It’s a chronic conversation with my kids (all fresh into adulthood). “How can you possibly enjoy being in a room that looks/smells like that? Is there something you need to talk to me about? What’s going on with you?” I realize that most kids are just lazy and have better things to do with their time than, say, pick up after themselves. Personally, I was an awful housekeeper until well into my 30’s. However, I’ve learned that our personal space is a reflection of our inner being (just as our physical body and actions will often reflect our inner happiness or turmoil).
I have a friend who has grown seemingly unhappy and crabby over the years. When I visited her space recently, it was wall-to-wall clutter and slightly bordering on hoarding. She wasn’t saving garbage or anything of the like, but every single knick-knack, picture, accoutrement and sparkly item she has purchased or been given over the past decade is “decorating” her room. As I looked around, I realized there wasn’t a single thing that she could/would let go of because she was holding so tightly to her past when she was happy and much more carefree in spirit. The funny thing is that her materialism (of sorts) was now taking up the space that used to be her “carefreedom”.
Another friend recently taught me a very valuable lesson, and as I wrote in my piece, “Giving is: Clearing out the Old to Make Way for the New”, we must let go of material things (and the energy of the attachments to those things) to allow for new energy to enter into our lives. My friend said that if something holds deep sentimental value then keep it, but only keep ONE of it. People often keep things because it reminds them of a particular person, place or time. Those things are still in our memories, so there is no true need to keep things years after they’ve outgrown their use in our lives. They end up in a box, in a closet or gathering dust which no longer holds the original intention of the item.
Say you’ve saved all of your children’s pictures that they’ve drawn over the years. Put them all, save one, into a scrapbook and give it to your child to hand down to their child, etc. Do the same with pictures. This holiday season, because I have ZERO funds to spend on others, I will be putting together books and framed pictures of physical memories that are taking up too much room in my space but will bring the receiver a great deal of happiness.
Many religious texts allude to hoarding including 1 Timothy 6:6 – 10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and1 we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
The problem isn’t with the materialism so much as it is with the attachments to the material. Buddhism teaches that material-thinking and attachments keep one from attaining enlightenment because enlightenment is becoming “nothing”. You can’t be “no thing” with so many things.
“Nowadays the world is becoming increasingly materialistic, and mankind is reaching toward the very zenith of external progress, driven by an insatiable desire for power and vast possessions. Yet by this vain striving for perfection in a world where everything is relative, they wander even further away from inward peace and happiness of the mind.”- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
In the case of serious clutter and mess, a heavy-handed cleaning is often required, but the feeling you get when sitting in a clean, open space can be awesome. A clear space allows you the room to take in a deep breath and exhale a grand sigh of relief. Trust me when I tell you the hardest part is making the decision to part with your things, but once they’re gone, the feeling is amazing.
Since your personal space is a reflection of you, what do you see when you look into the “mirror”? Is there so much clutter that people don’t have a place to sit or is there wide open space just waiting to be filled?