Have you ever been travelling?
What did you take with you? I remember so clearly, now that I recall it, the night I prepared for my imminent flight to New Zealand, which was to be the first stop on my round-the-world epic adventure.
I laid out in front of me 9kg of 'stuff'. It comprised simple things: a couple of vest tops, a couple of long sleeved tops (I bought a fleece in New Zealand - that wind in Wellington was freezing!), one pair of trainers, a few toiletries, a journal, a couple of pairs of trousers, underwear, and maybe one or two other bits. For 28 days, I toured New Zealand, feeling like a true Backpacker, and I had some of the most incredible experiences of my life to date - glacier climbing, swimming with dolphins, sunsets on deserted beaches, meeting awesome people, and that boundless sense of adventure and expansiveness, mirrored in a metaphorically perfect way by the breathtaking backdrop of huge mountains and gasp-inducing views.
And very, very few possessions. A lot of other backpackers were on their final adventure before returning to the UK, and I witnessed them heaving great heavy bags onto their backs with a laboured grunt on a daily basis as we checked in and out of hostels. But not me - I had just enough to know that I was truly on an adventure, but not so much that I broke my back!
I settled (long story, involving a man, a church and a baptism - and trust me, the punchline isn't that great). I was scared, and like a rabbit in the headlights, I froze. Synchronicities occurred, things fell into place, and I built a bit of a life for myself there, my list of possessions beginning to grow... and grow... and grow. The bag that departed the UK with 9kg of contents returned a year later with about 15kg, and that was after considerable culling of items before heading to Sydney airport.
Along with the clutter, I gained weight, physically carrying more flesh around with me than I was designed to - the result of thousands upon thousands of calories crammed in the dead of night, my soul weeping. I've never shown anyone this photo before, and maybe you see what I see in my eyes - how unhappy I was. It feels scary putting this picture here, but I'm in the mood to take a risk.
I was sluggish in body and mind, and to some extent my possessions reflected that.
Last year, I returned from another trip - this time to California - with almost nothing to my name. I had no job, no flat, no car, very few clothes (I had to squeeze my feet into a pair of my sister's ballet pumps two sizes too small for an interview as a waitress in a tearoom), and once again, that wonderful sense of freedom that I'd felt in New Zealand four years previously.
Today, it's about 18 months since I returned, and as you can probably tell from my posts, my life is beautiful. It's full of adventure, and most importantly, connection.
One habit I have slipped back into is possibly the most prominent 'hobby' of women, if not around the world, then certainly in the west - shopping. One of the problems with shopping is that one arrives home with bags of new things that need somewhere to live - a cupboard, a shelf, a bit of floor perhaps. Slowly but surely, my room is filling up - and I don't like the feeling of clutter that comes with it.
Recently, I've been blogging about being a Pioneer, seeking apprenticeship, and walking a different type of path. I have entered into life coaching, and have begun to train to be a life coach, too - what an exciting time! And yet, there's a sense of overcrowdedness in my life too, triggered by the number of things I see when I open my cupboards, my wardrobe, and, ultimately, my mind.
So, it is time to declutter again.
“HAVE NOTHING IN YOUR HOME EXCEPT WHAT YOU BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL OR KNOW TO BE USEFUL”
So said William Morris, and this is something I came across on a fab coaching website last week, which has gotten me thinking. It's not a new concept for me at all. Nige is hot on decluttering, regularly reporting that he's 'given some things away'; since we've been a couple, he's given so many things away that I almost can't believe there's anything left to declutter - and yet, there is.
The great thing about decluttering is this: nature abhors a vacuum, so if I'm sitting with a room/wardrobe full of stuff I dislike, by giving some of it away I'm creating that vacuum where new stuff can come into my life. (Weirdly, I started this post last week, siphoned off things to get rid of, and was promptly given lots of gorgeous clothes by my lovely friend Jema! It really works!)
Julia Cameron (author of the Artist's Way) talks in the book about "low self-worth outfits", and I don't know quite why I put up with having them in my wardrobe. They're on the way out again - nice, decent clothes, but things that don't fit, or have shrunk, or that hold a negative association for me. Bye bye bad vibes!
To clarify: I don't need to live like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. In fact, when I saw her oh so fashionable apartment - and even the famous walk in wardrobe - in the movie, it didn't appeal to me. My life doesn't need to look perfect, be crammed full of designer labels, or constantly be 'on trend'. But I do love that feeling of wearing something delicious, something that I stand taller in, something that people comment on, something that gives me a sense of Exploring my Elloaness. At the moment, new things tend come in, and just a few short months later, I'm tired of them, ready to move them on. Perhaps it's as simple as this - my life has changed, the seasons have changed, my association with these clothes has changed, my body has changed, and maybe it's okay for me to just let go of these things.
Because I study A Course in Miracles, sometimes I criticize myself (that's living the Course, isn't it!!) for even caring about things like my appearance, or the clothes I wear - after all, doesn't the Course teach that this world is an illusion? Isn't it shallow to care about such petty things? On the other side of it, you only get one chance to make a good impression, and I'm as human as the next person when it comes to making instantaneous judgements and decisions about a person based on their appearance.
And more to the point, clearing out my closet helps me feel great. I won't even go into the stories of two houses I've been into of people I love dearly who have been living in floor to ceiling clutter, at the level of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. All I'll say is that firstly, it is heartbreaking to see; secondly, when one of these people cleared their house - with an army of loving friends helping throw away things that hadn't seen the light of day for 25 years - that person's life transformed.
Throwing things out is a breath of fresh air. You know which things you're ready to let go of - they're the bits that bother you incessantly, albeit quietly, nagging you when you look at them. They're the items that don't get worn - although you might think about wearing them, you never quite get round to it. They're the items that aren't beautiful to you, or useful to you. Just say fuck it and let them go - I promise you won't miss them!
And me? I'm just enjoying these beautiful flowers that Nige gave me.
Until next time... xxx