One of the aspects of spring, easy for urbanites to ignore, is the culling. The birthing season for many farm animals means deciding which of the newborns will live, which will be sold, which will be food for the family. With gardening, the sprouts need to be thinned, the weeds need to be pulled, bushes are pruned and flowers are picked or left to bloom and eventually seed.
Part of the process of dealing with my kitchen cupboards falling off the walls is preparing to have my house torn apart for months. This isn’t just a kitchen project. It also involves the bathroom, the basement, the driveway, and some of the yard. I have water issues, mold issues and years of neglect.
My basement has been the land of denial for more years than I can count. I spend as little time as possible down there (because I have massive allergic reactions if I stay). There’s a lot of plain trash. Paper and fabric and wood that has been ruined by water and eaten by mold. I haven’t been able to deal with it because I can’t:
- touch it (without breaking out and/or having an asthma attack)
- haul it up the stairs
- stand to be there long enough to see what is salvageable
So, in fits and starts, I have someone (equipped with gloves and a respirator) doing steps 1 and 2 for me. Step 3 is a little more difficult. There is a lot that I never have to see. It’s undeniably trash. It walks out my door in a bag. I may sigh at a loss, but mostly it’s good riddance.
But there is plenty down there where the distinction is not so clear. Mostly that would be books. The books in bookcases are probably a little (or a lot) moldy. The bookcases themselves are falling apart. But the books look okay. The books are my references, my treasures, my comfort. They’re books!
If I’m a hoarder, it’s about books. There is always money for food, and books. There is always room for food, and books. There can not be enough bookcases. As soon as I get a new one, it’s full. I’m a writer, which means I’m a reader. My basement is full of books.
They come up the stairs box by box. They are no longer in any order, packed more for viability than placement. I have to sort, and cull. Do I really need 3 large boxes of children’s picture books? My children are 23 and 27 and I have no grandchildren on the way. How many herbology books do I need? When do the mythology references just become an indulgence?
There are memories in those books. Some of them survived the house fire when I was a teenager. I open them and smell the smoke, but they also hold the memories of childhood escapes. I spent late nights under the covers with a flashlight, long afternoons in hammocks, curled up on the limbs of a tree with these books.
“Declutter” is the catch word of the day. But this is not clutter. The books without places went out in black trash bags, damp and falling apart. These are the ones that had places on shelves that will no longer support them. These are the curated books that survived multiple moves and life stages. This is culling, and it’s necessary, and it’s hard.
Along with putting away all of the holiday decorations I found myself sorting through my magical “stuff”. I’ve had several occasions to pull out my spiritual tools. You know, those symbols, the nick-knacks that for whatever reason have a spiritual connection. Theoretically I have “stuff” to redecorate the house every 6 weeks (Samhein, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon). I have plenty of “stuff.”
The “stuff” in the photo, an altar I set up for myself, is a collection of things that fit into my little medicine bag. They are pieces I’ve picked up over the years that mark particular points in my spiritual journey. And they are also convenient to carry when I’m traveling.
This “stuff” is important to me. It carries meaning both in symbology and also from the history where I picked up the trinkets along the way. Some of it carries a very potent charge making it easy to return to the feelings I had when I got it. Some of it carries it’s own symbology, like the rune or the chinese birth year tag, or even the particular stones. But most of this “stuff” only comes out on special occasions. When I’m taking a retreat or doing very deep personal work.
A lot of my “stuff” only gets pulled out when I’m looking to make a point in a public setting. I brought some of that with me when I did my workshop in October. I set up a little altar and decorated it with symbols that might be recognizable or meaningful to the people who attended. It’s all “stuff” I like. It’s all “stuff” I’ve used for various purposes, some more than others. Some of it carries fond emotional memories. Some of it I choose for particular attributes and associations. But it’s not my every day “stuff.”
I continue to acquire “stuff”. Anytime I go to an event there is usually some “stuff” to bring home. Either a special name badge or a token from a ritual or a magical marker to help sort the crowd into smaller groups. Sometimes I think I’d like to keep this “stuff” as a memory or a tool to reconnect to the energies of the event. Sometimes I think this “stuff” is just clutter and needs to be disposed of appropriately.
That’s really the problem with all this “stuff”. When things carry a special charge, magical or meaningful, it makes it very difficult to just throw them in the trash. Candles can be burned or remade, as can many of the crafted items (like my vision board from 10 years ago). Some things break (chalices, bowls, lamps) and can then be disposed of as household items. But what do I do with a magical blade that I no longer use? What do I do with the rattles? What do I do with the chalices, bowls and lamps that are still perfectly useful?
This issue becomes even trickier for a teacher. I have several “collections of stuff” that I pull out for specific classes. The variety allows students to compare and contrast a variety of tools that could be used for the same purpose. I have specific items that only come out in particular rituals, rites of passage that don’t come up on an annual basis.
It’s definitely time to clean out my “stuff”. I am hoping some of it will be useful enough to donate to either the programs supporting servicemen practicing their religions on foreign soil or to prison programs supporting Pagan prisoners.
What is your favorite or most useful spiritual “stuff”?
