Just before we went away, my husband and I cleared out my Mum's small home. I found it quite difficult emotionally, as I am sure many of you can relate to. I was very fortunate because my Mother was a minimalist, and she lived in a very small apartment with only what she needed.
That said it was still a big job, wiht lots of things to go this way and that, and some tricky decisions about what to keep. I have been a follower of Joshua Becker's ''becoming minimalist' blog for some time. After clearing Mum's home I was both surprised and reassured to read his blog related to decluttering sentimental items.
He cites a simple phrase by one of his audience members which I find profoundly helpful. A woman in his audience said 'when it comes to minimising items with sentimental memories attached, my philosophy has been to adopt an 'only the best strategy'. This involves keeping an item or few items that represent a memory we desire to remember.
Unconsciously I had done this with my Mother's things and avoided the bringing home boxes of things that would have been stored in the roof and probably never looked at again. I decided to keep things that I could use or have out that reminded me of Mum or a treasured time. So I kept items that were most representative of Mum's life! These included........
A Hummel figurine
Mum had collected these handmade German Hummel figurines for many years. I must admit our family did not share her love of these statues displayed on masse in her living room. However, I had great fun carefully selecting one for each of the family and giving them or posting them to them all prior to her funeral. I had fun linking an association with the figurines. The one I selected pictured above gives me great joy and is a lovely memory of Mum.
Ernie the garden gnome stool
My Mother's Father was named Ernie and he loved garden gnomes. He himself somewhat resembled a garden gnome as he was extremely short and bald. He had many gnomes in his front garden in Geelong. I found this garden gnome stool (pictured above) a few years ago. It reminded me of Ernie and so I bought it. Whenever I looked at his beaming face I felt happy.
I decided to lend the gnome to my Mother and he sat by her couch. The idea was she would have Ernie smiling away at her to cheer her up. I decided to bring Ernie into the hospital when Mum was approaching the end of her life. I covered him in a jumper to avoid suspicion and smuggled him into the Alfred. There he bought lots of curiosity, fun and happiness to us all.
Ernie also came along to Mum's funeral - he supported the photos of Mum and beamed his smile at us all. I now have Ernie at home with me bringing lots of joy and happy memories. I am reminded though that happiness is an inside job, and our responsibility. We create our own happiness by bringing happiness to others. No one has the power to make someone happy - not even Ernie.
Woollens and POM embroidered things
I used to gift my Mother a piece of clothing each birthday or Mother's day. She always took extra care of them so when I went through her clothes they were like new. I decided to keep a couple of items. I love wearing them as they remind me of her in happy times. I gave Mum POM embroidered tea towels, washcloths and handkerchiefs over the years - they mostly say 'love you Mum' - I am also enjoying using these.
So I can look around now and see reminders of Mum. Keeping these things and using or seeing them daily keeps the happy memories alive.
I am mindful that not all of us would be able to find this an easy thing to do. No judgment is necessary, we are all different! I am just sharing what I find useful, maybe you may too.
Joshua has some tips that may help when it is difficult to part with sentimental things.
1. Halving boxes of sentimental items. Halve every two boxes to one.
2. Take photos
Joshua reminds us our memories are not in the object, they are in us, so a photo might serve the same purpose as the object.
3. Give it life again
We sent lots of Mum's things to the OP shop. We did the same with my Dad's things. A very happy memory I have is hearing of my brother taking Dad's model cars (in their original boxes) to the OP shop in Tasmania. As my brother was returning to the car he saw a family coming out of the shop - the boys were excitedly carrying the boxed model cars. I like to think of people enjoying Mum's furniture and things too.
4. Remind yourself what brings meaning in your life
Joshua reminds us 'Unfortunately too often, the physical possessions we accumulate in our lives keep us from creating more of the memories that bring joy and meaning into our life, the people around us and the experiences we share, and the accomplishments of growth and achievement.
He encourages us to 'lighten your load. Unburden your life. And go create more moments of relationship, adventure and accomplishment.' And 'you'll never reach for anything new if you are too busy holding on to yesterday's things. Keep only the best'.
With love, appreciation and very best well wishes to us all
As I said last blog this holiday has been a great opportunity to rest and recharge. I have been very busy of late, with my mum and her passing and getting things organised to go away. This stressed ‘busy bee’ is not who I want to be! I had a great pre-holiday reminder of this on my way to the airport.
