This year I spent the month before and during Pesach away from home. As a result, I missed out on a much-cherished tradition: The Pre-Passover Clean Up.
Each year I can count on the benefits of this pursuit to lift my spirits. Getting rid of unused things, throwing them out, or, even better, donating them to a charitable organization. They are beautiful things: some are too large, others I haven’t worn once the entire year. An item that merely gathers dust is an excellent indicator to gift, discard or donate. Getting rid of clutter always makes me feel renewed. It’s like a spring cleaning for the soul with a touch of charity. My unused clothes and shoes can be a source of joy to others while they depart my closets.
I set to task as soon as I returned to my beautiful yet dusty apartment. On Monday, I hired a cleaning service for 3 hours, to help freshen up all the surfaces, dust, mop and shine glass, wood floors, and furniture.
Then I set up three empty cardboard boxes and went through every drawer, shelf, and closet.
As the boxes kept getting bigger and bigger, so did my sense of freedom. A lightness came over me, which I hadn’t experienced since I moved back East: I felt the relief from the burden of accumulating objects that no longer served me and the clarity that comes from getting rid of them.
Spring was here: my house plants were growing fresh new leaves, trees on the street began to bud. When I took my little dog, Matilda to the park, I thought of the joy of New Beginnings. A message of freedom and creativity started to form in the here and now. It was pure synchrony, all around me. The message was there wherever I looked, a profound aha moment.
A possibility of total renewal can start with the simplest things:
I began as follows
Clothes and Shoes
Get rid of the clothes you haven’t worn in years, or perhaps ever. They may have sentimental value, such as the expensive gift from a loved one, items you never really liked. You thought, “I might grow to like them.” You didn’t and likely never will. You’ll put those in the box marked as Consignments. Those pieces will go to a high-end consignment boutique. Aside from freeing space, the designer pieces might make you a chunk of cash.
Gently used but inexpensive items you’ll place in the box marked: Donation, for drop off at a second-hand store, like Goodwill.
The clothes which are ancient favorites, so well-worn they have holes or stains, as well as lone shoes that lost their matching pair go into the third box, marked Discard.
Suddenly your closet will seem larger, with plenty of space to see the items you love and use regularly.
Furniture and knick-knacks
My move back to NJ delivered a clear message, one I decided to heed: Let go of attachments to things.
Every time I had to move in the past, I agonized over damage, loss, and careless movers. Yuck! Each incident was a further reminder of how the things you own can hold you down.
Lost or fatally damaged Tibetan antiques, elephants, crystals, and antique musical instruments collections, will make you pay attention. Add to the mayhem stolen, lost or damaged pieces of my original art –and you acknowledge the ultimate truth: no use crying over spilled milk. Too much stuff is like a heavy ball and chain. I vowed to refuse to allow THINGS to have any power over me.
Today I got rid of anything extra: old lamps, dishes, linens, towels, and over 200 books went into the pile for donation.
Beyond freedom from things is the need for self-care. Like most of us, you may sometimes feel like a bird with your wings tied. You want to fly, meditate, or take a class, but don’t take the time. You say that you don’t HAVE the time. Ask yourself, which one is it? Are you the designated driver, cook, old-parent/child/spouse-
Hire someone to do the house cleaning at least once a month. If you can afford it, hire help more frequently. Teach the kids a great lesson: Any action has consequences. If They make their bed and keep their room neat, they gain points, translating to more TV, time hanging out with friends, or a bigger allowance. And the opposite applies: They make a mess and refuse to clean up, – they lose privileges while learning an essential life lesson. But most of all, you gain some ME time. The elevated mood will surely improve the relationship between you and your spouse and help you recall who you married and why.
The greatest freedom comes from within.
Tranquility, peace of mind, and a spiritually infused life
have a way of removing most fear-born behaviors and thought patterns. Those alone are responsible for most feelings of helplessness. Go within, either alone or with the help of an excellent functional/ cognitive therapist, and clean up your inner clutter. Think positive!
Few things can make you feel as helplessly tethered as an addiction to a substance.
I know perfectly respectable people, successful and beloved by many, who turn into screaming maniacs if they run out of cigarettes at midnight and there’s no open store in the vicinity. They are rummaging through their clothes pockets and bags in hope of finding a miracle: a near-empty box with at least one cigarette.
Alcohol and prescription drugs are in the same category even though they are advertised and legal. sans illicit purchase on dark street corners. Completely ‘regular’ people openly partake of them. Luckily, Jews are not culturally predisposed to heavy drinking, but we all know some who turn to self-medication to cope with life.
I don’t judge any of the above, as long as the user can take it or leave it. Regarding medication, it can be a blessing when nothing else will relieve acute physical or emotional trauma. Prescription medicine is not for recreation but for healing pain and suffering. The freedom from intractable pain is a privilege our ancestors didn’t have. I am grateful for that and for the relief from the pain it gave my mother, during the weeks before she passed away from terminal cancer.
The best ways to cope come with stress relief exercises, breathwork, and extreme presence of mind. Catch the pain before it overcomes you, and you’ll need less medication, will suffer less or not at all.
This is a massive issue in the USA. A few years ago, my weight plunged to 102 lbs. at 5’6 ½, following double pneumonia. Some women lauded my ‘amazing’ metabolism and envied how thin I was. I thought it was bizarre. Wishing to look like the airbrushed images in fashion magazines leads people to a constant battle with their bodies. It causes people to suffer from dysmorphia: looking anorexic is far from attractive and eating disorders are a sad result. Many people are preoccupied with the subject of weight, and the obsession leads to a negative self-image. It would be wise to forget about ‘diets’ and think about healthy lifestyles instead. Best to see a functional doctor (who’ll check the workings of your internal organs, look for vitamin and mineral contents, genetic inclinations, etc.). They will then prescribe an eating regimen tailored to YOU, specifically considering your likes, dislikes, cravings, and deficiencies. Working out will help your body build muscle and get your metabolism going. Your weight will stabilize, as will your emotional and physical well-being.
Happiness and wholeness are our birthrights. Let’s vow to embrace that starting now, right after the Festival of Liberation and the time of renewal. Spring has sprung and so can you.
By Sarity Gervais