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Author: susantara

More Light

More Light

Yesterday morning, I was driving to a Reiki training an hour away feeling agitated and anxious, which is not how I wanted to arrive at the training. I needed to get an important message to my daughter before going into the all-day event. I hoped I would calm down before I arrived at my destination and practiced feeling the emotional energy in my body, allowing the uncomfortable feelings, generating compassion, and choosing better feeling thoughts (which included feeling grateful for all the tools I have in my healing toolbox). I found it interesting that peace blanketed me, just like that, as I crossed the Twin Bridges over the Mohawk River.

I’ve loved Kahlil Gibran’s writings ever since a friend introduced me to The Prophet at age 22 – the age my daughter is now. As I continued driving in a more peaceful state now, a few lines from The Prophet (“On Children”) came to mind out of the blue:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

That was a significant poem to me – so much so that we had our parents take turns reading lines from it during my first wedding ceremony. I was 25, and my parents weren’t thrilled with my choice of a husband. They had lots of opinions about how I should live my life – because they cared about me. But it really bothered me that they weren’t able to trust me to make my own choices and even mistakes and seemed to believe they knew better than I how to live my life. Hence, the poem at the wedding.

Twenty-five years later, it was still relevant as I drove to the Reiki training. I had been able to give my daughter the message, and she was able to adjust her plans accordingly. I wished I could do more and wondered if I should turn the car around and spend the day with her. But the poem helped me to realize that I had done my part, and I needed to trust her journey…and go to my training.

When I arrived at the training, I put my stuff down and went into the restroom. What do you think was hanging on the wall next to the mirror in the bathroom? The very same Kahlil Gibran words that came to me in the car!!

Instant tears. I had to pull myself together for a moment before returning to the room.

That synchronicity was the first special gift of what ended up being a very powerful day. I went into the training with no expectations. I hadn’t even received a Reiki session prior to the training and was there simply because I felt guided and followed my intuition. Something very intense happened to me during the attunement ceremony after I accepted the possibility that I might not feel anything at all, and tears kept streaming down my face. I felt a little disoriented as I walked out of the building and into the warm, sunny day for lunch break. Something really big had shifted in me. I knew intuitively that I had said yes to healing myself so I could be a better healer for others. It felt like I had made a deep, inner vow.

During the afternoon, we paired up to give and receive a full Reiki session to a partner. I worked with a highly intuitive practitioner who was there as a helper. At the end of the session, she shared with me what came to her as she flowed Reiki (universal life force energy) to me. She described an image of a willful, young girl and a bicycle that I knew referred to my daughter. A voice was singing the “Hush, Little Baby” lullaby. The woman asked if there’s a message she can give me, and the voice replied, “Just tell her we’re with her.” She asked me if that means anything to me, and it was the third time I was moved to tears.

My daughter has been dreaming of her deceased grandparents a lot over the past few months, and I feel that they are with her. And that brings me comfort.

Sometimes we just don’t know what people are dealing with in their personal lives. My daughter has been going through a very challenging time lately, in which she was living in an environment that was very wrong for her and felt powerless to get out. She didn’t even have a car. Now she is out, thank God. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are able to remove yourself from toxic relationships and turn your life around, and she is motivated to do just that. One thing I’ve learned from my 50 years on this planet is that if you are living in a way that is not in alignment with who you really are and what your soul wants, the signals will keep getting stronger until you can’t ignore them any longer and are forced into action. Sometimes something that seems like a great misfortune saves you from something even worse.

I think of the Zen story of the farmer’s luck, which I’ve probably referenced before because it’s one of my favorites:

One day, a farmer’s horse ran away, and when the neighbors heard the news, they sympathized saying, “Such bad luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, the horse returned to the farmer along with three other horses, and the neighbors exclaimed, “How wonderful!” The farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The next day, the farmer’s son broke his leg when he was trying to ride one of the untamed horses. Again, the neighbors offered sympathy for the family’s bad luck. And again, the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, military officials came to the town to draft young men but passed over the farmer’s son because his leg was broken. The neighbors offered congratulations, and the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

With compassion for my daughter and for other women in similar situations, I offer a reminder to refrain from passing judgment on others when you have no knowledge whatsoever of the context, relationships, personalities, miscommunications, intentions, etc. behind a soundbite of information. Before jumping to conclusions, try walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Things are not always as they appear. As for me, I’m beaming strength, light, and so much love into a world that seems to need it now more than ever. A world in which many people are quick to jump to conclusions that serve their personal or political agendas and to create divisive characterizations that somehow make them feel safer and better about themselves…at someone else’s expense.  A world in which people are guilty until proven innocent rather than the opposite. Into that world, I send light.

