The wave of suffocation had finally reached shore and was pulling me under. You see, I used to be the girl who longed for more. More books, more serving dishes, more seasonal hand towels, more vases, more workout clothes, more shoes. I longed for more of everything. That is until I realized I was suffocating. Suffocating by stuff. I can remember reaching out to a friend and expressing my concerns about these feelings of suffocation, but I did nothing about it. I said it not once, not twice, but probably 100 times before I realized something needed to change. My longing for more led to suffocating, my suffocating led to purging, and my purging led to appreciation.
I can remember it clearly, I had just finished Cait Flandes’ book, A Year of Less, for a second time. (Yes, it was that good). 5:17 am on a Thursday morning. The house was quiet and my mind was overflowing. I closed my book and looked around. Not only was my mind overflowing, but so was the basket of kids toys. Then I saw it. I saw just how much stuff I truly had in our house. Meaningless stuff that contributed to my anxiety and my housework.
The Wave of Suffocation
All over the floor I saw kids toys I didn’t remember buying. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a stack of books. Books I bought because I thought they would make me a better person and most of them I had never read. I slowly got out of my chair and braced myself for the wave that was about to hit me. The wave of suffocation and the need to purge. I have felt it before, but this one was bigger and I had a feeling it was going to pull me under if I didn’t do something right now.
I made my way to the cabinet of puzzles and kids books. The wave of suffocation was pulling me under. I remember organizing and sorting this cabinet. Up until now, each book and each puzzle had a specific spot to call home based on size and material. This cabinet now closely resembles my mind—a jumbled mess—a mess of books, puzzles, and random toy parts that clearly don’t belong.
I sat and stared at my surroundings. Why now? What changed? How did I get here? Suffocated by stuff. Where did that candle holder come from? Did I really need to buy that decorative vase from the dollar section at Target? Why on earth do we have 5 alphabet puzzles? They all have the same letters, just different sizes and different colors.
Ready for Space
Quickly I grabbed a box, yes an Amazon box from one of many impulse buys. I started sorting. Piles of yes and no. There were no maybes happening here. It was either staying or it was going. My pile of no stuff grew and I realized I needed a bigger box. I slowly moved from the toy cabinet, to my closet, to the kitchen, to the random closet of junk in my craft room. At that moment, I was done suffocating. I was ready to be able to have space to breathe, to live.
This purge didn’t happen all at once. It took days if not weeks, and as I sit here writing this I’m thinking about the storage room. Old lizard cages, gift bags, tissue paper, teaching supplies. The list goes on and on. This vicious cycle of buy, purge, buy, purge had to stop. No more keeping up with the Jonses or buying two because it’s on sale. It was time to re-evaluate why I bought and continued to buy when I needed absolutely nothing. The lies I told myself about shopping gave me a sense of purpose, they made me feel like I belonged, they made me feel less alone, or so thought.
Scared of My Own Thoughts and My Own Judgments
What I never realized is that vicious cycle was destroying me. Why did I have to keep up with the Jonses? Why did I need to fill my time with mind numbing shopping trips? The answer: I was scared of my own thoughts, and my own judgments.
By purging the things I no longer needed, I was opening up more space. More space to breathe and more space to live. Our house no longer packed wall to wall. Instead visitors could see what was really important to us—family photos, kid artwork, knick knacks that took us back to a special moment. Our house now represented us—not the Jonses or the Target dollar section.
No Longer Suffocating
My mind numbing shopping trips came to an end leaving me more time to read my books, meditate, work on my non-profit Grace Upon Grace Project. I finally made time for things that mattered and time for healing. I not only found myself, but I was able to visit the Jonses without longing for their stuff. Instead of waiting for the wave of suffocation to hit me as I sat in my living room, I had found peace in the intentional things I chose to surround myself with.
No this journey didn’t happen over night and I’m not telling you to find a box right now and start purging. I’m simply showing you that in-order to truly live, sometimes you have to let go. Let go of the stuff in order to move forward. As Cait Flanders says, “One lesson I’ve learned countless times over the years is that whenever you let go of something negative in your life, you make room for something positive.”