Several years ago my partner Michael and I moved from Ukiah to Santa Rosa, California. We’d been living in Mendocino County for more than twenty years. The house had a surprising amount of space where “stuff” could be stuffed—out of sight, out of mind so to speak. For over twenty years we didn’t have to make any decisions about what to keep and what move out of the space. That is until we started packing up for the move. It was a gargantuan task that entailed sorting through not only tchotchkes but at least 1000 boxes of papers and items that had been stashed in a considerable number of cubby holes. I felt like I was living the myth of Psyche sorting the seeds. You might remember her great relief when the ants showed up as friends to help her accomplish the task before the deadline of dawn. It was the same for me. The ants showed up in the form of my women friends but not before I let them know that I needed help. It was a big lesson for me to ask for help. I needed to find a sense of worthiness in order to receive help. They helped me prepare for a large and very successful garage sale which was way beyond my abilities or experience.
However, many of the tasks could only be done by me, such as the sorting of those endless boxes of papers. One by one I’d open a box, pick up a piece of paper and quickly decide what to do with it: keep it, toss it, recycle it, or give it away. Much to my chagrin there was no short cut. I found important papers mixed up with ancient “junk” mail such as offers for low cost trips to Hawaii and pitches to buy coins from The Franklin Mint. There was nothing to do but sort them, paper by paper. The reward of completing the sorting of a box was an exhilarating feeling of freedom and lightness both physically and emotionally.
I often had to remind myself to not look at all the boxes and “stuff” that surrounded me because that was debilitating and depressing. So, I practiced a kind of meditation by bringing my attention to the box in front of me. Sitting in front of a single box, I’d tell myself not to think about anything else; just empty this box. After several days of this, I allowed myself to look up and take in an overview of the space. I found, much to my delight, the space was less cluttered and that I had made some headway. This provided the encouragement to continue with my efforts and in less than two weeks 1000 boxes has been disposed of one way or another. It was a miracle.
Justine Willis Toms