My house is clean, but my home is a mess!
By Amy Sampson
When I first moved out of my parent’s house, I was pretty selective about the items I took with me. I wanted a fresh start, new things, so I left a lot of my childhood belongings behind. I would have liked to think that I was creating a clean new beginning, but of course I was not. My belongings, my stuff, was safely left behind in the bedroom that I grew up in. While I was out living it up and thinking I was so very adult, my past – my childhood, my memories, my stuff – was still holding onto me, an invisible chain that started in the closet of the room where I slept for the first 18 years of my life, and bound to my ankle, with enough wiggle room that I thought I was free but really was not.
So much has happened in those twenty-something years since I thought I closed the door on who I was. College, jobs, boyfriends, marriage, moving into my first home, changing careers, having a baby, moving again, getting divorced, therapists, falling in love again. That’s a lot of memories, a lot of years of hard-won life knowledge. It’s also a lot of stuff.
Not only did I accumulate more stuff during each phase of my life, but I began to re-accumulate what I had left behind so long ago. Especially with the birth of my daughter, I yearned for my old things, like a baby blanket and a stuffed animal, a huge horse-model set complete with barn, some knick-knacks here and there. And to make my overstuffed home even fuller, when cleaning out my parent’s attic with them, I went full-on sentimental and took everything that was going into the trash pile. I was stuffed to the brim with things.
I started to feel like I was drowning in my own belongings. I didn’t own this stuff; this stuff owned me. Everywhere I looked there were reminders of who I used to be, who I thought I would be by now, and memories that just made me sad. When I went into my basement, my breathing became shallow just looking at the boxes. Not only was all of my stuff making me feel closed in, I also worried that if something happened to me, I wouldn’t want the burden of clearing all of that stuff up to fall on someone else.
And then one day, a few months ago, I came across an online course called “A Year to Clear What is Holding You Back!” by Stephanie Bennett Vogt. It started me on a mission to clear out my house, and in the course of those months I have cleared out so much of what I have accumulated. At first, it was a little scary and brought up a lot of old feelings. I have learned that if I look at something and it doesn’t bring feelings of happiness, then it’s got to go. Why keep gifts that were given to me for my wedding, when I look at them and think of my failed marriage? That was the easy stuff, the harder stuff was things from my childhood or items – even broken ones – from my grandparent’s old home.
I have developed a bit of an obsession with cleaning and clearing, and doing so has truly helped to un-clink the chains that have been holding me back. So why do I still feel like crap? That’s the question I had to ask myself. As I sit in my decluttered dining room, I realize that my house looks great, but my home – myself, my body, my spirit, my center – is a mess.
I get anxiety when I travel, even if it’s just a local event but where I don’t know what to expect. I’ve always had it, but it has gotten worse with age. One of the things that helps me to continue to live and get out and do things even though it gives me anxiety is that I have learned that wherever I am is home. My body is my true home and as long as I remember that I feel safe. I know that I don’t need a roof and familiar walls around me to be protected. I know this, but it has taken me so much longer to figure out that when I say I am cleaning up my house, I am still neglecting my home.
Clearing my house has freed me from the feeling of being tied down by stuff, but I have not yet dealt with the emotional ramifications of dredging all of those old feelings up. I walk around with a garbage bag and a bag of chips, or a glass of wine. That’s not cleaning, that’s just exchanging old junk for new junk (but the new junk is landing on my hips!).
I feel like crap because I am more cautious about what I put into my house than about what I stuff into my home, my body.
I have realized that clearing out my house is only the first step, that I must not neglect the only body that I will have in this lifetime. I know that I’m on the right track but missing some hurdles. I practice yoga and meditation but not all the time. I eat organic but only when it’s convenient. I use mostly all natural products in my home and on my body but sometimes use regular bug spray, because I live in the woods and the natural stuff just doesn’t always cut it. I buy organic snacks but realize that they are still snacks – green beans are great, but organic green beans that have been fried? I can’t even kid myself on that one.
Doing yoga and meditation and not following through with my practice is like cleaning your house and leaving socks on the floor and a sink full of dishes. Actually it’s worse, because in an hour my house can be put back together but my body won’t recover on its own from damage and neglect. I suppose it’s really more like letting your house catch fire and waiting until there are flames coming from the second floor bedroom before grabbing the extinguisher and calling 911.
My next step is to take some of the energy that I spend cleaning and use it to make better choices for myself. I want to enjoy my life, and I am grateful that I still have a choice about how I care for myself, and hopefully there is still time to make changes so that I can keep the health that I have taken for granted.
Having a clean house is great, getting rid of years of accumulated stuff is incredibly freeing. Now it’s time to take care of my home. I always say that life is a journey, an adventure. But we have to remember that at the end of the day, we have to take care of ourselves, or else we will be stuck picking up the pieces of a broken home that we can’t repair.
© 2016 Amy Sampson