Making Space

A client (who gave me permission to use this piece of her story) was facing some changes at work.  The company built a new central office building, and moved employees from several locations.  As a part of the move, all the employees had to comply with new corporate regulations.  All of the paraphernalia that had been collected by long term employees: company collectibles, desk decorations, etc., had to be pared down to five personal items.  After more than a decade with the company, my client had a hard time with this rule.  It felt as though she was having part of her identity taken away when she had to box up all of her desk decorations. Each of the items on her desk had a story, a history, memories associated with it.  So, when my client talked about the move and the new rule, she expressed some sadness and some resentment.

Flash forward to two weeks after the move.  My client mentioned during a session how much she likes her new space.  She reported that others have ignored the rule and added lots of personal items to their desks.  But, and she sounded surprised as she said this, my client has appreciated having an “uncluttered” space to work in.  And she has noticed that the uncluttered space has contributed to her feeling “lighter.”

Why We Hold On

I think that all of us have heard about the power of simplicity.  There are a slew of books about the “simple life.”  I think it can be easy to dismiss these ideas as “new-agey” or not applicable to our lives.  When we think about de-cluttering our lives, whether we’re thinking about cleaning out a desk at work, or cutting down on our commitments, our initial impulse is to resist.

We don’t want to give up our memories, our stories, our sense of history.  Those are the things that keep us attached to our stuff, even when we’ve outgrown it, or we’re facing a space crunch.    We don’t want to feel like we’re missing out on opportunities, or that we’re letting others down.  These things can keep us attached to our commitments.

Less is More

But my client’s story provides an incredible illustration of what can happen when we let go of our attachments.  She was initially upset at being forced to reduce the clutter on her desk.  Her first reactions were sadness and resistance.  However, once she had been living with the results of the the change for a little while, she notice some powerful rewards.

When we are able to work through our initial resistance to paring down both the things and the commitments in our lives, we make space.  And in that space, we have room to enjoy what is left.  To really see the things in our lives, and to enjoy our most important commitments without rushing through them.  To recognize that our memories exist in our hearts and minds, not in the things that surround us.

So, here are my questions for you today.  What can you let go of?  Where are there opportunities to create space?  How can you make less into more?

I can’t wait to hear your answers.

Photo Credit: Me

4 thoughts on “Making Space

  1. Ah, synchronicity. I just wrote about this very thing a couple of weeks ago. I’ve always believed that the struggle and lightness associated with decluttering is a deeply psychological phenomenon. That whole “do you own things or do things own you” conundrum. Loooove this story.

    1. Ellie,

      I think that question is one that we all need to sit with as a regular meditation. I know that I feel physically and emotionally lighter when I go through my house and find things that I can move on to new homes. Can’t wait to read your piece.


  2. Oh, how I’m an active declutterer because I love that feeling of lightness. I try to go through our attic every year to purge. On the other hand, my mom holds onto things- and I find that I can’t visit my parents for too many days because I feel weighed down by the stuff. Even though it’s all neat, or tucked away, I know it is there and it has an impact on me. Found this story really interesting and appreciate having the opportunity to think about how this tendency translates in other ways.

    1. Rosie–I got totally committed to decluttering after my husband’s aunt passed away. She was a diagnosable hoarder, and it was painful to see how small her life got as her stuff got bigger and bigger. I knew then that I’d rather collect memories than collect stuff. And I agree with you about the other implications of this story. I think that many of our forced changes can include opportunities for growth and space!

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