Spring Cleaning (Practicing Non-attachment)

I really don’t like clutter.  And I have been in the mood to purge all week.   On Wednesday, I set an hour aside to go through my girls clothes with them and we ended up bringing two large bags full of old clothes to the Red Cross Box.  As I drove home, I noticed an unusual number of garbage bags in front of the houses in the neighborhood.  Just the day before, my yoga teacher had spoken about how he had spent a day cleaning himself into a meditative state.

Is it something in the air? Is it because the weather has been so unseasonably mild?  Is it time for spring-cleaning already?

I know that I am always trying to make room.   Not for new things, but for NO things. I don’t like things.  I only own 4 pairs of (non-yoga) pants, and I think maybe I have 4 pairs of shoes.  I have 1 coat.  I don’t even have a closet of my own.   I have 1 small shoe box filled with things that are “just mine”; a notebook or two, some old pieces of jewelry that were gifts, concert tickets.   But I am not really sentimental about those things.  If my house were on fire, and my family was outside, I wouldn’t feel the need to run back in for anything at all, not even the cat (sorry cat loving friends).  I try to practice aparigraha, non-attachment.  I think that each thing we attach ourselves to, each thing we call “ours”, is just another obligation, another obstacle that keeps us from our true self.

I probably have to expand, especially after saying I wouldn’t run in to save the cat, because if my kids were crying about the cat, I might try to save her.   But, I know that the cat is not permanently “mine”.  Nothing is really mine forever, and if I attach myself to something, that attachment will begin to affect my decision-making processes.  Running in to save her would put my life in danger.  Attachment to that cat could kill me!!

Here’s a less extreme scenario than a fiery death.  If I’m attached to 25 pairs of pants and 20 dresses and 50 pairs of shoes, I’ll need a pretty big closet.  If I don’t have that big closet I’ll be upset.  I might even take my frustrations out on the other people in my house who are using up all of my closet space. This might lead us to think we need a bigger house for our stuff, which will cost more money.  This will increase our bills and the amount of hours we have to work just to keep our things.  I will begin to live for my things.

This takes me further and further away from my true intentions, to simply live a good life.    I become weighed down by my stuff.   But perhaps that is the point of attachment?  To weigh us down. To anchor us in the here and now. To fool us into believing that this life is permanent, by making us think that these things can belong to us forever.

Because we never wanted to be house-poor, we choose to live in a very (very) small house.  John and the girls have a lot of stuff, more stuff than we can fit into this small space.  It has often been a source of great frustration for me, the person who doesn’t like things.   I have tried everything to decrease the clutter.  Last year we bought a storage bed that has drawers under it, and on the headboard above it.   Half of the drawers were for my stuff and half for John’s.  I decided to keep one of the drawers empty. Whenever I would get frustrated about how my house is cluttered with stuff, I would meditate on my empty drawer.  Every so often I would actually open the drawer, and take a peek at the blissful emptiness.   Empty space in a crowded house.  A place where there was still room to take a breath, and room to grow.

One day, I opened the drawer to find it filled with stuff. Not my stuff. Not my empty space!  John’s stuff.   When I asked him why he had filled the drawer he said, “Because it was empty.”  I told him I wanted it to be empty.  He said “You weren’t using it”. I explained to him that I WAS using it, for peace of mind. I don’t think he got it.  He said that drawers were made to be filled, and he had stuff that needed a drawer.

I wasn’t going to argue.  I realized that I had become attached to the empty space, and maybe it was time for me to let that go.  It had served its purpose, and I could meditate on empty space any time I wanted to.   A few days later, I looked in the drawer and it was empty again.

I still get frustrated by the mess and the clutter, but I have my empty drawer, for now.  I have talked to my girls about aparigraha, and I have gotten them to start spring-cleaning.  Today we are going to open the windows and tackle the front porch full of toys, meditating on the question: how many Barbie dolls does one really need?? Luckily, I am not attached to the idea of an empty porch…

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