This story began as a blog but is now in a story format so you can easily follow the plot.
For 10 years or so, I’d been telling my clients to get rid of their clutter, explaining that clutter can lead to all sorts of negative things from making us sick to holding us back from what we really want.
But what about my own clutter? Oops!
Yes I had to confess to having some of my own! But the thing was, I had been in denial because my clutter was out of sight. It had been hidden away in a storage facility in Melbourne while for several years I’d lived very simply as a house minder, moving around with only what I’d needed to wear, eat, and work with. I’d convinced myself that I was living the life I’d preached.
Firstly let me I need to retrace my steps. In 2004, I was restless and by then, my young adult children were happily living elsewhere. I was lucky enough to be able to take a year out of life and go travelling. I sold the house and put most of my stuff into a self storage facility where I could go back and forth, adding and taking as I wished. It wasn’t cheap but I had no choice.
Then I lived overseas, had a ball and returned 12 months later. Without really meaning to I fell into house sitting because I couldn’t decide where I wanted to settle down. And I loved it. For me it became a fantastic way to explore Melbourne and save money at the same time. I was also learning about the Feng Shui of the houses I minded as well . But most of all it gave me the feeling that I was still a traveller.
So my things in storage stayed put.
On Boxing Day in 2011, I was hit by a sudden curiosity to go and look at all my stuff – my furniture, the boxes packed with books and who knows what else. The storage warehouse was in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. I drove in anticipation to my lock-up, trying to remember what I had actually put there.
I opened the door and saw boxes and boxes stacked up to the ceiling, furniture, pictures in frames, tools and bags with sheets, towels and doonas. When I peered into some of the boxes, memories flooded in. But so did shock! My doonas had turned brown due to heat! My once white fluffy pillows had deflated and acquired a strange vomity brown colour.
Why on earth had I kept them? And why did I think I’d need a 15-year old saucepan without a handle? Why would I want a bunch of videos anymore?
What a time machine this little lock up had become. I was paying to keep possessions I hadn’t missed at all and probably never would.
So I made a decision. It had to go!
Karen Kingston, the guru of decluttering, says that there are four categories of clutter.
• Things you do not use or love.
• Things that are untidy or disorganized.
• Too many things in too small a space.
• Anything unfinished.
If I ask myself what categories my things fitted into I’d have to choose the first three. Karen Kingston wasn’t really talking about remote storage spaces, I suspect, but the effect is the same. The things that I largely no longer loved were crowded in a small space and disorganised.
But just how could this have an effect on me? It was not as if I was living with it or could see it on a daily basis.
No, but clutter has long tentacles. I had in the back of my mind that one day I would buy a new home and have to unpack my storage into it. So I carried it with me as a thought. The trouble was that as I lived my new life as a house sitter, the things from the past became less and less relevant as my interests changed and my style evolved. So the thoughts were a form of clutter. My belongings certainly had been useful when my family was growing up. But I didn’t want them anymore. When I thought about them I felt tired, as if I was paying for a burden, paying for stale objects from the past.
I returned to the facility several weeks later, sister in tow. It’s good to go through an ordeal like this with a buddy. If your declutter buddy is anything like my sister they will help you get through more and they’ll make sure some of it goes straight to the rubbish or to charity bins before you can change your mind. She helped me put things into categories;
- charity bin giveaways,
- recycle bin throw outs,
- things relegated to the rubbish bin
- boxes for things I still wanted to keep.
On that day, we placed about four big bags into a charity bin, mostly old sheets, towels and clothes. Old saucepans, crockery, videos and paper records went into recycle bins. A few things went into the rubbish bin and I reduced the content of five boxes to two, that I wanted to keep.
The effect was amazing! I immediately felt lighter, more springy and spent that week singing inside because something had become unlocked. The secret is getting rid of giveaways straight away…not leaving it in a bag in the boot of your car. Do it then and there! Declutter – it’s addictive!
Next installment………There was still lots more to get through!
Another Go at Reducing the Boxes
With daughter and son in- law in tow this time, I headed out to my lock up once again two weeks later. We carried out another 8 boxes to my car and stacked them in tightly. I really needed my daughter and her husband because some of the boxes were really heavy with books and crockery. Once they were packed in I said goodbye and they left in their own car. I closed the door and locked the unit and hopped in my own car, ready to take them back to my mother’s for sorting or discarding. That’s when I struck a few snags.
Problem number 1
When I got in the car, I couldn’t change gears because of the big box pushed right up against the gear stick. Nothing to it but to put it back. It would happen to be the heaviest box wouldn’t it? Bent nearly double, I struggled bow legged to put it back in the unit and perched it on top of another box at waist height. Then I got back in the car and drove off.
Back at my mother’s I reduced the contents of 7 boxes to 5. Other electrical things went straight to a hard rubbish collection in Coburg, where another sister lives ( I have four sisters) Apparently these objects were treasured by locals and disappeared in minutes! The rest was repacked more efficiently and then waited till I’d organized it all to be relocated to a smaller unit, saving me money.
Problem No. 2 surfaced on Monday morning when I had a phone call from a staff member at the storage place.
“Fran did you visit your lockup on the weekend?”
