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Purging – decluttering your way into the future

Right now my home looks as though a cyclone has torn through it. There are boxes containing hundreds of books lining the hallway, several huge parcels are waiting to go to the post office and piles of everything from furniture to clothes to knick knacks are slumped around while I figure out how to offload them. I’m not so much decluttering as purging my life.

After years of living in big rambling country houses, I’m making a seismic shift and moving to a tiny city pad. So, purely on a practical level, there won’t be room for all my things – and, by heck, I have a lot. But I’m realising that shedding stuff is as much an emotional and psychological practice as a practical physical one.

At first I really struggled letting go of my library. I had a vast collection of books on natural health, spirituality, mythology and psychology amassed over 30 years. I clung onto them because, I told myself, I never knew when I might need their wisdom but, in reality, I rarely consulted them. More than that, I realised I was defining myself by my inflated bookshelves. It was time to let go of that ego-driven urge. I have been culling them in stages, so now I have only the books I really love, the ones which fascinate me so much that I read them again and again.

That was just the start. When my mother died, I inherited tons of furniture, mirrors, pictures, all sorts which I crammed into the house because I couldn’t bear to get rid of them because it felt like getting rid of her. One day, as I looked around, I realised that the place no longer reflected me – my mother had taken over! More than that, even things I had chosen and once loved no longer called to me. I had changed yet my home was still reflecting the old me.

As the stuff goes, there’s a wonderful feeling of lightness. I feel as if I can breathe, as if I can dance into the future with a sense of freedom and possibility, rather than slogging along, hauling my past behind me.

It’s not for everyone, this radical purging. If your home makes you feel happy, relaxed and free; if it reflects your true self and your potential, that’s fine and dandy – don’t do a thing. But if you look around and don’t get that sense of joy, then maybe it’s time to start shifting.

I have written  more about this in my book Spirit of the Home, and also in Wellbeing & Mindfulness.  But, for starters, here are my top tips:
• Books, CDs, DVDs. Now we can download most of these, ask yourself why you’re holding onto them? Are your collections more about ego or nostalgia than pleasure?
• Sentimental things. There’s a balance here. I’m keeping an edit of my son’s baby things, plus old photos and letters but only those that really touch my heart (kept neatly in a couple of lovely boxes).
• Family heirlooms. Do you love them, really love them? If not, don’t keep them out of guilt. Offer them to other members of the family and, if they don’t want them, let them go.
• Pictures, ornaments etc. Do you love them? Do you even notice them? Have your tastes changed? Only surround yourself with things you really truly love.

This first appeared in Natural Health magazine, back last autumn.

By the way, the pic is not one of my new (or old) abode – it’s the stunning RAAS Devigarh in Rajasthan.  Of which more in future posts.