You won't know what's worth pursuing until you let go of what's no longer working. Like many of us in our consumer-centric culture, I fall prey to the notion, over and over again, that acquiring just this one more thing will fix what ails me.
Of course, it never does. Instead, I invariably get a momentary rush of satisfaction, followed by an inevitable let-down. Oh, sure, there are times when the high—and my enthusiasm—remains a bit longer. But ultimately, that book/e-workshop/your-quick-fix-here fails me, sooner or later.
This is probably part of the human condition, at least for most of us artists and dreamers. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs when it comes to just about everything: food, energy, and especially, time. (Or maybe you're one of the four people on planet Earth who can actually compose a reasonable to-do list for the day.)
Here is what does work, every time: letting go. Letting go of broken things. Letting go of things that once served, but no longer do. Letting go of things that were acquired with the best of intentions, but with perhaps unrealistic expectations.
I'm speaking both metaphorically and literally, of course, but for once, I am only advocating that you address the physical aspects of the equation right now, and these, only at the simplest level. There's something about this time of year that brings out the overachiever in many of us, and while it's great to quit smoking/sloth/whatever, unless they're proving an immediate, crippling problem, they may not be the things we need to give up right now. (Although please, if you have a real problem with substance abuse or other immediately-threatening issue, please do get help now. And I mean now, not after you're done reading this column.)
What I've found, after stubbornly trying everything else, is that getting rid of my actual, physical clutter clears the way for the right, next action, even if that action is not one I'm looking forward to. (I want the happiness on the other side of the unpleasant action, of course, just not the unpleasantness. Sigh.)
While you can plow through things on your own or hire a decluttering specialist, I've found that the sweetest-tasting success and greatest lasting change happens by taking things slowly, methodically, and with a spoonful of sugar. In other words, a little bit at a time, and a little bit of a game. A couple that have worked for me:
An online, self-directed game created by two young fellows who call themselves the Minimalists, the way it works is simple. And brutal. And effective. For one month, you commit to donating/recycling/trashing as many items as that day of the month's number: one thing on the 1st, 17 things on the 17th, etc. If you can do any kind of math, you'll see that by Week Three, this can get very challenging (unless you have a little hoarding problem or count individual, expired, dried lima beans toward your day's pitch). So make it fun: play it with friends, like I did. Upload your photos to Facebook or Twitter. (You can see a gallery of mine here.) Cheer each other on. Rinse, repeat.
By the bagua
The first time I cleared out my apartment, I did it the feng shui way. I took each section of the bagua in turn, pitching and then cleaning it thoroughly before sprucing it up. Even if you don't believe in the woo-woo aspect of it, the intentional focus it engenders is terrific. But I did have two residual checks (in the amount of $10K each!) show up right after I completed my Prosperity corner. Just sayin'. You can google "feng shui" and find tons of free info now, but I really like Karen Rauch Carter's fun, practical Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. ($10K checks! Two of them!)
Here's to a better, lighter new year for all of us!
* * *
Book of the Month:
When it comes to the intangibles that can choke off a life, I can recommend no other book as highly for pitching what doesn't work for you and discovering what will than the thorough, demanding, unbelievably helpful Your Best Year Yet, by Jinny Ditzler. Not only will it help you let go of crap you've been hauling around with you for years (in my case, decades), it will also help you create a plan to make your dreams—yes, DREAMS—come true. Developed and honed over years of personal practice and group workshops, it's about as comprehensive a toolkit as you'll find for changing your life. On the other hand, if you do it right, it will change your life. Caveat emptor.