Tag Archives: Letting Go

The Magical Journey of Clutter-Clearing

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But my intuition assured me it was time and that the effort would be well worth it.

I had borrowed Marie Kondo’s little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, from the library while we were in the process of clearing out my parents’ house at the beginning of the year. I read bits and pieces of it, but life was busy, so I put it aside.

After we closed on my parents’ house, I landed back at my own house where I hadn’t been spending much time, and when I opened my eyes, I didn’t like what I saw or how I felt in that space. It felt cluttered and chaotic, and so did I every time I stepped through the door. It was hard to focus or have a clear sense of direction when I was home. I had the feeling that my real life was buried somewhere beneath all the clutter, and I was determined to excavate it. So I picked up the book again and declared February to be my month of Divine Decluttering.

On February 1st under my mentor’s guidance, I created a bagua (feng shui) map and realized the space that was most chaotic in the house corresponded to the area of my life that was in greatest disarray. Incredible! So that’s where I started, beginning (as Kondo suggested) with my clothes. I collected every article of clothing I owned and made a massive heap on the living room floor. It felt overwhelming, but I knew I had to do it. I held every single piece of clothing in my hand, one at a time, and asked my guiding questions:

Does it spark joy?

Is it uplifting or draining?

Does it support an old, outworn self-concept or the current way I envision myself and the life I am creating?

And that’s what I have done with every single object in my house, including utensils, papers, CDs, personal care items, spices, plastic containers, photos, cards, letters, and absolutely everything else. No fork or pen was left untouched! At this point, I only have two more rooms to go before the whole house is decluttered. However, I could feel a positive energy shift immediately, on day one.

Decluttering the house was a gift I decided to give myself in honor of my 50th birthday. My intention was to have the house completely decluttered by my March 1st birthday. But by the time my birthday rolled around, I realized I’d need another month to complete the process because I’m diving in so deeply and allowing emotions to arise, tears to be released, and revelations to be recorded as I let go of what has outlived its usefulness in my life.

Something powerful happens when you hold an object in your hands and connect with its energy. Clearing clutter has uncovered deeply hidden emotional clutter, relationship clutter, mind clutter, and so much more. With each room I clear, I feel more aligned with my higher Self and my vision of who I am, the life I want to live, how I want to feel, and who I want to spend my time with. It feels so amazing to be surrounded by objects that support that newly awakened vision. This is the journey of a lifetime that ranks right up there with becoming a mother. It is a soulful process that has transformed the home I felt ashamed of into a sanctuary brimming with vibrant, inspiring, peaceful energy.

It is the most incredible feeling to look around, and everything my eyes rest on is there because I want it there. Everything is intentional. Along with letting go of personal possessions, I am releasing outdated concepts of who I was in the past that no longer fit with who I am now and who I envision myself becoming. There is “art and heart” all around me now, which is who I am! My home has become an authentic expression of my true self, simply as a result of mindfully clearing away the clutter!

How does clutter-clearing create such profound inner shifts? Here are some examples and highlights of how it has worked for me.

Clothes

First, I decluttered my coats and washed ones that I didn’t want to put back dirty. I got rid of some of my mom’s coats that might have worked for her but didn’t work for me. I thanked them for serving her and for making her happy and comfortable. Then I put them in a large, plastic bag that I brought to the collection bin for a secondhand store run by a local church. Same for a fleece sweater my mom gave me that never really worked for me. As I put the sweater in the donation bag, in my heart I thanked her for always wanting me to be warm in the winter. I need not hold on to things a deceased loved one gave me, as a souvenir of his or her love. For example, some of the gloves my mom gave me are quite worn now, and it is okay to let them go. She wouldn’t have wanted me to wear worn-out gloves, and because of how she loved me and gave me the gift of warmth, I can now do the same for others…and for myself. 

I discovered right off the bat that deep decluttering is a process of taking a good, honest, conscious look at everything in my life and determining what I really want going forward and what needs to be released with love and gratitude. Now I don’t have to weed through closets and drawers to find what I want to wear because everything that doesn’t feel good or bring me joy is gone. And I have my clothes folded neatly in drawers (using Kondo’s method that I learned from YouTube videos) so everything is visible. I also discovered some treasures buried beneath all the rubble! 

Kitchen

I didn’t plan to work on the kitchen next, but one thing led to another, and before I knew it, the contents of all the kitchen drawers was in a huge pile on the kitchen table. Clearing the kitchen felt overwhelming at times because there was so much to go through, and I knew it would take about a week of hard work. When moments of overwhelm threatened to bring me to a standstill, I imagined how great it would feel to have the kitchen clutter-cleared and then had the energy to keep going!

