I’m Putting My House on a Diet

I am at an age where my peers and I are dealing with the passing on of our parents. This sorrowful period brings with it the responsibility to find homes for all of their belongings. While selected treasures comfortably fit in our ofttimes overstuffed residences, there’s still quite a lot to be processed and moved along to other owners. This activity has elevated my consciousness regarding our stuff.

my houseI’ll confess that having a fair amount of space in our home makes it easy to accumulate excess baggage. Our ample closets and storage help us avoid the difficult decisions about what to keep and what to let go. So, we put things in boxes, close the doors, and forget about them. Two self-funded cross-country moves helped us trim back on things. And yet a quick peek into our cubbies provides a reminder of how many possessions never see the light of day.

There is a practical dimension to combing through our belongings and purging what we don’t need. We plan to downsize in our next move. I don’t want to face the gargantuan task of sifting through all this stuff amidst a move, especially given the time and effort required to find good homes for everything. (I really don’t want perfectly usable items to wind up in land fill!) I also want to spare our executor the unpleasant task of dealing with excess belongings once we move along to the next emanation.

There is a financial dimension to the task of paring back. I’ve made a little bit of money selling items through eBay, Craig’s List, and yard sales. I’m not convinced that the proceeds merit the effort required to offer them up. The real benefit comes from taking a hard look at everything and taking note of how many purchases failed to deliver value. That realization helps me curb the impulse to spend.

There is a spiritual dimension to the process. According to the Chinese metaphysical art of feng shui, all matter radiates a living energy known as Ch’i. This energy finds resonance in the thing itself as well as the reactions, emotions, and memories that we bring to it. Feng shui practitioners leverage these invisible energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. In The Western Guide to Feng Shui, Terah Kathryn Collins tells us:

“Items that have unhappy memories or feeling attached to them, or that you simply don’t like, do not carry the vital Ch’i that is supportive of you. The fastest way to transform the aliveness of these objects into something that is fresh and welcome is to let them go. Sell, throw, or give them away! Your junk is put back into the flow, and may very well become another person’s treasure. The Ch’i has an opportunity to be recharged or recycled, while you enjoy the lightness of being that comes with lightening your baggage and surrounding yourself with things that have positive, happy associations.”

I put that concept to the test in a recent decision to replace a dining room set that I’d inherited 30+ years ago from my grandmother. I never liked it. I told myself that it was good furniture, and its presence meant that I would not have to buy a set myself. But after living with it all these years, I finally decided to get something that reflects my husband’s and my tastes. I’m excited about the new set and felt great about donating the old one to ReStore.

Meanwhile, I’ve started the process of going through the house room-by-room to identify things we don’t use or need. It’s tedious. Some decisions are easy; some aren’t. I may not be as ruthless as I ought to be on this go around. However, I’m planning on putting the house on a diet regularly to keep it – and us – in great shape!