Friends of ours came down to stay in our house while we have been away. They kindly drove us to the airport. My friend had watched the pair of us run around madly preparing for the holiday and finishing things off before we went. Ironically, although I didn’t see it at the time, the last thing I did as we were driving to the airport was to post last fortnights blog which was on amongst other things taking time to rest and not be so busy. Kindly my friend pointed out the irony and mismatch in my behaviour and the blog advice I was sharing.
I immediately felt the prickle as my ‘busy bee’ button was pushed. Why was I feeling so reactive? Time for some curiosity and kind exploration about what is under my addictive need to be busy.
Mistakenly in the past I saw my busyness as a badge of honour somehow. I am much more aware of this misunderstanding these days and have been more aware of discerning between ego driven busyness and wisely directed activity. However, clearly its often very handy to have a helpful reminder.
I often justify my busyness as activity which is productive and meaningful. More often than not these days this is true. However, if I am honest there are times when this is not the case and my busyness is an avoidance or addictive behaviour which creates stress and disconnection.
The times when I am in synch are those when I am tuned into my wise self and letting her take the lead. These are times when I enjoy what I am doing, take rests and things seem less effort and more fun. I feel aligned and ‘on purpose’.
However, there are many times I am in service not to my wise self but instead to my ‘task master’ ego. This activity is different – its stressful and addictive. It often has a ‘I’ll just get x, y, and z done and then I will take a rest and relax (and I seldom do because there is always one more thing to do) soundtrack’. And it often have high expectations too, with little tolerance for slip ups or mistakes. This often leaves me tired and resentful. So enough of listening to that.
I have been pondering (with curiosity and compassion) the idea that my ‘busy bee’ activity is my attempt to coverup feelings I don’t want to feel. Maybe, I somehow use the busyness to numb or avoid feelings. I am aware also of my compulsion to fill the gap that the loss of my Mum has created.
So instead, I am trying to notice the urge to flip into ‘busy bee’ mode and trust and wait. Instead, I am looking with kindness and curiosity at what is behind my compulsion to act. For me I think I don’t want to accept or acknowledge the parts of me that are lazy, unworthy, uncaring or selfish. I find it difficult to accept these parts of me and so instead I think I numb them with busyness.
More curious exploration needed with my journal. As Kim McMillan says 'When I loved myself enough, I began pouring my feelings into my journals. These loving companions speak my language. No translation needed'.
The cost of my compulsive busy behaviour is a disconnection, both with my wise self and with others too. It is not selfish or uncaring to look after myself, so I need to tune into that truth. As Gandhi says 'above all do not forget your duty to love yourself'.
So the things I would like to remember to take home from my time of rest, relaxation and 'spiritual maintenance' include.......
1. Connecting with my wise self
As I said last blog, this connection with my wise self is so important and well worth the time and effort to strengthen and trust. This is the simple meditation I have been sharing in yoga. I have been practicing this on the go too.
Be Aware of the unsettling feeling and the urge to ‘busy bee’.
Take some down time to and relax recharge, so I can continue to be the positive force in the world I want to be.
3. Act from love
Do as Meggan Watterson advises and 'take action when what is moving you is love at the heart'.
Do as Gandhi advises and 'In doing something, do it with love or never do it at all'. This reminds me to set kind, realistic boundaries around what I can commit to do. And that this means saying 'no' sometimes.
4. Embrace Country Pace
'Slow and steady' as the hare and tortoise remind me.
I have been enjoying not being so dependent on my phone and have taken this time to do a little technology detox.
5. Be patient
Patience both with myself and others. What's the rush. My patience mantras 'No need to rush,I have plenty of time' and ''Trust and wait'.
6. Do more of what brings me joy
I know I am 'on purpose' when activity is fun and joyful - so more of that please.
7. Take a shavassana - enjoy a 5 minute lie on the couch :)
So as I spend the morning here relaxingly finishing this blog I am reminding myself to keep this relaxed mindset both on our way home and at home. I am going to do my best to be aware of the urge to rush and stress and instead move at a relaxed, steady pace free of busyness stress and striving!
I will check in with my body and wise guide at the heart often for what is needed. When I listen I am sure she will be telling me to continue to embrace country pace, trust and wait and to embrace uncertainty too. Please remind me if you see me in stressed 'busy bee' mode. I'll be very grateful.
With love, appreciation and very best well wishes to us all