And you know what’s great about that? More light. Just as the trees are putting out new leaves to collect sunlight, more light equals more growth. This, friends, is the growing season.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

What She Wanted

What She Wanted

When my mom was alive, before any holiday or birthday she would ask me what I wanted. I almost always answered that I don’t need or want anything. My mom liked material things, and I tended to rebel against that and distinguished myself from her through my response to that question.

But it was true: I wasn’t interested in things or clothes. Never went on vacation. Didn’t watch TV. I bought the wedding dress for my first wedding off the rack at Macy’s for $70 only a week before the big day, and I just wore my favorite outfit for my second wedding. I was content where I was, with what I had. My maternal grandmother would comment that she and I were very much alike because we didn’t need fancy things. Give us the wind in the trees, and we could be content. In fact, the last time I visited my grandmother at her home before she fell and went into a nursing home for the last couple months of her life, we sat on her front steps appreciating the sight and sound of the wind in the late summer trees. I loved that, at the end of her life, she found contentment in something so simple and ordinary and that I could join her in that space.

It seemed my mom always wanted more. She loved going to the mall, even if only to look (which I totally didn’t understand because the only time you could get me into a mall was if I had a specific, unavoidable purpose). She grew up poor and was determined not to live that way as an adult. She started working right after graduating from high school and, with the exception of taking some years off to raise children, kept working until a few years before she passed away – at which point she retired from what many would consider a rather glamorous job at a performing arts venue.

She was so generous every Christmas and experienced obvious joy in giving gifts to everyone. Anytime she’d give me money for my birthday, Mother’s Day, or just because, she would tell me to make sure to get something for myself and not spend it on household bills or anyone else. She wanted me to treat myself. Occasionally I would, and more often I would intend to, but inevitably somebody would need something, and I would pass on getting something for myself because the gift was needed elsewhere.

A year or two after my mom died, I was downtown and walked past a shop that had something in the window that captured my attention. Normally, that doesn’t happen because I couldn’t be less interested in shopping. (Retail therapy is not in my self-help repertoire!) I can’t remember what the object was, but when it caught my eye, I felt sad that my mom wasn’t around to ask what I’d like for Christmas…because she was the only one who ever asked, and this time I would have had an answer. And it would have made her so happy that I had an answer!

I spent two full months this year decluttering my home completely. After getting rid of all the stuff I didn’t love or use, I focused on making my home a sanctuary aligned with my authentic Self. I looked around the house and received clear insights about what could make it feel more like I wanted it to. I had received some insurance money after my dad passed away in October and bought some things to elevate the energy of our small, 1840s rental home: a couple Japanese shoji room dividers to create closet spaces where none existed, several plants, a standing desk converter, a digital photo frame loaded with hundreds of my images – things like that. I also finally did something I had wanted to do for many years, which was to wrap some silk vines around the railings on the stairs and weave fairy lights through them. So magical! Now, everywhere I look in my house, my eyes rest on spaces and objects that are beautiful, useful, and/or intentional and that bring me joy. Everything else is gone! It’s an amazing feeling.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, there was one final thing that needed to be upgraded: my bed. The bed I had been sleeping in was tiny and uncomfortable, and when we moved everything out of my parents’ house, I claimed the bed from their guest room, which seemed like an improvement. But it, too, was small and didn’t feel quite right, and eventually I discovered it was more than 20 years old, which was at least twice as old as the bed I previously had been sleeping on. A few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed looking at my vision board hanging on the wall and was drawn to a picture of a large, comfy bed. That’s when I convinced myself to let go of the hand-me-down beds and buy a new one. And with that purchase, my home improvements felt complete.

