By Helene Szabados and Heidi Majano
“There is power in choosing, there is special power in knowing I am the chooser at every moment in every situation.” -Sami Sunchild, In My Life I Am the Chooser
Recently, the Peaceful World Foundation hosted the third conversation series of “How Much Is Enough.” To our pleasant surprise, the conversation table was filled with a blend of familiar friends and new opportunities for connection. We welcomed participants from California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, Pachamama Alliance, Tangible Hope Foundation, and others. The topic of the morning was as follows:
“After a good cleaning, we may feel a sense of clarity and inner peace. How am I affected by spring cleaning and how can I maintain patterns of consistency?”
We warmed up the conversation with an Ice Breaker, “What is one practice or mantra that helps you accomplish your daily commitments?” We started talking about how useful moments of silence can be to collect oneself. One participant expressed that when they begin to appreciate what they have, motivation is easier to indulge in. Someone else shared that in the mornings she looks in the mirror and gives herself a pep talk, “You got this!” is the mantra she uses.
After our introduction, the table moved on to the topic of conversation. One attendant was filled with enthusiasm while talking about Marie Kondo’s book, The Joy of Tidying Up, which breaks down a radical method of decluttering. Kondo’s philosophy is to own things that bring you joy and her book provides a number of steps to achieve that goal. The attendant began describing her observations on the number of positive affects tidying has brought into her daily life, such as a new sense of freedom, an abundance of time and a lasting feeling of joy. Another participate related, she has recognized how much her emotional health is affected by the cleanliness of her home environment; “When my room is cluttered, so is my brain.”
One of our peers shared an experience she recently had on a camping trip to Half-Moon Bay. She went up with a group of folks for a weekend of camping and bonfire. There was space and resources to kindle a fire that lasted the entire weekend, because the owner of the property had decided to burn all of the clutter he had accumulated from the recent passing of family members. Within the group of campers was a young man who lived at Ghost Ship; an artist residence warehouse that tragically burned down last year. The participant described a powerful moment she observed at the bonfire when she noticed the young man watching a photograph burn. She felt empathy for him because he had lost all of his belongings in the Ghost Ship fire just a year ago. After a moment of reflection, however, the young man pointed out how empowering it was to witness someone choosing to burn all of their stuff after recently losing all his stuff to fire. Stuff can hold us back from living our present life; when we learn to let go of it we have more room for new adventures.
We discussed the process of accumulation and how quickly we can accumulate a house full of stuff. A participant explained the indulgence of shopping and buying new stuff. She tries to give one thing away for every new thing she buys. Another member related with a mantra she uses while shopping, “Can I have a home for this new thing?” Shopping is a pattern of consistency we can all relate to, and perhaps, half of the battle with clutter is learning how we accumulate it.
The gentlemen at our table were making efforts to lead a lifestyle of minimalism. They connected on downsizing the amount of stuff they own to the size of a car trunk. One of the gentlemen explained using the ideology of permaculture in regards to the process of decluttering. In permaculture, the main principle is keep the crops and resources that are used regularly closest to you and seasonal or other scarcely used resources further away. The entire table bonded on the concept, “everything should have a home.” One participant mentioned how essential this concept is to the process of raising her teenage son. We all discussed the agitation that comes up when we have misplaced something.
We all have stuff that we are responsible for. Connecting through our experiences, we learned some of the affects of cleaning and letting go of stuff, such as:
- A feeling of liberation and freedom
- More time to appreciate what life has to offer
- Joy and Clarity
- Space for new opportunities
Spring time is notorious for generating a sense of “taking responsibility” of our stuff and tidying up. We learned through our conversation, however, that it is a daily responsibility to own something. We discovered ways to maintain patterns of consistency through our conversation, such as:
- Keeping only what brings you joy
- Implementing traditional practices to organizing our possessions, such as permaculture
- Tidying a little everyday
- Becoming more mindful on the amount of stuff we purchase
- Finding a home for every thing
- Minimizing the amount of stuff we have to what we really need
- Finding people to donate stuff we no longer have a connection with
Do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you? A participant left us with a lasting quote he picked up in his yogi practice, “Make a list of everything you call yours. By the end of the list you will know how far away you are from freedom.”