I have been doing some cleaning and sorting. Every so often I get this sense of being buried alive in all the crap we accumulate, and I have to get a shovel and go through and throw stuff away. When I reach the point I have been at of late, it’s no longer sorting and figuring out what goes to trash and what goes to the second hand store. Nope. Everything goes in the garbage.
I like the idea of living minimally. My husband and I live in a relatively small home, and we do so because we are trying to focus more on what we need rather than what we want, and having to keep our material goods within the confines of a small space is a good way to learn to clean and sort to fit.
I was sitting in the morning light with my cuppa Jo thinking that this cleaning and sorting thing is a great analogy for healthy emotional psychological living.
Sometimes we get so bogged down with paraphernalia we are carrying from the past that it prevents us from making a leap onto the back of something great that will take us into an exciting phase in our lives. I have said for many years that nostalgia is very dangerous, and there is nothing productive or forward functioning about it IF you spend a lot of time accessing it.
Notice how you hear a song or smell something and it transports you back in time to a place in your past? Very strong isn’t it? This is the only place nostalgia is truly healthy, because it naturally occurs in life. We cannot help when that happens and we find ourselves standing, in a very real way, in a moment that occurred decades ago. I had this happen the other day when we had a rain storm and the sound along with the smell was so strong in my senses that I found myself at 19 standing in the doorway of a hotel room where I used to work (as a housekeeper, let me be clear :)), watching a Montana rainstorm power its way through the afternoon.
It was like I was there, so strong was the sensory experience.
But I wasn’t, and the thing to remember with nostalgic moments is that they are only moments, and it is best not to spend a lot of time engaging them. Now, that nostalgic moment had no significance on its own; no underlying meaning. However, there was a sense of longing, a sense of loss tied to it that I can only associate with the fact that I was young in that memory. I had my whole life ahead of me, and time was on my side.
I am over halfway through my 40’s. It is debatable as to how much time is on my side these days, and if I had spent time on that memory and how it made me feel, I could have gone down a rabbit hole that would have left me feeling old and discontent with my life.
Memories are not bad. They are the recordings of our past, and we need them to sometimes remind us of where we come from, what we have done, and why we have ended up where we are. But the problem with engaging in memories with the transport of nostalgia is the danger of choosing to live in the past rather than the present because we are distanced enough from the past to sort of “remake” it into what we want or what it should have been. Notice how the further out you get the more the past has a golden glow to it? We can’t do that with the present. It’s at large in the realm of reality.
The danger with accumulating has to do with the reasons we accumulate. If I am just lazy and don’t throw things away, that is easy to remedy. A few hours on a weekend, and I’m golden. The danger is when we accumulate to help us remember; to take us back to a time when things were “better”. Keeping things because they take us back to a time so that we can live in the past, produces discontent with current life, grief over what has been lost between past and present, and often leads to serious depression. Ask yourself when you experience nostalgia, how often do you come out of it feeling uplifted and ready to face the future?
I was reminded this weekend, as I sorted through items I have kept because they remind me of someone, I am not obligated to hang on to things to remember people or times. Many of those people are still in my life. Because I have such a terrible memory of the past due to my illness wiping the slate every time I have a crash, I tend to hang on to certain things, as they trigger or reinforce the memories I have managed to hang on to. Some of those items I am keeping, but some of them I determined I simply did not need in my physical space or in my mental space.
If you are a person who hangs on to things but you feel you are becoming buried in reminders of the past, maybe don’t tell yourself you are going to get rid of everything. Maybe start out small. Get rid of a couple of things. Give yourself time to see how that sits with you. Then go back and eliminate a couple more things.
I have discovered that cleaning and sorting often not only clears my living space but my head space as well, and I find I feel a bit freer and a bit more the captain of my ship.