This morning (Mother’s Day), I got out of bed and created a Mother’s Day altar, which I’d never done before. I clipped some lilacs from a tree in the yard and put them in a vase my mom used for lilacs she clipped from our yard when I was a child. I also placed on the altar her funeral candle and a Mother’s Day card I’d just made, along with a crystal heart and a small turtle with the words “Live with joy” on its back.

Living with joy is my Mother’s Day gift to my mom, wherever she is. Isn’t joy what mothers ultimately want for their children? It’s what I want for mine.

Two years ago, grief felt enormous, as if it penetrated all the way down into my bones. I can’t remember ever feeling sadder than I was during May two years ago when my first Mother’s Day without my mom and the anniversary of her passing were complicated by additional losses. But time really does heal. And having the energy to finally take charge of my home and make it beautiful, uplifting, and joyful was both a big deal and a milestone. It felt like stepping out of the dark forest I had been wandering in since my mom passed away.

I have to believe she would be happy for me because the journey I have been on since February is one of learning to love and value myself and ramp up the joy by creating a sanctuary to support my vision of my best self and who I want to be moving forward. In other words, it’s a process of reclaiming my life. I have created a joyful, uplifting infrastructure from which to create my future. That infrastructure includes details such as:

  • an elegant, crystal pitcher of local spring water on a small table in my bedroom (found when clearing out my parents’ home)
  • red, silk roses in a vase next to my bed
  • a bed tray for having tea and reading a nourishing book before falling asleep
  • an aromatherapy diffuser for creating a lavender-scented bedroom to facilitate sleep
  • a comfy pillow that wraps around my entire body

And that’s just the bedroom! At night, I look forward to “lavender and rose” time with lavender aromatherapy and rose tea while reading or listening to something nourishing so my last impressions of the day are positive and empowering. That’s important because they are what my unconscious mind will marinate in for the next eight hours!

None of these items would have crossed my mind back when my mom asked me for gift ideas. I didn’t think of them until I cleared my home of clutter and reflected on what would make me feel comfortable, joyful, and loved – which is exactly how she wanted me to feel and was the intention behind her gift question. As I decluttered the objects and spaces in my home, a powerful, parallel process took place inside my head that rippled into other areas of my life. The work I have done in my home this year is an act of tender, loving self-care that grows from my mother’s love, for which I have immense gratitude.

The special touches in my home feel like what you would put in place if you were expecting an honored, beloved guest. Throughout the course of decluttering and uplifting my living space, I have become my own honored guest and best friend, which is no small thing coming from someone who used to have a strong inner critic. What parent wouldn’t want that for his or her child?

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my angel mom! My light is bright again, and I think it’s the best gift I can give you because it’s what you always wanted for me.


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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.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

So Many Disguises

So Many Disguises

Although my mom is on my mind every single day, two days before Mother’s Day, I woke up thinking of my dad, whose presence I’ve felt quite a bit lately.

I’ve been staying on the Massachusetts North Shore for the past few days, and yesterday I visited Fort Sewall, a historic point of interest overlooking Marblehead Harbor. I hadn’t been to Fort Sewall in nearly three years and felt drawn there for some reason. Actually, a photographer I conversed with on the beach the previous night told me he shoots there a lot, so the seed was planted.

I entered the park a few steps in front of an elderly man who instantly reminded me of my dad. Perhaps it was something about his pace or energy. I guessed he was about the age my dad was when he died last fall. I stopped to photograph a picturesque view, walked a few more yards, then stopped to admire the view of the lighthouse across the harbor. That’s when the man approached me with a friendly greeting and started talking about how much he loves this place. He kept exclaiming, “I just love it here!” He said that he sometimes comes to this seaside park and sits on the bench for hours, and when he’s there, he doesn’t  have any thoughts in his head at all. Nothing bothers him. I replied that the richness of the sights, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, the refreshing breeze, and the smell of the sea take you out of your mind and your thoughts, and he agreed.