During my kitchen clutter-clearing, no utensil was left unexamined. I held each fork in my hand to ask if it sparks joy, and some were discarded immediately. There’s one with a rose design on the handle that I don’t find beautiful, nor do I necessarily love the shape of it compared to other forks. Yet holding it in my hands brought tears to my eyes – tears for the family that no longer exists and all the meals we shared together. Even though it doesn’t spark joy, and aesthetically I don’t find it particularly pleasing, I decided I need to hold on to this fork for now.  It seems to want to stay with me.

Since both my parents and my last remaining grandparent all died within the past six years, I have inherited a lot of household items, including two sets of electric beaters – one from my grandmother and one from my mom. Which one to keep and which one to let go of? When I held my grandmother’s beaters in my hand, I felt her spirit very strongly. It made me happy. She loved to bake and cook, and it reminded me of family get-togethers at her house. My mom’s electric beaters might be in better shape or possibly better quality (though I can’t say for certain), but when I held them in my hands, aside from knowing they belonged to my mother, I didn’t feel anything. So I decided to keep my grandmother’s beaters. I feel my mother’s spirit come through other objects much more strongly.

Clutter-clearing is an opportunity to ask many probing questions, such as when I decluttered the cabinet where all the plastic containers were stored haphazardly. After getting rid of anything without a lid and reducing my collection by about 50%, I posted an “after” picture on Facebook. A friend commented that she stores almost everything in mason jars, and that got me thinking…

I use mason jars for food storage, too, to some degree. But I never made the connection between getting rid of plastic containers and using more mason jars because they are stored in completely different parts of the kitchen. So why am I holding on to so much plastic, when I don’t even like plastic? Is it because I can use those containers when I make food for other people? How often do I do that? Is that something I want to do? If so, why am I not doing it more? How can I do more of it if it’s important to me? So it’s a matter of looking at what I hold on to and why and asking questions about why I’m not living in accordance with the vision I have for things in my house. Then it’s a matter of either getting rid of the vision and the stuff or making some adjustments to the way I live my life.

Books, Binders, and Papers

Although I dreaded it, it wasn’t so difficult after all to get rid of my teaching materials. Actually, it was a joy! A master’s degree should not be a life sentence if the work no longer calls to you. I held on to some arts and crafts ideas for young children because I want to do them with my granddaughter. And I ended up keeping my mindfulness and social-emotional activities because that’s where my heart still is. If I ever were to do any kind of teaching or work with children in the future, it would be around mindfulness, social-emotional learning, and/or art. That became very clear to me as I clutter-cleared papers and books.

I also got rid of papers that served as reminders of difficult times. I choose not to carry them around with me anymore. It feels so good to be free of them!

Stairs

No area is left out, however small or seemingly insignificant – like the stairs, for instance. I have a wall gallery of family portraits going up the stairs that hadn’t been touched in years and was collecting dust. I decided to only display photos that spark joy. I love my daughter, and yet there is a certain time of her life that was so very difficult, and it showed in her eyes. I didn’t want to see her in that way anymore, and I can only imagine how it must have been for her to visit and see pictures from that time of life on display. So I took down the ones from that era and framed a stunning portrait of her when she was very ripe with child and filled with excitement and hope. And putting up the first framed portrait of my granddaughter was a big deal in itself. Now the wall gallery on the stairs has come alive with new vibrance. In addition, I took a good look at the potted plants on the stairs, which had become more or less invisible to me, and repotted most of them so that they are more vibrant and alive now, too.

Bathroom

The one and only bathroom in the house is the room that has undergone the most dramatic transformation of all. The bathroom has issues, and we reached a point of throwing in the towel, presumably when my mom became ill. The composition of our well water combined with the materials the bathroom fixtures and appliances were made of required much effort to keep the bathroom clean. The bathroom was an embarrassment that prevented us from inviting company over. When visitors would come, we dreaded them asking to use the bathroom. It was that bad.

It was when I was scrubbing the toilet and bathroom floor that I acknowledged how out of whack my life had become and vowed to never, ever, EVER let it happen again. It took repeated treatments of some nasty, heavy-duty chemicals that I wouldn’t otherwise use to make things right again. I experienced myself shifting into a more empowered state of being and atoning for the ways in which I have gone astray after my mom died. As I scrubbed away the mineral buildup, grime, cobwebs, and dust, I acknowledged that there are things that have become normalized in my life that never should have been, and the toilet was a perfect metaphor. I vowed that I will never live like that again. Since I have experienced how bad it can get, from now on I will be more mindful and proactive – in the bathroom and in my life!

AND YET…

Even though I have gone passively to places I never want to go again, I realize the importance of accepting that I went there, rather than passing judgment and dragging around shame. My biggest takeaway from the spiritual retreat I went on last month is that in order to truly be in a relationship with another person, you have to see him clearly for who he really is and accept him completely. Many people are in relationship with their partner’s potential rather than the actual person, and when you are able to see through your illusions and desires to change someone, you finally can start being in relationship with the person. Once you see clearly who he is, you are empowered to make wise, healthy choices about the relationship.

