, for instance, is clearly a very trivial element in life, yet clearing out that messy coat closet gives a disproportionately large happiness boost.

“Over and over again, people tell me that they’ve gotten a huge charge from tackling messy areas. I think it comes from fostering a sense of control, and order, and space, and a feeling of freedom from stuff.

“Fighting clutter, though, is a never-ending battle. I’m always looking for little ways to stop its insidious progress through my apartment. I’ve been trying this resolution, with good results: Clear a surface.”

An important victory

Reading Gretchen's words reminded me of a small but important victory early on in the Fosters' de-cluttering campaign when we cleared away everything from the top of the fridge.

Maybe it doesn't sound like all that much of an achievement. But believe me, it was quite obscene how many useless odds and ends had taken root there -- established "squatters’ rights," so to speak.

We felt a definite sense of accomplishment as we looked at the fridge and saw a clear, pristine surface.

Mind you, we didn’t stop there. We moved on to tackle the awful jumble that had accumulated atop the entertainment unit in the living room.

We allowed only three items to remain: a potted plant JoAnn likes, a beautiful vase that I brought in San Francisco one time and a stuffed raven that reminds me of Joshua, hero of my book, "the Raven who spoke with God."

The story of a vase

Here's an interesting thing about the vase. I was actually going to try to sell it, or give it to ARC, because I brought it during a sad time in my life -- a time when I was feeling quite lost in a lot of ways.

So every time I looked at it, it reminded me of that time when I was feeling uncertain and unsettled in my life.

I told JoAnn about this, but she said, "I don't think you should give it away. It's beautiful. Perhaps you need to change your attitude -- see it with new eyes so that you can appreciate the beauty that is really there."

So that's exactly what happened. The vase didn't change. Didn't need to change. Something in me changed.

Reminds me of that wonderful quote from the British poet John Keats: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Needless to say, all three items are tastefully arranged. They sit on top of the oak wall unit because they BELONG there.

Clearing away internal clutter is door to freedom

Of course, as we have considered before, it's not only external clutter that we have to contend with if we want to know true fulfillment and happiness in this life.

The most insidious, and the most damaging clutter of all is the internal clutter that prevents us from following our dreams or giving our gift – or knowing the truth at the core of our being.

How do we deal with discouragement, or resentment, or fear, for example, when it arises? How do we deal with grief, or uncertainty, the vague, nagging sense that something important is missing in our life?

We take a moment to be still.

We honor the Psalmist’s ancient wisdom: "Be still, and know that I am God."

It only takes a moment of true stillness to sense the timeless divine presence at the core of your being which is already happy, and already free – untroubled forever by any kind of “clutter.”

Picture credit: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3479/4079078904_4a6d8f7f48_m.jpg


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