Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Binge and purge...

Some days I buy. I store. I hoard. I binge.
On other days, I sort. I discard. I donate. I purge.
Yesterday was a day of sorting, discarding, donating, and purging.

It all started with me reading another chapter of Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Moving On. A chapter about learning to let go of what is clogging us up, clogging up our homes, closets, pantries, hearts, and souls. She asked the reader, me, to think about the room in my house that I least like to enter. The closets and cabinets I least like to open.

Ironically, in my case it is our family room. The shrine of the television. The PlayStation. The DVD player. And all the stuff that goes along with the electronic altar. There are beautiful dark wood built-in cabinets and shelves in that room. Jammed with videos, DVDs, books, photo albums, games, puzzles, our 100-CD CD player, and all CD boxes for the CDs. Full. Overflowing. Coated with dust and cobwebs. You get the picture.

What has been my response to the mess in there? I ignore it. I avoid the family room at all costs. (Which explains why I missed the ant invasion in there last week.)

So I put the book down on the kitchen counter and went into the family room. Then I turned around and went back into the kitchen - to get two bags for garbage. Attack! Videos of Elmo, Veggie Tales, and Beauty and the Beast in Spanish. Movies recorded from television onto video tapes - movies that we now own on DVD. Empty video cases. Workbooks filled out at conferences we attended more than ten years ago. Jars of jam I stole from the hotel we stayed at in Hawaii on our honeymoon. Empty scotch bottles. Old Matchbox cars.

What on earth was I thinking when I packed up that stuff in Connecticut and moved it all down here to Charlotte? What was I thinking when I unpacked it and put it up on the shelves of our family room? I have no rational answer to those questions, and none is needed. The most important thing is that now those old things are gone, either in the garbage container at the curb or in bags that will be carted to Good Will later today.

From there, I moved my psychic wrecking ball back into the kitchen. Under the sink: old dust rags. Parts of mops that I no longer own. Dead sponges that should have been tossed into the trash eons ago instead of under the sink. Under the two sinks in our bathroom, more of the same. Yuck and yikes. In the linen closet, I found sheets and towels that we have had since before we were married. (For those of you not keeping score at home, this past June we celebrated 15 years of marriage!) Ragged. Threadbare. Unused. But clogging up space is a very small closet. In the homeschool room, I tossed out pencils without erasers and points, old sports team schedules, and random bits of paper that have long since lost all significance.

What I found most intriguing was the abundance of things I discovered in the cabinets and under the sinks. I found cleaning supplies: unused sponges, drain clearers, and a bottle of spray that is meant to kill mildew at the root. I found unused dust cloths and towels. I found blank pads of paper and custom stationery that bore our names and Connecticut address. I discovered a beautiful yellow sunflower journal. I found a stack of cards that explain musical keys and scales. I found boxes of colored pencils which I emptied into pencil cups all over the house. I found 8, 20, and 25 pound dumbbells. I found two unopened 1000 and 1500 piece puzzles. I found a set of king-size sheets in a deep, rich shade of blue. Unused for nearly four years now. Why? Because we no longer have a king-size bed. We now cuddle more closely on a queen bed.

So I wonder: what roots of mildewed thoughts, anger, and despair need to be killed? What words, works of art, and plans for the future need to fill those blank books? What about the old personalized stationery? We can cover it with scrapbook paper and use it to make artful cards and collages to send to friends. From our house to yours.

Kristiana will use the sunflower journal to record her thoughts as she flowers into a teenager - her 13th b-day is the 30th of October. We've all gotta use the colored pencils to fill our notebooks, our journals, and our hearts with colorful, delightful creations. Not just when we are "doing art," but everywhere we find ourselves. Last week, while playing the piano for the kids, I wished I knew more about scales and keys so that I would be able to play better without being completely dependent on the book. Voila!

No need to keep sheets and pillowcases that no long fit any beds in our home - just as there is no need to keep old patterns of thought, old ways of communication that fit our family before we had kids, before we lived in Charlotte, before I became the woman I am now.

And in all that I do, I find that the burdens and weights I am called to carry seem heavier all time. Those dumbbells reminded me that I must get emotionally, spiritually, and relationally stronger; daily workouts are a must. As for the puzzles, they are proof-positive that there are challenges still to come. In Spanish, the word for puzzles is "rompecabezas" --> head-breakers. The Lord knows that there are many head-breakers going on in my life right now, and there are many to come. Actually, we are planning to give the puzzles to one of Kristiana's friends, a buddy who likes to do them. Not me. In games, as in life, sometimes I pass the head-breakers on to folks who don't mind busting their heads over them. I mind.

The temptation is to run out and buy new sheets and towels. To fill the spaces where old videos were with new videos. To buy games we've eyed at Target. To stock up on doo-dads and widgets for future use. To not leave any vacuum unfilled.

For now, I will resist the temptation. Enjoy the empty places. I simply got rid of things we weren't using. The stuff we need and like is still there. From now on, I can and will take greater joy in our family room and in our family. The kids marveled at how much better the shelves looked. Steve noticed the difference as soon as he sat down to worship, I mean, watch tv. (Smile, babe.) Perhaps the time will come to buy fresh towels and replace old sheets, but for now what we have is more than enough. Simply abundant. Abundantly more simple. We don't need a thing.

Yesterday I purged.
Today I feel lighter. Freer.
Less fearful of the unknown hiding in those deep, dark cabinets.
There is room to breathe.
Room to properly store the things that we love.
I know what's in there, what's under there.
I have more than I need.
I have always had more than I need.
Now I can enjoy it all, all the more.

This is the quote that I read in Moving On when I was done with my work and sat down to finish the chapter that had prompted my purge.

"Although I can't prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt,
I believe with soulful certainty that there is
a direct correlation between the amount of
discontent, discomfort, and pain
you are experiencing in your life right now
and the amount of unwanted but not discarded possessions
- or emotional attachments - you're holding onto and storing."


1 comment:

Nancy said...

I think I'll look for that book at the library. I got rid of so much stuff when I moved a little over a year ago and felt so much lighter. But the feeling is gone and I look around and wonder where all the stuff I see came from. Thanks for the inspiration Gail, and keep up the good work!