Signals of Spring Cleaning

-Helene Szabados

The flowers are in bloom, the ducklings are beginning to waddle and the sun is teasing us with its warm rays of light.  Spring time, a time of renewal and preparation. Peaceful World Foundation is delighted to celebrate this season with a new series of conversations, “How much is enough?” Last Thursday, we set our table and welcomed a small number of participants. If you are practicing the art of hosting conversations, keep in mind that small groups are just as productive as larger groups. Often times, a small number of participants offers an intimate quality to the conversation.

The topic was as follows:

“How much is enough? Spring naturally signals us to let go and begin anew. What are your signals that prompt your spring cleaning and how do you begin to let go of your stuff?”

We warmed up our talking skills with an ice breaker, “What is one thing you cannot live without?” A participant expressed his need for movement, “I notice that I am not as happy or healthy when my body is not active.” Along the same thread of thought, another participant said she cannot live without her car. The ability to transport not only herself , her son and their belongings is essential to the management of daily living. I responded I cannot live without friendship, friends genuinely keep me alive, energized, and motivated to accomplish all that is set before me.

From the icebreaker, we went straight into the topic by describing the signals that prompt our spring cleaning routines. “I know it is time to start clearing out my space when everyday tidying becomes tedious and difficult to accomplish.” I responded. Heidi related, when she sees clutter on the kitchen table, she knows it is time to minimize. She kicks off her spring cleaning process in the kitchen.

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What are your signals for Spring cleaning?

One participant had an interesting story about his stuff. He recently got engaged and after a visit from his fiancé, they found an apartment that would accommodate the couple nicely.  He began asking around his network for assistance in moving his belongings. However, after a lack of response and considering how close the new apartment is to his current residence, he took matters into his own hands. He literally began moving his stuff on his own; by foot. Fortunately, he is a natural minimalist, which made his plan feasible.

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After twelve hours of moving, he described having an authentic connection with all the stuff he owns. He understands that once his fiancé moves in, they will have more stuff to accommodate.  Furthermore, the stuff they will accumulate together may even triple the amount of stuff they own. Another participant related to this, “It happens so fast. You start simple, thinking you can maintain the small amount of stuff you have and then you notice days later you have more stuff.  Before you know it you are living in clutter.” Heidi’s observation made us recall a popular comedic segment by George Carlin on the subject of stuff.

I chimed in about how difficult it can get for me to let go of my stuff. My process is an endless experience of indecisiveness. I have a friendship with all of my stuff; it keeps me company when I am lonely, it provides comfort when I am stressed out, and brings me solid memories when I am distant from the loved ones in my life. In my experience, I have noticed it gets easier when I have a friend to clean with and donate to. It reassures me to know that I am giving my stuff away to someone who will care for it like I do.

Heidi recounted an aspect of her spring cleaning process; revisiting old journals, books and photographs. She found herself in a state of lamenting and felt held back from experiencing her present moments. A question arouse for her, “What purpose does it serve to hold on to old memories?” After a short reflection on the question I responded, “Leading a legacy could be a purpose to holding on to old memories. You never know who you will influence with what you leave behind.” For example, Sami Sunchild left behind an enormous amount of memories from her life, which I was granted the opportunity to sort through. Although a few of her memories should be kept in the past; many other memories serve a purpose of inspiration, encouragement and education. Sami left behind a time capsule and each time I revisit her archives, I can’t help but travel back in time to a different world and feel empathy towards her experiences.

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What to do with old journals?

After all the participants shared their relationships with their belongings, we returned to the main theme of our series; “How much is enough?” We collectively reflected on possible solutions to alleviating the waste that comes with clearing out one’s space. Heidi brought up an effective community system of trade she observed on the East Coast. She described several churches, such as Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist church communities establishing trade events open to the public. A place where people of the community participate by bringing books, clothes and children’s toys to trade or sell. She also read about a family that established a space to rent home appliances such as vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, food processors etc. If we use our energy to initiate more events like this, we could substantially decrease consumption and waste. Creative solutions are needed to make a difference in the environmental welfare of our planet and it is possible when the solution begins with you.

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To participate in a Peaceful World Conversation, join our table Thursdays at 9:15 am at the Rx Café located in Presidio’s Thoreau Center. Hosted conversations serve as an excellent venue to meet new people in your community and share an authentic story from your life. We hope to see you for our next conversation on the topic of Spring Cleaning Our Emotional Baggage.

Be brave to start conversations that matter.

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