It’s the same with your relationship with yourself. If you are relating to your potential, you might not accept yourself (or even allow yourself to see yourself) as you are and get stuck in self-judgment and believing you need to change rather than understand what’s really going on. When you keep your shadow material unconscious, you’re not free to embrace and be nourished by your wholeness, which allows for greater insight and understanding. If instead you can take a good, honest look at yourself and accept everything you find (a sense of humor helps here!), you are empowered to make wise, healthy choices about living your life in greater harmony with your higher Self. The truth really does set you free, and what I’m talking about here is the difference between being self-righteous and being self-aware and loving.

Heck, I could have written an entire essay on clearing and cleaning my bathroom.

I realized early in the process that focusing on elaborate room makeovers and applying feng shui remedies distracted me from clutter-clearing and slowed down my momentum. Nonetheless, the bathroom needed more TLC before I could move on. I put up a new, more subdued shower curtain, removed the stained glass paint from the window (which felt even more like penance than scrubbing the mineral deposits from the toilet) and replaced it with mini blinds, added some plants, replaced rusted shower shelves with something much more aesthetically pleasing, took down the mildewed over-the-door organizer that housed personal care products (after decluttering its contents down to about one-third) and replaced it with over-the-door towel hooks, put a two-foot tall shoji folding screen around two stacked wood crates used for storage, put up an attractive accent mirror, added an aromatherapy diffuser and candles for relaxing baths, and asked the landlord to install a new medicine cabinet to replace the rusted eyesore we had grown accustomed to.

Though the bathroom in this circa 1840 rental house still has significant issues and limitations, it was like I had waved a magic wand at it! I made the most of it, and now it, too, sings with fresh, new energy! Hallelujah! We can have company over again! This will delight my son when he’s home from college.

Cards and Letters

Kondo advised decluttering in a certain order because some things are harder to part with than others, and you need to strengthen your letting-go muscles. Personal mementos such as cards and letters fall into that more advanced category.

The happiest discovery: A birthday card  from my dad with a very simple, loving message that sums up our relationship. We might not have understood each other or had much in common, but the bottom line is that we loved each other, nonetheless. (And the gift is that loving someone who was so different from me makes me less likely to pass judgment on others whose beliefs are in such opposition to how I view the world. It humanizes the “other,” for after all, even though my dad and I didn’t see eye to eye about the world, he truly was a sweetheart who didn’t harm a soul. But I digress…) 

Decluttering cards and letters helped me to clarify and appreciate relationships. My grandmother would carefully select cards, and her cards and messages, along with my parents’, mean a lot to me now that they’re gone. Going through cards and letters also inspired me to take time to acknowledge others – their milestones or simply to say hi and let them know they matter – by sending cards. It’s something I want to get back into the habit of because it’s special to receive a handwritten card. I sent out two cards of appreciation this week to important women in my life, to reactivate those relationships. It was a joy to put them in the mailbox!

The most amazing, woo-woo find: A birthday card from my parents that brought me to tears. The inside read, “Always remember what a wonderful person you are and how very much we love you.” For some reason, that message touched me deeply. It was exactly what I longed to hear from them. A little later, I was looking through more cards and came across the exact same card that they gave me another year. It felt like the universe or my parents underscoring that message. The next morning, I found a third copy of the same card! I am the oldest of three children, and perhaps my mom bought three copies of the same card with the intention of giving one to each of us. However, I ended up with three of them! It felt like a message they really wanted me to receive, and finding three copies of the same card after they passed away was no small thing.

Photos

I thought it would only take a few hours to clear one small closet, but instead it took a few days to go through the boxes of photos, cards, and letters stored in it. As with utensils, I left no photo untouched! Clearing photos made me conscious of how I want to redefine myself. I don’t need to accept anyone else’s definition or perception of who I am. I am completely free to sculpt my own definition of myself. For example, I can discard any pictures that don’t represent me as I want to be represented. Goodbye to anything that is embarrassing or shameful or just not the me I want to be.

When I looked through pictures of me throughout my life – many that I received from my parents – I wished I could go back in time and tell my younger self to lighten up and not be so serious and perfectionistic. I reflected on where that came from and generated compassion for myself and anyone else who might have contributed to my attitudes towards life and myself. That’s the kind of healing that can take place when you clutter-clear in silence, without any distractions, as Kondo recommends. You face yourself head-on and can set yourself free.

I’m especially interested in keeping pictures that express someone’s spirit and pictures that support family stories that we recount with joy and humor, whether it’s about a particular event or time of life. For example, I kept pictures of my children (who were voracious readers) reading at the breakfast table. And some pictures might not be as much about the people in them as the spaces we inhabited. I’m holding on to some pictures because they show the interior of my grandmother’s house, my childhood homes, or other homes I lived in, to remind me of long-forgotten details that contribute to the feeling of the spaces.

