I’ve come to recognize my internal signal for when things in my life are temporary. Sure, everything in life is temporary, but some more so than others. My gauge is when I find myself asking, â€śHow long is this going to last?â€ť Sometimes my asking is positive (as in, how long do I get to hang on to this?) and sometimes it’s negative (how long do Io have to do this for?). Whatever the case, if this thought pops up involuntarily and repeatedly, I know I am working on some level to change the situation or outside influences are about to alter my circumstances. This has been the case for my home, but first, the back-story:
In the beginning of 2008 my husband and I bought a house that had gone into foreclosure. It had been trashed, but Iâ€™ve always been a sucker for the under-dog and my husband isÂ literally Mr. Fix-It, so we dove into all efforts to give this house a whole lot of TLC. Along with family, we painted, patched, landscaped, reroofed, and in general gave the house a full surface remodel. Well, at least the upper portion. The basement was a future venture that we would get to as money allowed. After three and a half years it hadnâ€™t allowed and had become a nest of cobwebs and â€śsomedayâ€ť dreams.
It also became a tangled mess of randomness. Donâ€™t know what to do with that rug? Throw it on the pile among the old unused flower pots and box of unfiled papers. Have a stash of pool floating noodles? We donâ€™t have a pool and donâ€™t go to the lake, but maybe one day weâ€™ll need them again; stick them in the back of the holiday decorations in the unfinished bathroom.
After three and a half years of living in a house we love, our basement became nearly un-maneuverable. Since it is a walkout and our dog is let out the back to handle his business, there was usually a tiny walking path among the junkâ€¦ just enough so you could get through, but only just enough so you didnâ€™t kill yourself.
So what did this chronic basement clutter mean? Why was it virtually impossible for us to deal with it? Just thinking of putting things in order exhausted me to the point of passing out. Our excuses were unending. â€śItâ€™s a winter project. Weâ€™ll do it when weâ€™re stuck inside.â€ť â€śItâ€™s too cold to work in a basement during winter.â€ť â€śWeâ€™ll do it on the weekend when weâ€™re not so tired from work.â€ť â€śWeâ€™ve worked all week! We deserve to have fun on the weekend.â€ť Etc.
For years I have personally understood that the presentation of your living environment is a reflection of your inner environment. If you ever stop by while I am in a bought of stress you’d likly wonder if we’d been ransacked. My inner chaos cannot be contained and fuels outer chaos and a content breeding ground for my already existent stress. I was reminded of this theory by Tess Whitehurst in her book Magical Housekeeping. Right on page one she says, â€śWhen we look at our homesâ€¦we see that they are like extensions, or reflections, of our bodies, lives, and emotional landscapes. This is is an illustration of Hermes Trismegistusâ€™s famous magical precept, â€śAs above, so below.â€ť Above, the seen and externally manifested world (our homes), and below, the unseen and internally manifested world (our thoughts, feelings, and experiences), are not only mirrors of each other, but they are also one and the same.â€ť
I kept trying to figure out what theÂ underlying issue was that lay among the basement heaps, but could never figure it out. What was hiding in my subconscious? What were we trying to bury in all that junk? Then this spring I found myself working 30 minutes from home instead of 10 minutes. Thatâ€™s ok, I said. I could deal with that, though thoughts of Minnesota winters tugged at the back of my mind.Â Then came summer and we got the news that my husbandâ€™s job would be moving 60 minutes from home. That was a bit more of a sting. We struggled for a moment, Iâ€™ll admit I shed a few tears, and then we dove again into our work on the house knowing this time we were doing the changes for someone else.
In truth, I now realize that I had been asking myself that unrelenting question of our home: â€śHow long will this last?â€ť And it had been a question always loaded in sadness because I never wanted it to end. I saw so many people in a struggling economy and even though we weren’t struggling, I feared the thought of ending up back in an apartment. That fear had been my basement stumbling block. Why keep it nice or fix it up when there was that nagging feeling that it wasnâ€™t going to be ours forever? Now I have no choice but to face it head on.
I have now shifted my attitude and imagine a new family moving into this saved house. They wonâ€™t have to put all the hard effort into it in order to live there. They can eat the apples off the tree and the strawberriesÂ out ofÂ the garden that didn’t used to grow around it. They can walk up the front step without twisting an ankle on caved in cement and can even enter the house without seeing down to the basement from a hole in the floor! They can love and play in it right from the start. I am happy for them, whoever they are.
I may not get to stay in this home, but it’s shown me what we can acomplish. Now that Iâ€™ve rid myself of the emotional and physical junk that had bogged me down (meaning I succeeded in cleaning the basement and even came to terms with the idea of returning to apartment life), I can finally put my energy toward dreaming of our next home and leave all that baggage behind.
How have you experienced outer manifestation of your inner happiness or turmoil? Has decluttering your home helped you in other areas of your life?
Make sure to check out Tess Whitehurst’s book, Magical Housekeeping!