My husband and I are piecing together a two-year plan to sell our house and buy a new build. Right now we are patching and painting. A fresh clean coat of paint always makes me feel good but it also accentuates the old things in our house – the old doors, the old lighting fixtures, the old faucets, the old bathrooms that really need to be remodeled. Like I said, we are at the beginning of the plan so a double remodel really isn’t an option. But clearing out the clutter is.
It is amazing to me how much stuff we accumulate through the years. As a child I was taught to never throw anything away. Birthday cards from ten years ago? No, you need to keep those because someone who loves you gave them to you. Smelly old shoes. Nope, you need those because some kids don’t have any shoes at all. Pay check stubs? Well, your social is on them so you need to keep them or go outback and burn them so no one can steal your identity.
Okay, funny side note. Shortly after my husband and I were married he found me one day in the back yard burning a pile of pay check stubs (because this is what you do, people!) He just stood there dumbfounded not knowing what to say and probably thinking, “What did I get myself into???” We bought a shredder shortly after and I haven’t burnt anything since.
But back to my own house and the stuff. I got sick of it all – piles of mail, stacks of books we were never going to read, grease covered kitchen appliances we didn’t use any more, old t-shirts that were white a very long time ago – and began the arduous task of throwing things out. It felt like I was stuck in massive piles of taffy. It was hard to move and sometimes hard to breathe. Why was it so hard to simply throw crap away?
Guilt. Shame. Regret.
These feelings were deeply intertwined into the useless items and I had to face the feelings in order to fill the trash can.
The throwing away process has actually been going on for sometime now but I had a moment of absolute clarity the other day that has changed the way I approach almost everything now.
While searching through a giant box of photos for my California vacation photos I wanted to include in my last post, I came upon a familiar thick envelope. The memories flooded back in a second. A group of my friends in our early college years decided to do a roundabout trip to California and invited me to go. I was aching for the ocean and really wanted to go but – for reasons that are stupid and that I don’t want to get into – I told them I couldn’t go. A friend took a bunch of photos during their trip and gave them to me when they got back. It was a sweet thing for him to do but it brought up feelings of anger every time I looked at them.
I realised I didn’t go on that trip because of fear. Considering my living situation at the time – think Rapunzel asking mother Gothel to take her to see the floating lights – it was going to require loads of courage to go. Courage I couldn’t muster at the time. Sitting there, feeling the anger and regret seep back into my bones, I asked myself, “Why do I still have these stupid photos if they make me so angry?! I am not the same girl I was back then. This is shit and I’m done.” I stood up and promptly threw each and every one in the trash. Then began to breathe again.
Do you remember that Switchfoot song, This is Your Life? Jon Foreman asks, “Are you who you want to be?” I ask myself that question all the time because I can’t stand who I used to be – small, afraid, easily controlled, filled with guilt and regret. Today I’m not who I used to be but I’m also not everything I want to be.
I still need to face uncomfortable emotions tied up in the junk around my house. I still fight to quiet my vicious inner critic when I sit down to write. I still drag my feet when it comes to working out and eating healthy. I still wrestle fear when there is something I need to tell my husband I know he won’t want to hear. I’m still terrified to go on new adventures.
So the question I ask myself when I’m throwing things out, or procrastinating on writing, or ordering food, or approaching an argument with my husband, or contemplating foregoing an adventure because I’m terrified something is going to go horribly wrong?
Is this going to help me become the person I want to be or is it going to hold me back?
Now I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution or that it is easy. It is not easy. But it is a good place to start.
What about you? Are you who you want to be? What do you need to throw in the trash? What do you need to do to be able to breathe again?
I’m sending you strong and courageous thoughts, friends.
Pardon my upcoming French but let’s fuck that old moldy shit, stand up, and be who we were ment to be.
Peace and strength to you my friends!