Coming Clear: Confessions of a Packrat

Even a single paperclip or hairball has the potential to change our lives. Would you like to lighten your load right now? Consider this simple clearing practice.
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My name is Stephanie, and I am a (recovering) packrat.

There, I said it.

Yes, squirreled away in the dark recesses of my house, I still have boxes of things I haven't seen or used in over 20 years. I have food in the freezer that is over six months old. I have postage stamps issued during the 1984 Olympics, when it cost 13 cents to send a letter first-class. I have a cigar box full of those tiny keys you get when you buy a new suitcase, each pair neatly secured with a twist-tie.

I hang on to more bubble wrap and cardboard boxes than I need, "just in case." I have floppy disks dating back to the early '90s and containing God knows what (without the computer technology to open them even if I wanted to see what was on them). Stacked neatly in the corner of my desk drawer is a year's worth of price tags for clothes I've bought... and washed... and worn.

Most people who know me as the space-clearing expert, a healer of homes, a teacher and devoted messenger of hope to the clutter-weary, are surprised when I tell them I am not clutter-free.

Your home may be free of all excess, super-organized and neat as a pin, but I hate to break it to you: If you live in a body that thinks thousands of thoughts a day (not all positive), feels pain and loss and fear from time to time, gets out of balance, or loses itself in the worries of the moment, you're not clutter-free either.

The fact is that most humans suffer, one way or another, from a condition called "holding on." I was born with squirrel tendencies based on a deep fear that there is not enough to go around. Softening the hard wiring of my past is my "Hero's Journey," a spiritual pathway that involves consciously clearing one suitcase key, postage stamp, and freezer-burned lump that passes as food at a time.

But this is good. The past two decades in the clearing business have taught me that we can soften our grip of attachment, slowly and gently, by first naming and feeling the object of our stress and distress. We can release the charge that these issues hold by taking them less personally and seriously. We can change our relationship with any thing by clearing it consistently, or just moving it from the floor to the drawer, with compassionate awareness.

Yes, even a single paperclip or hairball has the potential to change our lives.

Would you like to lighten your load right now? Consider this simple clearing practice:

  1. Tune in to a problem or a challenge in your life that you'd like to let go of. It could be a worry about someone or something, a habit you're trying to break, or a relationship that isn't working for you. Choose any thing or thought that makes you feel uncomfortable, out of balance, or stuck.

  • Write it down on a separate piece of paper and release (burn, shred, or toss) it with complete sensory awareness. Or, if you feel safe enough, share the issue in the comment box of this blog post and imagine it being released for the highest good of all concerned when you hit the submit button.
  • For one minute notice how it feels to let go of your story: Observe the thoughts, allow sensations, experience any emotional charge, and notice your breathing. (Is it shallow? Is it relaxed?) Allow any and all feelings to arise without doing anything to fix, personalize, or second-guess them.
  • How do you feel now? Do you notice if you feel the same or differently than when you began the exercise? And if you were not moved to clear something just now, what did you notice from simply considering the idea?
  • It's pretty simple, really. When we shine light on the places we resist in ourselves, one gentle step at a time, we restore balance. Like a butterfly's wings in one part of the world creating massive weather changes in another, so too can intentional baby steps lead to a sea change in our homes and lives, a clearing movement of global proportions!

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