Coach’s Challenge for 2-23-14 “Sorting Out”

Good day team,

This week’s challenge is about the physical and psychological benefits of keeping what we need and shedding the rest.  I’ve spent the last two weekends helping others do just that.

My mother-in-law passed away recently. And last week, my husband and I made a trip to visit my mother on her 87th birthday. Both events involved a process of sorting through their belongings, deciding what to keep and what to give or throw away.  The burden that comes from keeping things that simply take up space became clear. A personal space can become like that junk drawer in the kitchen –  so full you can hardly open it.  The experience of ridding oneself of unnecessary, seldom used, and no-longer-useful stuff is liberating.  It opens up the space around us and allows for a  more expansive and creative environment.

In the first case, family members met at my mother’s-in-law apartment to pack up the last of her belongings.  This didn’t take very long since her lifestyle was minimized by her poor health. Over the past 5 years, her need for care caused a series of moves to smaller spaces. Each move gave us an opportunity to sort through what she needed and what she didn’t. As I watched myself and others pack up the last of her favorite knick-knacks, throw away the bathroom necessities, save the photographs of grand and great grandchildren, and pile the clothes to take to Goodwill, I realized that in the end, she had made this exercise easy for us. Even her rings had been removed when her fingers had become too swollen to wear them.  She left this world as she came in, unadorned and unattached.

In my mother’s case, this was the first time she had done a thorough clearing-out since she and my step-father settled into their home 15+ years ago – an entirely different process.  It’s not easy letting go of the things you’ve kept over many years.  As I worked with her – taking a book off the shelf and asking her, “Do you want to keep this?”  I could see that she knew exactly what could go and what she wasn’t sure about.  “Well, I do look at that book from time to time and I do enjoy it.”  So, back onto the shelf it would go. Most often she would say, “Nope. I don’t need those anymore.”  And so it went, closet after closet, drawer after drawer.  Sometimes she would say, “I don’t know where that came from” or “Goodness, I haven’t seen that in years.” Clearly, she had lots of unnecessary stuff.

We live in a consumer-driven society that promises happiness, convenience, and peace of mind through ownership.   If you buy this, you’ll be happier, more comfortable, more attractive, etc.  As a result, our homes and offices fill with loads of things that take up space and even become health hazards.  Have you ever tripped over a chord or a box in your office?  How about in your home?  Is your garage or basement so full of stuff that you can’t get to some of it?  Do you have an attic that’s full of old documents and photographs, Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper – things that could easily catch fire?

The process of sorting through and unloading what’s no longer needed is a healthy practice. It allows us to re-set our priorities and take a new approach.  And, more importantly, it takes away an irritant that we tend to tolerate far too long.  I’ve heard myself swear as I’ve yanked at the junk drawer unable to open it because something was stuck.We all know how great it feels to create order out of chaos.

This week, take a look around you.  Are you surrounded by stuff that you no longer use? How about the files on your computer? Are they simply taking up disk space? Is your closet full of things you never wear?  When was the last time you sorted through your personal belongings and let go of stuff?  Start with one small drawer. See how it feels to sort through it and keep only what you really need.  Then, sometime next week, tackle a bigger project and see how that feels.  After awhile, you can take on your basement or your garage. Spring cleaning can happen anytime of the year and always yields great results.

Years ago, I applied this idea of sorting through things to my relationships.  I realized that some of my friendships were not good for me and I had to let them go.  It took me years to do this – deciding which relationships were healthy for me and which ones were not.  It allowed me to open up enough space in my life to attract new friendships that were healthier and more supportive.  I understood that deciding what to embrace and what to release was one of the better paths toward a happier life.

This week, make some choices about what to keep and what to dump.  You may create a little bit of light where there was none and some space for something new to enter.

Have a good week!

Kathleen

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