“When the clutter is gone, you will open yourself up for blessings, opportunities and other things the Lord wants to bring into your life. Quite often, the reason people hang on to clutter is because they are clinging to the past, or too focused on the future”– from the book “Decluttering Your Relationship With Stuff”, by Alicia Economos
On the day I filed for divorce from FP, I was in an out of body trance. The events and discussions leading to the divorce had culminated over the weekend. Monday morning I walked into my office zombielike, typed up the papers, and sent my associate attorney to the courthouse to file them.
I worked all day keeping my mind on my clients instead of my problems. When I got home that evening I plopped into my favorite overstuffed chair, physically and emotionally exhausted. Except for that favorite chair, FP had picked out most all of the other furniture in our modest townhome while I just went along.
As I sat down I had an overwhelming physical release of my shoulders, a literal lightness that came over them. I remember being stunned by the feeling and knowing instantaneously that it was God confirming I had done the right thing and He was taking the weight of the world off of my shoulders.
My friend Mary calls her home her “sacred space” and I realized my environment was more a cold set of rooms holding stuff that was not authentic to me. I put most of FPs selected dark masculine furniture into consignment and moved other of his selected pieces to the basement. I had all the walls painted a bright but warm beige, a good base for any color scheme I would later choose. I was reclaiming my sacred space.
I purchased a painting of three plump red cherries and hung it over the fireplace, deciding it was symbolic of my three children. The shelves around the fireplace were rearranged and many meaningless knickknacks were placed in a box to be donated, exposing open spaces. I perched my mermaid figurine on the fireplace next to the ship frame with the Ithaca poem. I switched the layout of the living room so that it faced the French doors, allowing me to watch the sun come up from my favorite chair when I sat there for my morning prayers.
I had meticulously packed up everything that FP purchased during our relationship and sent it off with him when he moved out. Well meaning friends had arrived on the scene quickly once I filed for divorce, gathering his possessions and moving him into their home. I’d wanted him to stay in the house, to face responsibilities that had been problematic. I had anticipated discussing the deconstruction of the marriage, and a mature ending with dignity. I had bitterness for a long time for the “friends” that interfered in my life at that pivotal moment by whisking him away, leaving unanswered questions and a disjointed, incomplete closure.
Once the decluttering began I continued to ruthlessly purge the house, emptying closets and filling up sacks of clothes, shoes,accessories and random items. I hung a small crystal chandelier in my bedroom and found a bright bedspread I had tucked away. Because the marriage and divorce had set me back financially, I was unable to purchase more than a few new things. The empty space felt good, and miraculously the house came together as though I had specially designed it.
The idea of clutter came up recently in a mediation I did involving a dissolution of a 52 year marriage. The husband had developed Parkinson’s disease and the wife had filed to leave the marriage. The wife was adamant in wanting lists full of small items of personal property. She had a lot of anxiety over those items during the negotiation. Discussing her requested list with the husband and his attorney in their private room, I was shown the photographs of the inside of the parties’ home. It was clear from the photographs the wife was a hoarder. The husband’s lawyer could not ascertain, based on the expansive clutter, which of the requested items were even still at the house. I was sad for this elderly couple and knew they would be the ones I’d pray for in morning prayers. I wondered what fears must be hovering inside this woman that made clinging to “stuff” so important.
“Things” mattered less and less to me after the divorce. What did matter was that I was beginning to feel a quiet delight and I wanted a warm and cozy place to contain that energy. I heard someone define quiet delight as JOY.
When I went in to de-clutter the kitchen I found that FP had taken my beautiful Williams Sonoma stainless steel cookware and had left me with his inferior premarital cookware. I snickered, muttering condemnation. Eventually I found humor in it because not being much of a cook, I hadn’t even noticed until months post divorce that the cookware had been switched out!
In my first marriage my children’s father had taken the videotapes we’d made of the children growing up over the years, and had refused to return them. I was fuming, berating him and calling to tell him off. I implored him to at least let me make copies but he refused. I hadn’t specifically mentioned the videos in the divorce documents so I didn’t have legal grounds to get them back. I was out of control and miserable.
At the time, I’d gone to confession and told Father A that I was ashamed that I was harboring anger and resentment but I wanted punishment for the children’s father. Father A took a different direction. “You were there, raising your children, being a mother to them. God saw everything. You don’t need videos. You were there and so was God”. As I left confession, I let go of the videos.
My little townhouse in Iowa is now a warm loving place with good energy. It’s not the large sprawling house with a pool and guest quarters I lived in during my first marriage. It’s tiny and cozy with a little fireplace that has my overstuffed chair beside it. My children love my home and for a time not too long ago all three of them were living with me in between their school and work transitions. The space was cramped and we had a blast spending time together. It became a family joke when someone would cook dinner about my missing fabulous cookware.
Recently the children’s father moved out of the big home in Scottsdale where he had lived since our divorce. Doing some decluttering of his own, he sent trunks of items (C.O.D!) to my home. One of them contained —the children’s videos. Nine years post divorce, they had been delivered to me without fanfare. My reaction was a surprise even to me. They are still in the trunks, in the basement, tucked away.
Videos, pots and pans, stuff. My home and my life were more than that. The energy I had expended being angry over them was wasted time and emotion I will never get back. I had done the hard work, reconnected with God and found peace. It was time to move forward in the most exciting adventure of all: being awake and whole in the rest of my life. Now that the clutter was gone, there was room for the blessings to come in.