What stays and what goes is determined by which life you’re willing to commit to.
The purging process continues now that you’ve hopefully removed the obvious stuff that you know full well you won’t ever use again or worse haven’t even seen in well over a year…if not longer. You’ve probably freed up a bit of space by now – just enough to glimpse how much more room you have then you thought.
Hopefully your getting into the rhythm of starting to get those full trash bags out the
door. Since it’s basically the junk no one else probably doesn’t want either, there’s no guilt in simply getting them to the curb for pick up. However, in the process, you’ve no doubt discovered the other things looming in the shadows, lurking inside boxes that haven’t moved since they got stashed on overhead shelves and in the depths of closets…whispering sinisterly behind the hanging clothes saying, “catch us if you can”. These things probably aren’t junk. They have more meaning. They’re encoded with more of your personality so they trigger memories.
Things start getting harder now because it’s not just about the stuff anymore. Is it? While you’ve been sorting and stuffing, your mind’s had time to begin imagining what could be, what can’t be and what should be. Oh baby, I feel your pain and it just happened to me—the guy writing this blog, ironically.
I, out of sheer timing and necessity, moved into a little townhouse in a not so fabulous part of town. My thinking was, don’t invest too heavily into something that’s simply transitory. It was in fact, the best at the time and within the budget. I remember rationalizing to myself, “It’s fine…it will be fine.” That should have been my first clue…”Fine?”
In my rush to “just get ‘er done” I didn’t curate with as much care as one would in a place that one expects to really put down roots—where there’s time to really think about one’s new lifestyle in a more deliberate way. It was more like, “Well I need something to go here.” And “I at least need one of those.” It was more like setting up camp more than an actual household.
For a few months, we continued going to open houses on the weekends and learned to spot a ‘For Sale’ sign from thirty blocks away. Soon, it became abundantly clear that it was a ridiculous time to purchase anything! “Um you want HOW MUCH for this place? Seriously?” Meanwhile back in tiny town, I also noticed that in impulse, I bought stuff more as attractive placeholders. I’d bought short term for a long term and it started feeling that way—like we were living college student lives rather than adult lives.
Rather than purchasing true and potentially cherished items that were the best they could be for the value. Like a cheap suite I purchased what looked “fine” if you squint your eyes. I found myself in places like Walmart where the financial commitment is so small that one says, “Well, I’ll use or try it for now.” That’s code for: “Like, I won’t mind tossing it if it doesn’t work.” Or, “It only has to last until I move again and will need things germane to THAT fabulous new life, not this one.” DANGER WILL ROGERS!
Well soon a year had passed. We learned to adapt and focus on the positive like we kind of liked the central location, and after a while it did feel like home, such as it was. We got used to things we otherwise would not have because it was inexpensive and we loved the new math of no mortgage.
As an experienced isolationist, if I closed the front door with a little imagination, it felt less site-specific and I began to resign myself to the situation because with all its drawbacks, it was still a better option to buying crap in an increasingly more crappy real estate market. Of course it helped that on the weekends we could go on mountain excursions, through magnificent vistas and villages. While not the “climb every mountain” naturalist as most young Coloradoans tend to be, I do love being in places that remind me that we can still put ourselves in environments where the presence of a higher power is truly evident.
Anyway… we began to appreciate the lock and load aspects of a place requiring so little maintenance, where it could be cleaned in an hour rather then a week and escaped from on the weekends. That was until, my honey, a master Edward Scissor Hands gardener, then threw caution to the wind turning our tiny fenced-in patio into a magnificent gem of a secret garden filled with blooms and urns and complete with a European-like fountain—all of which lit up at night like an oasis in the ghetto.
Consequently, I began to both love our little place and at the same time, worried that we’d maybe now put down too many roots (pun intended). The garden was a labor of love and made a huge difference with no money spared. It felt special and romantic especially seen through the French doors off our tiny living room. Yet I wondered…was this it? Were we actually staying, for real now…forever and ever? Was this how it was going to be indefinitely?