Another note about photos: In the process of clutter-clearing, you can photograph objects instead of keeping them and create an album of memories that takes up much less space than it would to continue storing the items. I anticipate doing a lot of this when I clutter-clear the rented self-storage unit that houses many of my parents’ possessions that I didn’t have time to go through before closing on the house.

Putting It All Together

Clutter-clearing has set in motion the most amazing transformation I’ve ever experienced. It is so empowering! I guess sometimes things have to become a literal mess before you become motivated to turn them around. I expect to have the entire house clutter-cleared by the end of the month. But there’s so much more!  After I finish decluttering the house, I intend to turn my attention to decluttering: my car, the rented self-storage unit, the garage, my computer, my phone, and my online photography portfolio. I have it all mapped out on my 2017 wall planner. This is my year of massive decluttering. And it’s not just stuff. It’s everything. I’m going to the core of the clutter and eliminating it once and for all.

Being mindful now keeps me in this new energy field and prevents me from reverting to the old, cluttered, chaotic life. I don’t ever want to go back to that! So I mindfully fold each piece of clothing with appreciation rather than toss it mindlessly in a drawer or pile. After a month and a half, my clothes are still folded beautifully, and the kitchen cabinet housing the plastic containers remains orderly. Once my house is entirely decluttered, I will just have to keep on top of the routine cleaning.

Here are some other insights and realizations I’ve had during my clutter-clearing journey:

  • I discovered treasures I didn’t even realize I had or had forgotten about because so much other stuff got in the way.
  • I realized it’s draining to look for something I like/want by having to sort through all the other stuff.
  • I acknowledged that I am in a different phase of life now where things that once felt right to me no longer do. (And that’s okay!)
  • Even if I never wore a particular article of clothing or pair of earrings, I need not regret spending the money because it supported a vision of who I once wanted to be – and therefore served a purpose. 
  • I’ve become conscious of everything I’ve been holding on to and why – and have let go of so much after asking questions I’d never asked myself before. This is profoundly healing and enLIGHTENing!
  • I realized I’ve let some things slide that really bothered me. And when you allow that to happen for years, it creates a big mess and lots of resentment. So the clutter-clearing process has awakened me to the necessity of standing up for what is important to me and not just letting it go and just “dealing” with it. The outer, physical world is a reflection of our inner world and relationships.
  • I find that I am attending to matters immediately rather than putting them aside to deal with later, like mending clothes that need a patch or button and dealing with items on my to-do list more promptly. Just get it done! Don’t put things off because that only contributes to clutter (including head clutter). Take care of it promptly or just get rid of it.
  • Even if I made it, I don’t need to keep it!
  • I discarded so many nature photographs that I once thought were pretty good. It allowed me to see how my photography has improved over the years.
  • I got rid of a number of large objects that were in the way and literally collecting dust and serving no purpose, that had become more or less invisible to me. The elephants in the room all of a sudden became visible!

If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of clutter-clearing and are intrigued, I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book. She promotes a quick, all-out, down and dirty approach to clutter-clearing because:

When you tidy your space completely, you transform the scenery. The change is so profound that you feel as if you are living in a totally different world. This deeply affects your mind and inspires a strong aversion to reverting to your previously cluttered state. The key is to make the change so sudden that you experience a complete change of heart. The same impact can never be achieved if the process is gradual.

An intense and committed pace has worked wonders for me, for the very reasons she stated above. I had reached a point at which things had become unacceptable and had to change. I had momentum from clearing out my parents’ house, so I already was in that get-it-done-quickly mindset. On the other hand, my mentor, Denise Linn, invites us to experience clutter-clearing as a pilgrimage rather than a sprint. She is less concerned with efficiency and speed than on making it a deeply soulful and regenerative process. And I have to admit that I’ve let other areas of life slide temporarily so I can declutter my home so intensely. I have not been active in my online photography and business development classes or publishing blog posts, which are also very important to me. But in order to be more focused and productive in my home, I needed to clear the clutter in a big way and make it a priority.

However, I am really just beginning the clutter-clearing process. There is much work yet to be done and so much to learn, and I can’t even imagine what it is going to feel like by the end of the year, though I expect it will feel like the positive shift of a lifetime!

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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

Clearing, Clarity, and Closure

After a month of superhuman effort and not nearly enough sleep, last week we closed on my parents’ house, which my family moved into in 1980, when I was in eighth grade. In early December, my siblings and I accepted an offer on the house that gave us a mere three weeks until the projected year-end closing date to get everything out of the house. I had no idea how we were going to accomplish this feat – only that it would happen because it had to. And it did. Although it took place at warp speed – or perhaps because it did – the process was an intense journey of love, reflection, and clarity from which I emerged with some fresh stories to share.