I noticed he was wearing a blue 2013 World Series jacket and wondered if the Red Sox were in the Series that year. Baseball was my dad’s great love, and the jacket reminded me of him. He was also wearing an Air Force baseball cap. We stood together in that spot for a good 45 minutes, sometimes for long moments of silence as we appreciated the fullness of the experience and all the sensory impressions. Again, he exclaimed, “I just love it here! It’s like heaven.”

He talked about how he used to go out on a boat lobster diving and spent a lot of time on the water. One thing was sure: This man was in his personal paradise, and I appreciated being there with him. His joy intensified my own.

Eventually, I told him I should get going, and he asked if I wanted to see a picture of his “pride and joy.” Then he reached into his wallet and took out a picture of a bottle of Pride furniture wax next to a bottle of Joy dishwashing detergent. Not what I expected, I laughed and appreciated his sweet sense of humor. He told me he was at an 85th birthday party, and that joke was a big hit with the older ladies. I imagined him bringing a smile to many faces with his joke and found it lovable. Somehow, it reminded me of my dad’s sweetness and sense of humor.

I said goodbye about five times before we finally headed back toward our cars. We walked together out of the park, and I paused again to take a picture. He commented about what a nice camera I have, and I explained that my dad passed away in October, and I received some money that I used to upgrade my camera for my photography business. I explained that although I’d rather my dad were still around, I am grateful for the camera.

When we were nearly at the parking area, I stopped at a railing along the road to take a couple more pictures. To our right were some steps that went into the water, and he told me you can get fresh lobster right from the boat when it pulls up there. Before parting, we both said how good it was to see each other. As those words came out of my mouth, I realized it was odd to say “see” instead of  “meet”. And yet, we both did.

I drove away thinking of my dad and feeling grateful to have interacted with someone who reminded me of him.

When I got back to where I was staying, I Googled “2013 World Series” and confirmed that the Red Sox won the championship that year. That was my dad’s favorite team. Although you could expect a 2013 World Series jacket wouldn’t be uncommon in this neck of the woods 18 miles north of Boston, it was the first one I noticed.

This morning, I woke up thinking of my interaction with the elderly man – and his Air Force hat, in particular. I couldn’t remember: Was my dad in the Air Force? I pulled up his obituary online, and sure enough: He served in the Air Force reserve. At that moment, I felt that what I experienced wasn’t just a random interaction. It was a spiritual encounter. I connected with my dad’s essence through that friendly stranger.

About a year after my mom passed away, my dad and I were sitting in his car in the driveway, and before driving to wherever we were headed, he told me about a book he was reading that referenced some unexplained occurrences family members reported following the death of a loved one, who was a famous historic figure. Although my dad was not inclined toward the supernatural, he was excited to tell me about it. It seemed he found this particular account convincing. In general, I think he really wanted to believe and seemed visibly touched when I told him about different experiences I’d had after my mom – his beloved wife of 50 years – passed away. I sensed strongly that she was trying to communicate with him, but he wasn’t picking up the cosmic telephone because he didn’t hear it ring.

Within two minutes of pulling out of the driveway, we drove past the recreational field where my dad used to coach baseball, and we saw my mom pull out of the parking lot right in front of us, in her car! I exclaimed, “That’s Mom!”” He had seen her, too. But it was something that seemed at the same time completely matter-of-fact and too unbelievable to comprehend – the kind of thing that makes you cock your head and look perplexed, but then you return to what you were doing and perhaps convince yourself you didn’t actually see what you thought you did, only to wake up in the middle of the night or in a quiet moment thinking about it and realizing that you experienced something otherworldly.

I have come to believe that our loved ones never really leave us and communicate with us through many different disguises and messengers.

There is an elderly man who is a regular patron at the library where I work. He, too, reminds me of my dad. He is from the same era, presumably has similar attitudes and values, and I have a special place in my heart for him. One day, he fell asleep at a table and really reminded me of my dad, who fell asleep all the time when he was sitting down! I feel happy when I see this man. I am glad he is in this world.

One morning, I was at work, and this man popped into my mind along with something about a hospital. Later that morning, he came in the library, and although my prior interactions with him had been limited to smiling, waving, and wishing each other a nice day, this time he stopped to talk with me. He told me that he had been in the V.A. hospital all morning and that his doctor wanted him to have an operation that he didn’t want to have and is refusing to have it until he feels he really needs it. I’d had several conversations like that with my dad!

