As I wrote in my last newsletter, I’ve been on a major decluttering kick. I wanted to write a second piece on this concept as my entire understanding of ‘decluttering’ has reached an entirely new level- a spiritual one. I am absolutely dumbfounded that by systematically going through my house and office, section by section, and mindfully picking up each object I own and asking myself this simple question: Does this item spark joy? I have had a most unexpected spiritual awakening.
For as far back as I can remember, I have been obsessed with second hand stores and finding treasures. I know this is directly linked to the fact that since infancy, my mother took me with her on endless treasure hunts of her own through hundreds of second hand stores in the greater Toronto area. In fact, the whole concept of buying brand new clothes (besides undergarments and socks of course), was completely unknown to me until my twenties. I grew up in Kensington Market in the guts of downtown Toronto where I was surrounded by second hand clothing stores, antiques, and small food vendors; all of whom I knew by name. As a teenager, I paid for my coveted clothing finds by working at many of these second hand clothing stores where I got to pick the best items as they came in the door.
I have always looked at clothes as something to wear and enjoy for a while, and then give away- or recycle- for someone else to enjoy. Because I’ve never paid a lot for the clothes I find on my second-hand treasure hunts, I never experience buyer’s remorse if something I bring home doesn’t quite make the grade and I end up giving it away.
However, when I read The Life-changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing by Marie Kondo and starting following her advice about everything I own, things got tricky emotionally. She is very wise when she strongly advises leaving ‘mementos’ until the very end of one’s decluttering experience. I swear, if you haven’t read her book and actually gone through your possessions one by one and asked yourself that simple question, you have no idea how emotionally charged some of your material possessions can actually be. Try it and see for yourself.
Books, Teddy Bears and Blankets
Some of the most difficult items I came across were a pile of children’s books, which were my favourites when I was little. My adoring grandparents gifted all of these to me and those amazing elders would read them to me over and over again because I just couldn’t get enough. At my first attempt to declutter my bookshelf, I left them because I felt that they ‘sparked joy’ and had such good memories. But then I woke up in the middle of the night with this thought:
They sparked joy when I was a little girl. I have HAD that joy and I am grateful for so much of it that came through having my grandparents focus all of their attention on me by reading those books to me night after night. I will always have the memory of those sacred moments of being snuggled up in my grandparents’ lap being read to with such love and care. I will always cherish the fact that I owe my love of books and reading to my grandparents. Now I can give those books away and hope that they bring as much joy to another little girl.
A similar process occurred when I looked at the teddy bear and baby blanket my dear granny made me for me when I was born. Guess what? I gave them away but not with the sadness I thought would come up, but instead with a blessing and a prayer that went like this:
Thank you dear teddy bear and baby blanket for welcoming me into this world. Thank you dear Granny for making these things for me with your own hands; infused with your love for me, your first grandchild. (Okay, I cried here…)
Thank you both for the security and comfort you provided to me when I was so small and vulnerable.
Universe, I ask that you send these beloved treasures to a newborn baby in my community who could benefit from the deep love with which they were made and intended. And so it is…
And with that, I gently wrapped them and put them in a box to go to their new owner.
At the time of this writing, I have packed up my car-or rather- stuffed it to the gills– eight times since reading Marie Kondo’s book and unloaded each car load at my local thrift stores. I feel so much lighter and happier with each load that it never fails to surprise me when the people receiving donated goods at these stores express genuine enthusiasm and gratitude for the donations.
Each time this occurs, I know that a Higher Power is definitely at work. For in these seemingly simple exchanges, both parties feel like they have been given a gift. The gift I end up receiving is a feeling of lightness and knowing that I have passed something onto someone else who will receive joy through having it. I’m guessing that for the receiver, they will have that wonderful feeling of satisfaction of finding the ‘perfect treasure’ that they had been looking for. I believe that this is surely an act of Grace because both giver and receiver benefit equally and abundantly.
The Gift of Giving
Now that I am actively going through all of my personal possessions with mindfulness and purpose, I am starting to ‘get’ what the whole concept of ‘gift giving’ is really about. When my granny went to all that trouble to buy the materials she needed to make her first-born grandchild a baby blanket and a teddy bear, and then engaged in a painstakingly slow and arduous process to actually make them, then wrap them with care and love and send them, she wasn’t doing it just because she thought she should or because someone told her to do it.
Knowing my grandmother intimately, I am certain that she made both of these items because she wanted to bathe her new-born grandchild in works made from love- an incredibly special love- the immense and pure love that exists between grandparent and grandchild. I have the good fortune to know many grandmothers in my local knitting group. I sit with them each week and revel in the love and care they put into the beautiful clothes, blankets, and toys they make for their grandchildren and know in my heart that those babies are being blessed in a most sacred way by their elders.
In this simple example, I am reminded of how much meaning we put into material things. In this context, a blanket isn’t just a practical way to keep the cold out when you’re sleeping- it’s a reminder of the deep and unconditional love that someone has for us. It’s a testament to how owning such an object puts us into a state of Grace and acts for whatever time is needed, as a reminder that we are loved deeply and cared for.
Also, when it comes time to let go of these beloved objects, we are reminded of the circle of life- we are born, given the tools we need to thrive and then we grow up and give others the tools they need to do the same.
If you have a story of finding spiritual enlightenment through getting rid of material possessions or do you have a story of other benefits you’ve gained by going through this process in your own life? If so, my readers would love to hear your story. You are welcome to remain anonymous if you wish. Send stories to me via e-mail: esther(AT)estherkane.com