The garden, fit for a French pied-a-terre, triggered something alarming in me. I, already cursed with a restless heart, felt oddly trapped. It wasn’t pretty. Here one of us was “in the moment” and making the very best of what was given, while I was still camping, living for the dream house that might never be. It embarrassed me to think I was not nearly as accepting as I thought and I was trying to mastermind fate. As I like to say, “Giving it to God, then taking it back.” So I faced it. Suddenly the things I’d bought more on a necessity camping spree…rather than helping to further define a real lifestyle there, “in the NOW”, started to become annoying. We need a better….fill in the blank….we don’t have room for….fill in the blank…how come that’s there?...and what up with (what was supposed to be) a guest bedroom? Now filled with everything that doesn’t fit in the rest of the rooms on top of all my design samples and office crap?
I could hear my restless heart beating loudly. It was trying to talk to me over the din of my brain that was realizing that what was once dollhouse-like-adorable wasn’t any more. Cute-as-a-button doesn’t live well.
However, the heart was whispering, rather than just living in the moment and purging and fixing what wasn’t working, you idiot, instead start thinking, “What do I really want to do with my whole damn LIFE?” You’re not fixing what you should, it isn’t the townhouse’s fault! Blame is what breeds apathy and resignation. It’s not your soul robbing nemesis holding you back from your spiritual destiny…YOU ARE!
OMG, I’d done the same thing I preach NOT to. I was living in the future not in the moment. Living in suspension between the life once had, the life that could happen and the sense that the yet-unclear life I think I’m suppose to have will suddenly materialize out of nowhere?
So, boys and girls, I too have to step back and say, “Right now in this place, how do I want to live NOW?!” I too have to re-walk through my rooms with a grateful and thankful heart versus a condemning one. I have to re-ask myself, does that really work or would this be a far better use of space? I have to forgive myself for bringing something home that seemed like a good idea at the time, forgetting that it’s not the retail price, but the emotional price we keep paying for something that doesn’t give us that joyful feeling of being pampered.
OK, so we thought we were just camping. Guess what? We aren’t anymore and we don’t really know how long we could be here. So we’d better start living like we mean it!
As you go into this next phase of purging, don’t fall into my trap, forgetting what I did. Remember…rooms are rooms, walls are walls and the tinier the space the easier the maintenance and the fewer but better things one can have. There are no small square feet only small square imaginations where fear keeps the creativity from coming out to play.
Ask yourself if what you’re keeping is for this life, right now, in the moment…or for one that actually doesn’t exist at all or one that did, but is no longer relevant?
When we can’t be in the moment, we tend to do nothing and blame circumstances for the anxiety we create. When in reality it could be cured with a little creativity fueled action.
So walk through your place once more before you start this next phase of purging. As you do remember:
Paint is cheap and can reshape and customize any environment—it can be applied to your walls just as easily as in the mansion down the street. If you rent, still paint. Don’t let your landlord hold you captive to a security deposit. Worst case? You paint it back when and IF you move. But for now, make it your haven!
Beautiful framed mirrors can stretch spaces and double natural light, bringing the outdoors in if placed on walls opposite windows and doors. Use them when creating the illusion for more space and even more rooms exist as they also double the (hopefully) well-curated things you already own.
Closets can be redefined once you realize that half of what’s in there, you’ll never wear again.
Drawers can be purged of things you never use so you’re not rummaging through them, to get to the things you actually use and need everyday.
A single wall with simple shelves built floor-to-ceiling will change everything. They can be made of cheap standards and brackets painted the same color will and pine wood planks with a finishing edge of molding, painted the same color as the room’s trim. It will offer amazing storage while only protruding into the space 12-14 inches. If you can’t build out, built up!
Dimmers can help you create the lighting mood you can always control. While a few up-lights can add a bit of drama to the mix.
Luxurious drapes, hung as high to the ceiling as possible that make ceilings look higher while softening hard edges and providing a rich more substantial elegance to your space. Thin white sheers in-between can block unsightly views which still offering nice filtered daylight.
So as you look at a box full of stuff that has not pulled its own weight either visually or practically since you packed it away, pass it on to someone who could really use it and don’t let it intrude on what should be new possibility space.
With a new creative vision of how you could really live more beautifully right now, in the place you may seem ambivalent towards, what you keep and what you pay forward will suddenly become very self evident. It did for me!
So I know what I’ll be doing over my fourth of July holiday—because summer is here and at the moment I needed a GPS to find the closet in the guest bedroom to put the winter coats away.
So let’s get busy and lets make it fun!
We can do it!