Spirituality is such a day to day part of my life sometimes I forget to give it any attention. I take it for granted. I don’t stop and appreciate the beautiful weather, or my amazing children, or even the fact that there is enough money to pay the bills and buy groceries. All of these things are in my life as gifts from the Universe.
One of the ways I try to remember to spend time on my Spiritual relationships is by doing daily practice. Now this isn’t something I’m good at. I struggle to remember to take my blood pressure meds daily, much less any task I may undertake. To keep myself engaged (entertained?) I occasionally change up my daily practice. I’m truly a generalist. Thats not the sort of person who devotes themselves to achieving perfection at a particular task.
Currently my daily practice is reflected in my writing. I have struggled plenty with journaling over the years. But for right now I’m finding daily writing, open ended and on any topic, is compelling. The thing is, if I don’t write about my Spiritual experience does it really serve me as daily practice?
That’s where this blog is supposed to come in. The idea here is to keep me honest. If I can find something in my daily writing, in my daily living, that inspires me to write here then I have succeeded in utilizing my daily practice to promote my spiritual journey.
Sadly, last week was a long and boring week. There was a certain amount of fatigue that contributed to my lack of inspiration. That was caused primarily from the pain induced from the de-cluttering you read about last week. It was an avalanche of malaise and it was not particularly inspiring. In the face of all that I did continue writing. Perhaps not as much as I might have otherwise, but I did keep up the daily practice.
I also found myself falling back on other spiritual practices I’ve had in the past. I had a daily practice for a while of an astral temple meditation before I went to sleep. I did that several nights last week. I’ve had a daily practice of casting a healing circle. I did that several nights last week. I didn’t get out my old prayer beads, but I remembered that prayer and a few others I’ve used over the years.
Last week I ran across a quote, or someone referenced it, or I overheard someone talking. Don’t you love the way I source my material? Anyway someone said something like, “The reason we do daily practice is to get us through the times when we can’t do daily practice.” That’s definitely the way I felt about it last week.
So now I’m back up on the horse, metaphorically. I’m a day late on the blog, but it’s out there. I’m still writing daily, more than the minimums I’ve set for myself. I’m continuing the process of cleaning up and de-cluttering. (Thank you Tim, Bonita and Karina) I’m also getting my notes together for a workshop I’m giving this weekend at the Mankato Women and Spirituality Conference. Can you guess the topic? Daily Practice.
There are a lot of books out there that talk about clutter. There are systems for dealing with it and for keeping you from creating more. There are theories about clutter on your desk at work. There are theories about clutter in your home. There are hoarder shows, clutter to the nth degree, on TV.
I am a pile maker. I have a stack of books to read. I have an accumulation of files that need to be put away. I have a perpetual mound of dishes in the drainer. I have a basket of socks that need to be paired. This leads, quite naturally, to clutter.
I have noticed that I am really good at keeping a clear space clear. I am amazingly organized when I travel. I don’t spread out all over the hotel room. I keep dirty clothes in a clothes bag. Even at home, if I establish a “clear space” I tend to keep it clear.
I have also noticed that as soon as one small object invades a clean space, all bets are off. If I happen to set something down on an empty table and leave it there, within the week it becomes a pile. If I happen to leave something out on a clear counter, more things just collect. It’s my experience that clutter begets clutter.
I have two problems with the theories about putting things away in the moment and not letting them become clutter. The first problem is that I don’t live alone. 90% of the time the one piece of paper, or pen, or can of soup that gets left out wasn’t mine. It doesn’t stop the clutter from continuing. Apparently clutter is an indiscriminate breeder.
My second problem is even harder to address. I have some significant health problems. I get by, but I do tend to push the edges. Sometimes I will come home from shopping, carry the bags in one at a time, and be so worn out that I literally can’t unpack. This also applies to traveling. The bags often don’t get unpacked for a week or more.
With these bad habits eventually the clutter does become overwhelming. This is when I really start to notice those books may be right. I get preoccupied with avoidance. Not only do I avoid the clutter, but also some of my other daily tasks. I start to lose track of things. Sometimes it’s papers I was sure were in the pile, but that expands. It’s as though my brain doesn’t keep track as well if the house is cluttered.
If living a spiritual life is being in alignment with your higher purpose, that alignment is also disturbed by clutter. My shrines don’t get tended. The plants don’t get watered. The environment doesn’t lend itself to doing any kind of spiritual work. There is a reason our imaginings of cloistered communities include nuns and monks on their knees scrubbing the floors.
So this is a week devoted to dealing with the clutter. I’ve been sorting through my filing. I’ve been cleaning up the kitchen. I have the “get the car in the garage” project on the calendar. I’m happy that it’s getting done. My load seems lighter as order begins to prevail.
But again, I do have some physical issues. I’m worn out. I couldn’t do this all by myself. So I also am grateful to everyone who is lending a hand. Sorting through piles is not a job I can delegate. But my thanks go out to my friends and family who have rolled up their sleeves to help with the haul and carry.
There is still more to do. The other problem with clutter is that it’s one of those jobs that’s never done. But I can take a little time out to sit with gratitude. I can kick back and enjoy the extra space. And I can dash off a little blog.