Wednesday, May 16, 2007

extreme purging

Are you inspired by reading about organizing and organization?
One of my favorite books about the voluntary simplicity movement is by author Elaine St. James. In Living the Simple Life she tells the story of a family who lost their home in a fire. When the time came to begin replacing their possessions, they suddenly realized how few of their former things they really needed.

They had experienced a shocking loss, yet were able to see the silver lining in their tragedy. They got a chance to start all over again, creating a life (and a home) that was a true expression of their values.

If your house was on fire and you had only moments to escape, what would you take with you?

Most of us have at least a few irreplaceables: photos, mementos, family heirlooms. But stop a moment and think. How important are those things, really?

What I've found as I've done layer after layer of my own purging is that there is really very little that I can't live without. I'm fond of my favorite possessions, yes - but my life will not be diminished by their loss.

There's something very freeing in this attitude. If my things don't matter, I can spend more energy on the stuff that does - like friendship, and joyful activities, and personal development.

I moved last fall, and I've helped others move in the months since. Every time I lug a box full of stuff that I know won't get unpacked for months - if ever! - I question the sanity of our culture (and my friends and clients).

Sometimes I entertain a fantasy: What if I moved to Europe? What if I couldn't take more than a couple of suitcases with me? What if I lived my life with everything I needed, packed into a carry-on bag?

This is extreme purging. And I'm feeling the pull. Every time I let go of another thing I once thought I could never live without, I feel like I've lost 20 pounds. (Do I smell a reality show somewhere...?)

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