Mindlessly cluttering our lives
When I was young we had as a neighbour an elderly bachelor called Bill who collected and stored paper, mostly unpaid for. Newspapers piled ceiling high with only a narrow pathway through, stacks of that awful shiny government toilet paper filled a bed and a stash of one dollar bills (pre-coin days) were heaped on the kitchen table. Tea and conversation with mum fortified Bill for the races he loved and supplied him with our newspaper for the form, which no doubt went to top up his stack.
The image of Bill recalled seems as laughable a caricature today, as then. Yet many of us, like Bill, accumulate visible and virtual things over time, unaware, as was Bill, of the inhibition to our evolution as people to the hoard of tightly held possessions, forever restricted to a narrow, hazardous track.
Recent COVID behaviours show that Bill’s propensity to hoard toilet paper isn’t so uncommon, however irrational: we have only one backside. There was a time of scarcity when some of that newspaper could be used for the same purpose – reused in best environmental practice, as were many things that were repaired, reshaped and reused for practical reasons. That was before cheap Chinese goods with short life spans flooded the market and the Greens held us under capture.
Vacuum Law of space and attraction
Getting rid of stuff is liberating (after the challenge). Ask anyone who has down-sized or moved house. Have done it myself: positioning a large skip under the balcony and tipping years of life, work and items into it. Only one or two things were ultimately missed. More recently environmental, in concert with a philosophy to keep everything circulating, furniture, books, clothing and equipment were boxed. Strong, polite young men from 1800gotjunk loaded it all onto a truck to take to a centre for recycling to charities. Only what would be useful in the next stage of life made it to the new, smaller place, with size appropriate furniture.
A wonderful space opened up to create the next phase of life. We come into life with little and certainly can’t take it with us. Under the vacuum law of space and attraction, it is hard to grow on until we create the space by letting go of things no longer relevant. A real ascetism, holiness, ensues in doing so.
Inability to let go can create hazards – health, accident, aesthetic or environmental. Little point in holding onto obsolete machinery, white goods, equipment or clothing. Best to take good care of goods, repairing to extend usefulness and lifecycle, before disposing properly, immediately the item becomes non-functioning. Collections of dead refrigerators, washing machines, tools, furniture and equipment are clear indicators of a cluttered mind in the cemetery of ideas.
Clothing, shoes and accessories are an obsession for some who take joy in shopping for things they may never wear. Charity stores provide a wonderful opportunity to recycle accumulated wardrobe items, which become welcome finds for the less fortunate and bargain seekers. While creating space in one’s own life, we can practice environmentalism and support worthy causes at the same time as creating welcome space in our own lives.
Letting go of people
As we are naturally social beings, letting go of toxic people and relationships can be every bit as challenging, especially if we are related and feel compelled to love them. Going along with people, enduring their negativity, may seem easier at the time, though is unlikely to end well. Applying my Maturity Model, both parties become less mature, resulting in fragmentation of individuals at high social and economic costs. Often such toxic relationships prevent development of more beneficial relationships with others. Plenty have complained about the grumpy, sullen or aggressive family member that inhibits friendships and dialogue, causing discomfort, robbing joy.
In addition to physical and psychological risks to person, there remains a very high opportunity cost of staying in an unsatisfactory job or relationship. Whatever benefits appear to accrue from staying put need to be weighed against the wonders of development that stand to flourish once free to be oneself. Life is short. We pass this way but once. Do it today. For yourself.
Troubled family relationships and situations are fraught. If tied to kin, perhaps it is best not to go as often or stay as long, limiting exposure. Same applies to friends who pass into our lives for a time before moving on as friendship sours.
Be mindful, too, of capture by eternal victims who generate serial crises for attention, consuming time, money and energy to no good effect. Wisdom of discernment resolves that it is best for us to be measured in any response, conscious always of attending to our own needs and capacities before sacrificing all where little good can come. Shake their dust from our sandals and move on.
Realism dealing constructively with flawed relationships and moving on is sound practice for later years when options for doing so may be taken out of our hands. Friends and family members succumb to issues of health, accident and ageing, passing on from this life, whether we like it or not. Without preparation, we will not be ready to absorb the shock of loss and change, potentially missing out on valuable future growth.
Similarly, failure to make conscious decisions or take assertive action in a timely manner can result in those decisions being taken out of our hands abruptly, in a way that shakes the foundation of our sense of self. What we most ignore can become the very thing that claims us.
Letting go of things, relationships and people over time is practice for the ultimate letting go as we prepare for our own end.
Letting go of daily detritus
Excellence is the commitment to completion is a quote from self-help author and philosopher Bob Proctor. I live by this quote. It is the ultimate environmental guide, although Proctor’s advice preceded environmentalism.
Translated into everyday use, it means such simple things that enhance life: completing tasks thoroughly and promptly; putting away the groceries instead of leaving them on the kitchen bench; getting rid of waste and disposing properly of packaging as it arises; finishing off the laundry and putting it away; and following through on discipline of children promised. Once completed, each of the said activities frees our minds and bodies for more satisfying pursuits that enhance life.
For businesses, political parties and workers, the same applies: do the job properly, otherwise it can cost health and lives (as we’ve seen through COVID); dispose of unworkable policies and practices cluttering a strategy (such as the Labor’s anti-coal climate change policy that has cost them government); and forego unrealistic demands on workers that cause fragmentation, lowering productivity.
Above all, enjoy the liberation and virtue gained by letting go.