There’s one more time in the past week when I felt my dad’s presence. I recently decided it was time to buy a new bed because the hand-me-down bed I had been sleeping on wasn’t working for me. I looked online and found a really great, eco-friendly futon mattress and a beautiful oak frame for it. It was exactly what I wanted. Very zen.

After putting the bed together and making it up with new sheets, I was so happy because the bedroom looked and felt amazing. I couldn’t wait to sleep in it that night. I was in the kitchen and wished my parents were around to see how happy I was because I was able to use some of the money I inherited from them to buy a wonderful, new bed. I imagined my mom would be thrilled that I got something nice for myself. That’s what she always wanted for me! But I imagined my dad shaking his head and grimacing at the cost. I smiled, remembering what a penny-pincher he was.

Then I felt a very strong and clear sensation, as if someone were standing right behind me, followed by a prickly sensation in my lower back, as if l was being hugged around my waist. It was so strong and clear! I sensed it was one of my parents and got the feeling it was my dad and that he showed up to say that he approves and is happy for me.

My sister and I were texting a few days ago, and she said she hadn’t received any signs or felt our dad’s presence lately. That reminded me of what I experienced in the kitchen the night before. Experiences like that have become so commonplace that I sometimes forget to share them.

I don’t know how it works, but I’m grateful that it does.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

 

Bathed in Light

Bathed in Light

A few evenings ago while taking a walk, I was stopped in my tracks by the irresistible sight of the late day sunlight illuminating chartreuse-toned, newborn leaves up in the trees. It was a stop-and-take-a-picture moment, which is my version of stopping and smelling the roses (unless there are actual roses to smell!).

Sometimes the simplest things can transport us into awe, joy, and gratitude if we are receptive to them. If we can even notice them in the first place. I am passionate about photographing such “magic moments” and have a library of nearly 10,000 images that is essentially a visual gratitude journal. It helps me to remember. It uplifts me. And it trains me to see the light in this world. Holding that frequency is what I feel called to do. There are others who focus on the darkness. There are some who insist, “If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention!” There are those who are committed to finding solutions. There is room in this world for all of us. However, I know my place. I’m here to hold the light. Not in a Pollyanna sense, but in a despite-it-all sense.

I woke up this morning thinking of someone who often disturbs my inner peace. I tend to hold a negative opinion of this person, even though I realize they are hurting and have reasons for their behavior. Then the image of the sunlit, baby leaves popped into my mind, and I imagined visualizing people who annoy or upset me bathed in the kind of light that illuminated the tender leaves. I noticed how it felt to even think about doing that. My defenses were up. Why, though? What is so threatening about seeing people illuminated in the most flattering way, from an angle that allows us to perceive their goodness, which I believe is inherent in everyone, even if it’s buried deeply – perhaps beneath an overwhelming desire to be loved and accepted?

Hmm… It felt like my ego asserting itself again. (I call her Susie Q.) Cling to an unflattering view of someone else to…make me feel better about myself? Simplify my world? But the feeling of tightening, closing, and cutting myself off doesn’t feel good. It feels like shrinking and constricting. It doesn’t feel intuitively right.

It feels much better to soften, open, and connect with someone’s higher nature, to bathe them in the light of love and compassion. It doesn’t mean I have to do anything differently. I don’t necessarily have to get any closer, interact more, make myself vulnerable, or take on responsibility that isn’t mine. It’s really not about the other person as much as it’s about freeing myself from a narrow, limiting view that prevents me from expanding and evolving (which is what I think I’m ultimately here for).

All I know is that it feels good in every cell of my being when I’m able to shine some love and compassion on the stories Susie Q creates and to see others as beings of light rather than boundaries by which I define myself. And I am grateful for the power of images to awaken me so that, like the sunlit leaves freshly emerged from tight buds, I can open and expand and gather more light.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Magical Journey of Clutter-Clearing

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 were 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 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, 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 1820s 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 sift 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 with 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!

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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