The morning after we accepted the offer, I felt stunned. I recalled the scene in Titanic in which the builder of the ship realizes it’s going down and that in a matter of hours, everything in the ship will be at the bottom of the ocean. That scene summed up how I felt about the reality that all my parents’ material belongings – absolutely everything they accumulated throughout their lifetime – would be gone by the end of the month. As I lay in a comfy bed in the guest room of the home they filled with so much love (and stuff) over the past 36 years, it seemed impossible that all of it would be gone soon, and only love and memories would remain.

After my mom passed away in May 2014, her possessions remained essentially untouched. We hadn’t gone through any of her clothes or personal items, although last winter my dad started talking about how we needed to take care of her clothes and have a yard sale. But it didn’t happen. So for 2½ years, we were spared the grim task that we suddenly had to face head-on, that made grief feel brand-new again, as if an old scab had been torn off.

But it wasn’t all sad, for such times are opportunities to realize that you are not alone and that there is a handful of gracious people willing to step forward and help, even right before the holidays, during winter storms, and when you’re sick with possibly the worst cold you’ve ever had. People who will think for you when your mind is foggy from said nasty cold and provide emotional support when they notice you’re feeling overwhelmed. People who will work for days sorting through and arranging stuff throughout the house, including a frigid garage. People who show up with a truck and move very heavy furniture into storage for you because (according to them) you are worth it.

Times like this serve as a beacon that illuminates where love and nourishment exist in your life – and where they don’t. You notice who shows up and who heads for the hills, who you can depend on and who you can’t. The people who stepped up to help inspired me to reflect on the relationships I devote the most energy to. When there is so much love and light available, why settle for anything less? The helpers in our lives teach us how to be kinder and more generous and considerate of others in their time of need because we realize how much it matters and that interdependence is the basis of our human existence. It’s one thing to know that with your mind and another to experience it as a living truth that beats inside your heart.

The silver lining to the gut-wrenching job of preparing for a rushed estate sale and clearing out my parents’ house was spending time with my sister and daughter, sharing interesting discoveries and memories with them and others who leaned in and formed a caring circle around us. I came across so many long-forgotten treasures. Some finds, such as the sheet music from my very first piano lesson in third grade, made me wistful and compelled me to reflect on roads not taken and crossroads where I allowed fear and lack of confidence to get the best of me. Holding the music in my hands filled me with the same excitement I felt at eight years old, when I received my first, official piano assignment. The whole process was like a great life review, two months before I turn 50. I realized that the choices I’ve made have resulted in so much unnecessary suffering, hardship, and limitation, and life didn’t and doesn’t need to be that way. So I resolved to turn it around from this point forward by making better choices, believing in myself, and not selling myself short. I realized that all along, it was my own mind that set me up for failure and suffering. And it was my own mind that could set me free.

I felt my parents’ presence more than ever once all their possessions were out in the open, and I saw objects that generated so many memories. There was my mom’s sewing machine, sewing notions, fabrics, and the dress patterns she sewed for my daughter. I regretted not asking her to teach me to sew. She taught a friend’s daughter how to sew after the friend had passed away, and that should have been my cue to ask her to teach me. I came close a few times, but life was busy, and I ignored the little voice inside that urged me not to put it off.

To save it or to get rid of it: that was the question. My old (circa 1975) calculator, for example, was an interesting conversation piece that I found in my dad’s dresser. It had been left behind on an airplane one day, and my dad had first dibs on it and would be able to bring it home if it remained unclaimed after a certain amount of time. I so hoped it could be mine because I wanted my very own calculator – and they were new, exciting, and expensive back then! Holding the bulky, vintage calculator in my hands brought the story to life more vividly than merely describing it from memory. But is it necessary to hold onto the objects, or just keep the stories? Might a photograph or video suffice and save space?

There were stories, moments, and memories attached to so many objects in the house. Now there is nobody left to tell many of the stories, so if I don’t know them by now, I never will. I think back to when I did a screen recording of my parents talking about old photos five months before my mom died and how grateful I am that we did that. Perhaps my son could shoot some video of me showing and telling about the objects I came across in my parents’ house that sparked stories. Together, we could create a video heirloom of family history. It’s important to share our stories and to listen to the stories being shared with us. They help us, respectively, to review and make sense of our lives and understand where we come from.

The night before the estate sale, I cried three times. The first time was when I opened a tin of my grandfather’s things, including what appeared to be an engraved wedding band, and reflected on all my relatives who have passed on and how short a lifetime is and what we leave behind – and the meaning of the trinkets that get passed down through the generations, as well as the gesture of saving them.

The second time was when I opened a box of my parents’ friends’ obituaries that my dad had clipped from newspapers. So sad. So much loss. So sweet that he did that. When I looked through the box, I found my mom’s obituary, which he had printed from the Internet, and was overcome with sadness because it must have been so hard for him to add that obituary to the box. I could feel his sadness so strongly.

