From the astonishing discovery around the age of two that you are you, separate and able to say ‘NO!’, we spend our lives finding out who we are. Freed from the horrors of trying to fit in as teenagers, we blossom as we age and carve out our unique paths in life. We accumulate a set of possessions that help us define and announce who we are to ourselves and those around us.
Behold my stacks of art supplies. Together, gold paper and I will rule the world! I’m an artist. It’s who I am.
All those (out of date) medical textbooks lining my shelves? I’m a doctor. It’s who I am.
Those trophies and medals that stack the bulletin boards three awards deep? I’m an athlete. It’s who I am.
And then you decide it’s time to get organized (excellent choice!). The piles of miscellaneous things aren’t too hard to deal with, but that box of plaques and awards from the company you worked for 20 years ago is too hard to get rid of. Why? Because if you throw that out, it feels like you’re throwing a part of yourself out. You’re being asked to destroy the proof that you’re who you’ve told yourself you are, and that’s asking a lot.
It’s also freeing. If you didn’t have this image of yourself as a person who adores fine food, then a simple grilled sandwich could really hit the spot. Do you still like to run and hike? Well, get out there and do it. Your essence is that of an athlete, you don’t need the medals to prove it.
If you’re still reluctant to pitch the evidence, consider what organizer Judith Kolberg suggests to her clients: a shrine. She worked with a retired teacher to create a small display honoring the highlights and joys of a well-loved career, and her client was freed to pitch the ancient lesson plans, and fading construction paper scraps that had accumulated over decades of teaching.
If you were going to create a little area in your home that honored an identity you’ve nurtured for years, what would you put there? And when you were done, what would you be freed up to let go of and to go do?
Is your clutter keeping you stuck in the past? Contact Joyful Surroundings LLC for compassionate, creative, and totally nonjudgmental decluttering & organizing services.