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Confessions of a packrat.

My name is Sherry and I am a packrat. I don’t want you to know this about me because it isn’t pretty. I mean that literally, as well as figuratively.

I don’t like the piles of papers in the corner. I don’t like the boxes of baby clothes I can’t let go of. I don’t like the book project that never got off the ground, which still sits on the third shelf in my bedroom, waiting. I don’t like the jumble of camisoles in my dresser drawer, most of which I never wear because I can’t even see them. I don’t like the storage unit full of books, record albums, baby toys, and tchotchkes like the Quisp Cereal box or 1950s martini shaker.

I don’t like that I am embarrassed to have people over my house because it doesn’t look like the kind of house I imagine myself living in.  In my mind, I see spaciousness and the beautiful afternoon light shining on clean surfaces. I see colorful, original artwork, my 1920s beaded lamp, some well-chosen photographs.   I see an office that feels alive with self-expression, quirky with the hanging parasol and vintage hats, sweet-smelling with vases of wild flowers. I see rooms that are airy, light, and inviting to muses of many kinds.

I’m telling you this because I’m tired of hiding. Because I feel like a fraud. Because I am always going on and on about extraordinary lives and inside my stuffed-to-the-gills San Francisco apartment, it feels quite tangled and dusty and icky.  It feels extra ordinary — with the emphasis on ordinary, not extra!

I’m telling you this because after 25 years of talking about clutter and having therapy sessions about clutter and getting guidance from monks about clutter, and reading books about clutter, I’m quite ready to stop this nonsense and move forward into the kind of life I imagine for myself. Starting now.  You are my witnesses! (Don’t go anywhere; I need you.)

Yesterday I was listening to my Zen teacher’s Feb. 8th radio show, Open Air with Cheri Huber, and the monks on the show were talking about spring-cleaning. The monks had spent a couple days organizing and cleaning and taking care of overlooked places on the monastery property, things like the window way up high in the kitchen that desperately needed a wash. And what they were saying was that when we truly care for the material things in our lives, we develop a relationship with them. One monk spoke of a burned and grimy pot that she cleaned. She said whenever she sees that pot now, all shiny and bright, she feels a sweet connection and projects that it is happy. Another monk talked about the care she took cleaning up an area of the yard. And that somehow, magically, she felt cared for in the process.

While I was listening to the show, I really got it that we are in relationship to every object we own. I started thinking of all the objects I own but don’t care for. All of the piles that I pretend I don’t see. All of the half-finished projects that wail silently all day long. I thought about how I’m wanting more financial abundance and yet I have so many unloved things in the apartment. I thought how I’m wanting new things to come into my life, and yet there is literally no space. I thought about how much I want to let life live me, and yet I don’t trust it to provide what I need in the moment; instead, I hoard.

Because life is sometimes very, very kind, she sometimes brings us exactly what we’re asking for. In my case, I needed some help with this overwhelming project and internal shift. Voila, in stepped my friend Maya, who said she has a keen new interest in helping people who have trouble letting go of stuff. She’s going to walk my through this — straight into the kind of life I imagine for myself.

So here we go. I’ll keep you posted. Right now (right before your eyes, folks!) I’m getting rid of something I haven’t been able to let go of for a long, long time: the belief that I will never change.

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