The third time I cried was when I discovered yet another dresser full of personal items at 10:00 PM when I was exhausted and sick, and my tennis elbow was flaring so badly that it hurt to even brush my teeth, and I needed to get to sleep to be ready for the sale in the morning! Actually, there was a fourth time, too, when I checked the weather forecast before going to sleep, for the weather gods were not smiling upon us that weekend.

After our rather disappointing attempt at an estate sale that wintry weekend before Christmas, the next step was to rent a large dumpster and box up items to be donated. This involved a final walk-through to decide what I really wanted to save from the landfill. It was the last chance before these items would be gone forever, a process of looking and listening for which items spoke to me, which ones seemed to want to be saved, which ones I might regret letting go of so hastily, and which ones my parents would want passed down – keeping the reality of limited space in mind. And then came the realization that possessions really didn’t matter, and what our parents would want most was for the three of us to treat one another with kindness and respect. I felt them guiding me. Ultimately, it wasn’t about the stuff. It was about the memories, relationships, and the qualities they modeled and inspired in us.

It was also time to attend to boxes of personal artifacts that had been set aside because they were not part of the estate sale. One day, I came across two boxes of particular significance, one right after the other. The first contained every printed program in the history of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where my mom worked for 40 years. Many of the covers were so familiar that they brought me back in time, to when they graced the coffee table of my childhood home, and I read them from cover to cover. The feelings these programs stirred up were admiration and respect for my mom, who was a VIP staff member at SPAC and was literally my ticket to all the performances. I felt strongly connected to her and grateful that she encouraged me to be musical.

Then there was the second box, which had the opposite effect. It contained my mom’s Eastern Airlines recruiting and training materials that listed physical requirements for flight attendants, including specific body measurements and height requirements. My mom loved being a flight attendant in her 20s and bought into the whole airlines fashion culture. She met my dad when she worked for Eastern, and he worked for Mohawk. She had to give up flying when I came along and eventually returned to work as a recruiter. Coming across the Eastern Airlines materials helped me put into perspective my mom’s ideas of what a female should look like and aspire to and all the body shame I experienced growing up because I was such a sensitive soul – the shame that caused me to decline my sister’s invitation to be her maid of honor because I couldn’t bring myself to wear a dress I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable in, that might leave me open to critical comments from my parents. Even though I realize my mom was a product of another time and meant no harm, I can trace most of my “issues” back to that box and have a certain, ceremonious fate in mind for it.

The two boxes summarized perfectly the dichotomy that defined my relationship with my mom and the complex dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship.  Even when we do our best, sometimes we end up unintentionally hurting those we love the most. And on the flip side, what we perceive as criticisms from which we need to protect and defend ourselves can blind us to the love and light that’s coming a hundredfold from the same person. We might fixate on the negative and fail to see the positive – and cut ourselves off from the good stuff, which is unfortunate all the way around.

There were so many boxes. When I opened up yet another box of meaningful newspaper clippings, cards, plane tickets, programs from school music concerts and recitals, etc., I was at the same time completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff my parents saved and deeply touched by how loved we were that they saved everything that had anything to do with us.

It was amazing to hold objects in my hands and feel their emotional charge and realize I’d been carrying those feelings inside me all these years. Uncovering such objects activated old feelings but also allowed me to interact with them in a greater context, with the experience and wisdom of an adult rather than a child – which was very healing!

The process of clearing out my parents’ house led me to discover how sentimental they were. Seeing what they saved revealed their sweetness and the depths of their hearts. I understood how much they loved each other and that love was the fundamental nutrient I was raised on.

I found a box of my grandfather’s reel-to-reel recording tapes. One of them includes a recording from the day I was born and many recordings of me when I was very young. It was really touching to find them and to know that my grandparents were so excited about my arrival that they started making recordings the day I entered the world! I didn’t have to do anything or be anything in particular to be loved and celebrated. I just needed to show up, to just be me. That’s a mighty realization! That night, I drove home listening to the radio, and when a love song came on, I imagined my parents and grandparents singing it to me when I was a baby, which was really powerful. A deep shift occurred inside me when I listened to the song in that way.

I’m so grateful for all the time I had in the house before it was transferred to the new owner. Observers might have thought I was depressed, but that was not the case. I was on a deeply spiritual, healing journey and sought closure the best way I knew how: by leaning in and listening to the tender places. Unearthing hidden treasures.

Even when only a few boxes remained in the house, I’d stop by to do yoga and take a nice, hot bath. I still found it comforting to be there, even though the house was silent and empty of everything except for the bathtub and major appliances. The empty rooms mirrored the inner clearing process I’m undergoing as my clarity deepens in response to grieving multiple losses, and I work on releasing what no longer serves me in the days leading up to my 50th birthday. It was interesting to notice what memories arose when I stopped and took in the energy of each room. The rooms were full of memories. Light still graced the empty spaces.

