Rev. Nancy's Blog

Releasing Stuff

Many articles have come out over the last year or more that offer guidance on releasing “stuff.” That stuff can be physical possessions, outmoded thought patterns, beliefs, habits—anything that we acquired (consciously or unconsciously) and have clung to. The guidance has been to help us lighten the load and clear our environment, physically and energetically.

I even had a dream in which everything in my house was piled outside on the sidewalk, and things only came back inside by invitation – and not very much came back in!

This essay focuses on releasing physical possessions. Like many of you, I’ve gone through phases of releasing (read: recycle, donate, re-gift, toss), and even written blog posts about it (see list below). Without the necessity of needing to consolidate such as when moving, the releasing has been guided by questions such as: How long has it been since I’ve used/worn this item? Can someone else benefit more than I from this? Is it here just because there’s room for it? Do I really need to keep it? What’s left in my closet, cabinets, and bookshelves has survived many clearing-out cycles.

This year I approached this process with a new perspective: Releasing as a spiritual practice.

It began in February with a Lenten challenge: release one item a day for the period of Lent (between Ash Wednesday and Easter, which this year fell between February 10 and March 27).

The spiritual-practice approach opened more internal levels to the discernment process: Is this item necessary for my wellbeing? Am I hanging onto it because of what it represents or the emotions/ memories I associate with it? The releasing of exterior items turned into an internal process of clearing.

Each item, whether clothing, books, kitchen utensils, or contents of old files, came to me to fill a need at that time—mine or someone else’s. It became important to recognize what that need was, and to give thanks for the role played by the item. This is part of the energetic balancing.

For example, clearing out the files from a leadership role in an organization, I took time to be in gratitude for the confidence the other members had in me to elect me to that position, and to be in gratitude for the skills that helped me complete my responsibility and duties. When I shredded the papers, I blessed them on their journey to becoming compost, to help fertilize the growth of new life. The sweater that no longer fits I thanked for keeping me warm, and blessed to bring warmth to another. The books I thanked for their knowledge and the experience of reading them, and blessed them to bring those gifts to another. And so forth. You get the idea.

The first 40 days of releasing during Lent was relatively easy. I decided to continue. For a full year. And yes, I worked backward to cover January. Here are some of the practicalities and rules I’ve made up along the way (just because I like to do that and it’s part of my personal process):

  • I do things in spurts, so took to making check marks on a calendar for each day’s item. At times I was behind, and at others I was weeks ahead.
  • Consumables don’t count. Likewise, anything that is replaced by something else doesn’t count. The idea is to lighten the load.
  • Things that come as sets count as one item: a pair of earrings, a boxed set of cd’s or books, a set of sheets.
  • Size doesn’t matter: a coat, a chair, a book, a ring, or a reducing the contents of a file folder each count as one item.
  • Nothing counts until it goes into the bag, box, or out the door. Removing things from the bag or box not allowed unless it’s immediately replaced with a like item.
  • I only release things that are mine. My husband is engaged in his own releasing; things that are joint we talk about and decide.

I’ve completed 10 months of this releasing process, and will continue. As I rotate back through areas I’ve thinned before, I find more things I’m willing or ready to release. It doesn’t show physically as great gaps—the things that are left seem to take up more room. But there are fewer books stacked on top of full shelves of books, and it is easier to move things in the closet or find things in the file cabinet.

The biggest change is noticing that I feel lighter. I feel the greater amount of space in a room and the invitation to breathe into it. The energy in my house feels less stagnant. I like to burn palo santo to help clear the energy, as well.

The process continues. There still remains a great deal of accumulation and history to contemplate, appreciate, bless and release, in a house we’ve lived in for a long time. Releasing is indeed a spiritual practice.

Questions for you:

  • What methods do you use to lighten your load of stuff?
  • What tricks do you use to convince yourself to let go?
  • Have you engaged in this process, or are you willing to? It doesn’t need to be for a full year. Try it for a week, or a month, a day for each year of your life, or a length of time that’s significant to you.

Here are other articles I’ve written on related topics:

Preparing for coming change:

Releasing treasures:

Lightening the load:

Lightening the load: