It’s Almost Halloween which means the Annual Purge is here and NO, I’m not talking about the horror movie, however this Purge can feel like a nightmare for some of us.
Autumn brings about change, even for us in the desert. The weather gets cooler, the rattlesnakes go into hibernation and the color of the desert landscape transforms. While our Fall isn’t the same as some, it is still about letting go of what doesn’t serve us and preparing for new growth. Hence the Annual Purge.
Over the past few months many things have been happening in my life. I wrote my first book “You’re Brave Enough.” We started moving into our new home which included some remodeling. Our son transitioned to high school and then had two serious injuries with the most recent requiring surgery. And one of our dogs got bit by a rattlesnake. (Yes both my son and dog are doing well). To say tit’s been hectic could be an understatement and yet through it all I have found the opportunities to appreciate what change has brought into our lives.
A couple weeks back my husband and I decided we needed to get this move finished. We have been between two homes for several months and I have been living without much of my stuff in the home. Living without a lot of my stuff made me start to explore “what do I REALLY need?” I started thinking about what type of home I want to create and I decided that I didn’t want to clutter up my new home with things that were no longer serving me. It was time to let go of things from the past. While this can be scary, it can also be as equally or even more empowering.
I started my purge, when I MADE THE DECISION to only bring things relevant to my life now and which would create the environment I wanted to enjoy. This meant I HAD TO COMMIT to the process of purging things that didn’t do that. Before I could get rid of things I EXPLORED WHAT TYPE OF ENVIRONMENT I wanted. I ASKED QUESTIONS like “What do I want my environment to reflect?” “How is keeping this adding to my life?” “Does keeping this support me now or what I want to achieve?” Having a list of questions like this when I started going through my stuff helped but it was still hard.
You see I have lived many lives in some senses. I was an Infant and Toddler Mental Health/Family Relationship and Trauma Therapist for several years. So I have tons of books about these subjects and I paid good money for them. During my graduate education, I focused on the impact of incarceration of women on society, families and children. So, again I have several books on crime, reintegration and other related issues, and I paid good money for these. Getting rid of them isn’t just difficult because of the money I spent, it was also difficult because I spent so many years of my life doing and understanding these things. In some way, getting rid of these things felt like I was getting rid of pieces of myself. This feeling is something many people feel, which is why so many college graduates keep their books and papers they wrote. In some way become part of us, part of who were/are. Plus there’s this lingering question “What if I need that some day?” This is something we say when we aren’t ready to get rid of something. Another thing we say to convince ourselves to keep things is “It’s wasteful to just toss it.” So what if you do need it and what if it is wasteful to just toss it? Does how you answer this question justify you keeping items no longer serving you? Maybe but what if there was another way. You can sell the items, donate the items to someone who can benefit from them, or give them to a friend as a permanent loan. Chances are, once you get rid of the thing your holding onto, you will find that you can live just fine without it.
My friend Annick Magac wrote a book several years ago called CLEAR which I read and implemented in my life. She wrote two key things that helped me put things into perspective when I started purging. “Everything in your possession is a choice” and “You’re environment is a reflection of your life.” If everything we possess is a choice, what are our choices showing us about our priorities? If our environment is a reflection of our life, what is our life saying about who we are?
I’m curious is your environment cluttered with old magazines you haven’t looked at in over two years but keep around because you might read them or use them in collaging projects? Is it cluttered with unfinished craft projects and an abundance of material and yarn? Is your book collection encroaching in on your space and making you feel claustrophobic? Are you swimming in a pool of paper, old bills, office supplies, articles, etc? Okay good, then I am not alone.
The truth is the more stuff we hold onto externally, the more cluttered our mind is even if we did organize the hell outta that shit, which I am really good at. If you’re like me you can only keep a handle on it for so long and then it starts to get overwhelming and we begin to avoid the places and things we enjoy. When we have too much stuff it robs us of our creativity, joy and freedom. It takes mental space in our mind and even causes stress in our relationships.
Before I could fully commit to the idea of purging old things that I had become emotionally connected with, I had to digest this idea Marie Kondo wrote about in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “Just because you dispose of something does not mean you give up past experiences or your identity.” By me engaging in the purge of things I no longer used, didn’t mean they aren’t part of who I am or didn’t positively contribute to my life in some way at some time. She further adds “When we honestly confront the things that we own, they evoke many emotions within us. Those feelings are real.” I know because I had a difficult time the first time through my stuff, so in addition to my trash, keep and donate pile I had to make a fourth pile,a reconsider pile. Not to reconsider for the next 6 months, but for the next week. Then the question becomes how do you reconsider whether or not you should keep an item? Well Marie Kondo wrote this “Believe what your heart tells you when you ask, “Does this spark joy?” Answering this question honestly makes a difficult task a little easier. When we consider whether something is bringing us joy right now, we can easily decide if it is worth keeping.
The Annual Purge is about letting go of what doesn’t serve us and keeping our life filled with things that bring us joy. If an item you are holding or considering doesn’t bring you joy then purge it. This experience can be overwhelming and become anxiety provoking, so when you struggle with whether to purge an item or not explore these questions:
1) What am I feeling when I think about getting rid of this? What emotions are coming up?
2) What am I fearing will happen if I get rid of this?
3) What do I believe could happen if I got rid of this? Is there another possibility?
4) How often have I used this, read this or looked at this in the past 6 month, year, two years, five years?
5) Is this item in a box in storage or am I able to enjoy it daily?
6) What would it take for me to let it go?
Write your answers down, remember not to judge them, just let your responses flow. Then when you are done, ask yourself again “Does this bring me joy? If the answer is yes, fine keep it, but if not then purge it.
Warning, by participating in the Annual Purge, you risk feeling more empowered, free from the chains that have been holding you back, boosted confidence and more joyful. Plus, there is a possibility you will experience unforeseen life altering changes which could include but are not limited to job changes, relationship changes, and/or new opportunities being presented.
Now Let’s Purge!!
Much Love and Support