After everything had been cleared out, only the energy remained within the walls…and it was exquisite energy, so peaceful and nourishing. The night before the closing, I had a white, jasmine-scented candle glowing on top of the stove and basked in the energy all night under the full moon in my little makeshift bed in the living room.

While sweeping the bathroom the next morning, I thought about how I would go forth and integrate what I found and saved from my parents’ house into my own life. In time, I will figure out how all the objects and the stories attached to them will fit, and I will decide what to keep and what to let go of and just hold onto the stories – or even rewrite them in some cases.

Then I did a goodbye walk-through. I stepped through the front door and remembered how my mom would greet me with a big hug and smile and the aroma of something yummy in the oven, like a birthday cake or macaroni and cheese. I paused in the family room, where we opened Christmas presents, and the TV was always on. This is the room in which I watched Downton Abbey with my mom and then with my dad after my mom had passed, and where I visited with my grandparents and so many other relatives and family friends through the years.

There was the dining room where we all gathered around the table to celebrate birthdays and holidays, though the room seemed so small without any furniture…

I went through each room, allowing the memories to arise and honoring the space that held them. When I got to the master bedroom, a heart-shaped rainbow appeared on the floor where my mom’s bed used to be.

This is how it ended:

The night before the closing, when I was going through the very last box in the house, I felt a nudge to ask my daughter if she’d like to come over the next day to say goodbye to the house. She immediately replied, “Yes, I do!” In the morning, before taking my last shower in the house and doing my goodbye walk-through, I paused to look out the bathroom window at the back yard and remembered how my dad scattered some of my mom’s ashes in a special spot. It occurred to me that I hadn’t scattered any of his ashes there, and that needed to happen so “they” could be together there as part of the land. Later, when I picked up my daughter and granddaughter, I realized that I forgot to get my dad’s ashes when I stopped home. So I called my son to ask him to meet me at my parents’ house with the ashes.

As it turned out, my last moments in the house were spent with both my children and my granddaughter. (It reminded me of the night my mom was dying at Gateway House of Peace, and my son and daughter had an ice cream party and movie marathon in one of the upstairs bedrooms and made a sad situation feel more like a celebration.) Little Ava, who will celebrate her first birthday this weekend, was crawling around exploring the house and then had a dance party with my son, with lots of laughter. It was wonderful. Then I thanked the house and its energy (which felt like it was ready to move on), closed the door behind me for the last time, pulled out of the driveway, honked the horn, and waved at the house with my daughter and granddaughter – who represented my future – in the car with me. It was the perfect ending to a 36-year chapter. It was totally unplanned, but that’s the kind of magic that happens when you follow those nudges of intuition and take some time to pause, reflect, and listen.

I realize that if all these endings and challenges hadn’t happened at the same time, I probably wouldn’t have gone as deep and been able to work on some firmly rooted programming from way back when that no longer serves me. I trust the role that pain and grief play and am filled with gratitude and astonishment.

At the end of this chapter – the one in which I had parents and a home in which I grew up that is now empty space and memories – I have learned so much about love, on so many levels and in many different contexts: What it is and what it isn’t, where it comes from and where it doesn’t, why I am capable of loving and caring so deeply, and how to love better, including loving myself (which might sound like a selfish thing but couldn’t be further from that). It’s amazing what you can discover standing in a huge dumpster filled with memories. You might find you are surrounded by more love than you ever imagined possible – and that you always have been, even when you convinced yourself otherwise.

In the end, I realized the Eastern Airlines box was quite small relative to everything else. I remembered that I am Nancy and Ed Meyer’s daughter and my grandparents’ granddaughter, and I am worthy of love, no matter how I look or what I do or don’t accomplish. I need not spend my energy regretting or being ashamed of paths taken or not taken or berating myself (or allowing anyone else to berate me) for my perceived shortcomings, mistakes, and failures. And because of that realization of my inherent worthiness (and yours, too), I resolved not to settle for any less going forward – from another person or myself.

I am also Jasmine and Cianan’s mother and Ava’s grandmother, and the better I feel about myself, the better I can love them and support them in their journeys. As the above picture of Ava suggests, when one door closes, another one opens. Life is for the living.

Even though our lives are interdependent and interrelated and ultimately united at the core, a week and a half after the closing, it feels like I’m finally returning to my life and goals, after several months of attending to sooo much else. Back to that business I was trying to develop last year, that book I am intent on publishing, decluttering my house, getting more and better quality sleep, and filling the empty spaces with my own dreams and goals. And so…onward, feeling a bit more whole and shining a little brighter.

Onward to the grocery store, for I have a birthday cake to make for a wide-eyed, one-year-old girl.