Well you didn’t close the door properly. It’s been opening and closing, continually setting off the alarm all weekend! Security had to come out to investigate. They have charged us $50 for their visit. So we have to pass it on to you.”
Right. Things don’t always go to plan.
I put off returning just in case I’d been burgled as well! I didn’t want to know.
I tend to see signs in events like this. The word ‘alarm’ kept ringing in head (so to speak) all that same day. It was almost as though I shouldn’t have put that one box back. I decided that the message was that I’d been fined for reneging on my promise to myself to keep making the pile of possessions smaller.
Yet things had changed in my life since I’d made the commitment earlier in the year. Already new opportunities had appeared. I work in an educational institution as well as running my Feng Shui practice and the work I’d been involved with that year, had been particularly rewarding and engaging as opposed to previous years. That was one outcome.
Then my Feng Shui business picked up pace and made a great leap forward with new clients flooding in.
Thirdly, I’d lost the weight I wanted to lose. Shedding 7 kilograms was a fantastic way to feel like I was on a new path.
Decluttering definitely cleared out negative energy in all parts of my life.
The Final Resting Place
I wanted to tell you what happened after the last bit of a tidy up in the storage compartment. By then I had reduced all my things in the space to a bed, a secretaire (that’s a kind of desk with a drop down door that becomes a desktop), a large antique bookcase and several boxes, pictures and frames and tools. Of course I still needed to store the boxes I had temporarily placed in Mum’s garage, somewhere. But the total reduction was over a third of what I’d previously held on to. Felt good.
I asked the girl at the front office for prices on a smaller storage area, thinking it would be lots cheaper. But the next size down was still $85 a month! Only $20 cheaper than what I’d been paying. The next smaller and much cheaper was a little cupboard thing for storing wine. Hardly suitable for large antique bookcase. So I was really disappointed.
I was whinging away about it to my mother the next day, when she went quiet. Then she suggested I put it all in her garage along with what was already there. At first I said no, I couldn’t do that to her. It would be taking advantage. She assured me that as long as she had enough room for her car, she didn’t mind. I thought about the $106 I would be saving per month and quietly caved in. How generous of her.
‘Um…Ok thank you. ‘
She won’t take any money but I’ve secretly decided to pay her a small amount a month anyway.
With daughter, son- in-law and son accompanying me several weeks later, along with three cars and a trailer, we moved everything to join its companions in her garage. It all stacked together and fitted snuggly. There were no mishaps on the road. No bit of furniture or boxes flying off the trailer and into the windscreen of the unsuspecting cars behind us. Very satisfying and easy.
Why Did I Keep So much?
Once the process was finished I started to wonder was why I had needed to store so much in the first place. Looking back, I can see it was partly a survival mentality thing.
‘I might not have much in the future, so this stuff is better than nothing’, my chattering mind said. Or maybe my possessions became so much part of who I was, that I couldn’t give them up for fear that I might lose part of myself . I needed the space between 2004 and then, to see how wrong I was and to hear the truth in the adage, ‘I am not my possessions.’
It is crystal clear to me now that what I’d stored was my old life and I’m no longer the person who filled that life. Living overseas for a year changed me. Letting go and flowing where life took me, showed me a world through fresh eyes, confounding my presuppositions, and expectations. My world expanded, my fear reduced, I rejuvenated. New friends, beautiful cities, sounds, smells, food, languages and music, have come to me in ways that were bigger than my imagination. I have loved seeing my children travel, and experiencing the joys that I’ve had too. I live largely without many of my own possessions as I house mind. But its made me realize that I don’t want much. Oh I still love beautiful things, but far, far less than before.
But I am also convinced more than ever that things in storage, even if they are out of sight can have an effect on what happens to us, and potentially on to those we live with.
There are other strategies that can help if you need to store your goods and chattels. Even if you have cleared out your clutter, and undoubtedly feel much lighter, there may still be still a residue of thick energy in your house.
Clearing the Space
Ok. This is what I do in a house and what I did in the garage.
Firstly a good clear out, sweep, tidy and good organization of the things in the garage is important. It musn’t look higgeldy piggeldy. Mine looked as though I cared about what was there. I’d allowed some space between objects and I dusted, swept away cobwebs and organised what was in cupboards and boxes.
But here’s the really powerful tip.
A Sage Stick
Burning a sage stick is a great way to get rid of heavy or negative energy. I can use it to reduce the slight density of my storage area. If you’ve have had people in your house who drain your energy, or who have been arguing, it can really help there too as well.
Close all windows and doors and light the sage. The smoke from the sage does the clearing. I put the sage into a bowl and make sure it is well lit to get a good lot of smoke going. Then walk around your space, taking it into every corner of each room, around beds, and chairs and finally around yourself, waving the smoke everywhere. You’ll feel like a witchdoctor and if that pleases you, all the better.
Another good way to lighten energy is bell ringing. I use some Tibetan bells that have a beautiful quality sound.
I hit them together. These are ones that have been blessed by Buddhist monks. But other bells will do as long as they are not stainless steel. That is not strong enough. Ring the bells until the quality of the sound is clear or you can hear the harmonies penetrating through the space.
What you hear may be more muffled at first but as the room clears, the sound will cut the air more easily.
Whenever I use these methods in a house it sings afterwards and feels fantastic.
Comments or questions are welcome.