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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

River of Leaves Meditation

Today I want to share with you a powerful “letting go” practice that came to me a couple days ago. It articulates the inner significance of what is going on in nature at this time of year and was inspired by a “Days of November” meditation shared by psychic medium extraordinaire, Adam Bernstein. When I read through the meditation earlier this week, it resonated deeply. It begins with visualizing yourself sitting next to a river as leaves fall from the trees and into the water. As you watch the leaves spiral downward and float away on the river, think of what you want to fall away in your own life. Adam’s visualization continues, focusing on how more sunlight can shine through now that the trees are bare. What we couldn’t see before (when the leaves obstructed our view) is now revealed, and light is able to reach places that had been in darkness under the leafy trees. It is an exquisite meditation that continues on from there.

After reading through the meditation, my first inclination was to record it word for word so I could do it without having to recall the details or open my eyes to read it. And I’m going to do that. But first, I was inspired to create my own ritual based on part of the meditation. The inspiration came while kayaking on the river during our unseasonably warm weather this week. When I noticed flotillas of fallen leaves drifting by, I knew exactly what to do.

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I found a small basket and filled it with a piece of silk and some fallen leaves I had picked up from the ground during recent walks. These were leaves that stopped me in my tracks because their colors were so vibrant! I meant to press and preserve them but never got around to it because it slipped my mind, and they became curled and dry and past the pressing stage. I also have a collection of pressed leaves from last year that I’ve been holding on to even though their colors have faded. I added a few of them to the basket, as well. The idea of using leaves that I found wonderful at first but then faded appealed to me. But really, any leaves would do.

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The next morning, the air was warm, and the sky was filled with puffy clouds. The reflection on the river looked like a river of clouds, and the conditions felt perfect for doing my “river of leaves” meditation. I brought my basket of carefully selected leaves to the dock, along with my yoga mat and meditation cushion, and set an intention to release one leaf at a time into the river while contemplating what it represents in my life. What am I ready to let go of and leave behind? Then I’d watch the leaf float away, carried along by the river’s flow.

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As I released the leaves into the river, a parade of solitary leaves and leaf flotillas drifted by. It made me feel that I was in good company and that the time was right to let go of what no longer serves a constructive purpose. Instead of focusing on letting go of particular people, things, or circumstances, I turned my attention toward the unhealthy attachments, attitudes, illusions, programming, patterns, etc. that get in the way of my inner peace and freedom – because that’s what attracts unhealthy energy into my life in the first place.

For instance, the first leaf I let go of represented fear. I watched the “fear” leaf float away gently, with an attitude of honoring it – for it was with me for a long time and initially must have served some kind of well intentioned (albeit misguided) purpose. And surely there is room for healthy fear in my life, such as fear as an intuitive signal that something is wrong. But allowing fear to remain in the driver’s seat is what I wanted to let go of. It was satisfying to watch it float away from me, and as I did, I imagined how my life would feel different without it. I really experienced the new vibration and felt much lighter and more empowered – for I was acknowledging and accepting my own responsibility in authoring my life.

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I also let go of a consciousness of lack, certain illusions that have clouded my thinking, making my happiness dependent on any person or condition, placing more importance on the approval and advice of others than on my own intuition and wisdom, and shame about all of the above. Release it all with love, and feel what it’s like to be unencumbered by them. Appreciate how light it feels to be free of them!

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As I watched each leaf float away, I reflected on how my compassion has grown as a result of my choices and experiences. I noticed that gratitude was becoming part of this process.

My spiritual guide recently recommended a breathing practice that helps to fill the empty hole inside me with what I desire and feel is lacking in my life so I won’t try to get it from others. This felt like an important exercise to complement the letting go exercise. So it seemed that letting go, being grateful, and filling the holes were all important parts of the overall process, encompassing past, present, and future.

I didn’t release the next leaf until it really felt like I’d done my work with the previous one. Some I watched float away until they were out of sight. As they floated away, I felt them lose their hold on me and experienced a greater sense of inner freedom and joy. With distance and time, the river of life really does pull things away from us, and helps us get over our attachments and move on.

In preparation for the activity, I put leaves in my basket until I felt I had the right number. Also, it occurred to me that you could write a word or phrase on each leaf to express what you’re letting go of. Or you could just write it on your heart, as I did.

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While releasing the leaves into the river, I thought of my friend, Jayne, who traveled throughout Asia after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival during which people practice letting go by releasing floating lanterns into the sky and launching beautiful handmade flower boats into a body of water. As she and her husband let one go together, they focused on releasing “bad health juju as well as any ill feelings towards anyone” and inviting well wishes for the future. She explained, “It was cathartic and a beautiful moment we shared putting the past behind and creating space for something new!”

That is a perfect way to describe how it felt to release leaves into the river a couple mornings ago. I just love to be in sync with and inspired by the cycles the natural world!

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.