The Alchemy of "Rubbish"
Article Three of the Abundance Series
What is it with the spring that makes us take to our cupboards and go into deep decluttering mode? The expression ‘spring cleaning’ exists for a reason. Perhaps as we see flowers coming into bloom and hear more bird song, we are inspired to find new energy and emerge from our winter cocoons as well. Letting go of what no longer serves us has major health benefits, and if we can do this with our physical surroundings, then it can work wonders on our mental wellbeing too.
This morning was one of those mornings. Quite unexpectedly, as I lay in bed mulling over what the day would bring, I looked around me and saw so much stuff. Too much stuff! I’m currently staying at my mum’s, in the house where I grew up, and over the years, this house has been a port among many of my voyages and escapades, somewhere I’d come back to when visiting, but never to spend a considerable amount of time here. So, naturally, over the years, stuff has accumulated and then just sat here. On my shelves, in my cupboards and under the bed, accumulating dust and heavy energy. As I lay in bed, I realised it was time to let go of the past.
In truth, this is a continuous process, but it actually started quite dramatically back in 2018. After having spent a winter in the States with very few belongings, I returned to my flat in Bologna at the time, and proclaimed to the universe:
“Universe, I want less stuff!”
I went about throwing out clothes and shoes, not realising quite how many I’d accumulated! I thought I’d done a good job, but the universe had other ideas. In July of that summer, on a hot summer’s night, I made the mistake of leaving the French doors open to my kitchen one night. We were having particularly hot weather and I was desperately hot. Surely, being on the second floor was safe enough? I had lived in this flat for five years. It was in a good neighbourhood and I’d always felt safe. Well, the next morning, still sleepy and perhaps a little more groggy than usual, I awoke to my travel rucksack missing. I searched the flat as a dog would hunt for its missing owner. Going over nooks and crannies, again and again. Nothing was out of place. Everything was as I had left it the night before, except for the fact that I couldn’t for the life of me find my rucksack. The more I looked, the stronger the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I’d been burgled.
It was such a surreal time for me. I looked up to the heavens and addressed the universe once more:
“Ok, so when I said I wanted less stuff, that meant anything at all in this whole flat EXCEPT my travel rucksack!”
It had my life in it. My flute, my computer and external hard drive (and of course I had no back up) and over £5000 in cash. The combined value was devastating, but it was more the loss of what was utterly irreplaceable. Photos on my computer from Morocco, America, all over Italy, I had painstakingly edited and was really quite proud of. The studio files from my album. So much work I will never get back. And my flute. Henry. Like an extension of me. Gone.
And the worst part was probably that I was asleep in the flat while someone climbed in and burgled me. An unforgettable violation of my home, my nest, my safe space. Within a matter of months, I’d sold what I could, donated a tonne of stuff, and thrown away twelve bags of paper from my office. I found new tenants to take over my contract, hired a van and driver for what was left of my stuff, said my goodbyes and after seventeen years of being Sonia from Bologna, I left and went “back home”.
Fast forward to 2022, and I got my second eviction notice in six months, which led to me buying a campervan and seriously downsizing to make way for a four-month road trip across Southern Europe. Living out of such a small space taught me a lot and showed me how little we actually need or even use of the stuff we fill our cupboards and drawers with.
Ok, I confess that back home, I had filled a storage unit with the rest of my stuff, I’ll get to that. Anyone who knows me, knows that minimalism, much like concision, is not my forte.
So, today, as if propelled by a force from higher realms, I sprung out of bed and begun lightening up my shelves of stuff, some of which I literally hadn’t touched in over three decades. I filled bags with books, clothes, tat. I filled bin bags with paper, tat and dust. I liberated the underworld of my bed of dust-covered objects. I was amazed at how much had actually fit in my bedroom!
Now, at the end of the day, as I sit back and contemplate this article, I look around me. Emptier shelves where once were my books I’d read and cherished as a child. Books I had got so used to looking at whenever I was back in town that it seemed implausible to ever touch them let alone donate them and be done with them. In a flash, I had lightened my space of stuff I had held onto for far too long. Why? Was it a part of me not wanting to let go of the past? Why is it that we do this?
One of the things which I find rather uncomfortable is finding homes and uses for these unwanted objects. Today I took stuff to charity shops, filled clothes banks, and threw away a lot too. I didn’t recycle. Old me would have done, but I sadly no longer believe that it exists. Between hearing of incinerators which burn it all, or how a lot of our recycling gets sold to poorer countries, who in turn burn it and use it for fuel, I’m moving away from recycling and I am glad. It’s a con, a trap. Want to be ecological? Don’t buy the stuff in the first place! Be mindful of how much you buy, the materials used and also whether it’s built to last. Surely, you’ll agree this is more sustainable in the long run.
But the highlight of my day was finding one of the most interesting and easiest ways to “get rid of my stuff”, something I see happening more and more:
I created a pretty display on the front garden wall of books, badminton rackets, ceramics and even huge candles whose poor wicks hadn’t done a great job and for years I’d kept these gigantic wickless wax candles, waiting for the day when I would melt them down and create new candles with functioning wicks. That day never came funnily enough, so onto the wall they went. I didn’t even have the time to go inside, ponder over how I’d love to write an article about this experience, go back outside to take a photo of my outdoor wall shop display for this article, before someone had swiped up most of the books, the mattress and rackets! I guess it’s true what they say:
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”
Funnily enough, the only books to remain at the end, were only the Stephen King books I’d adored as a teenager. I had all sorts of books out there and most were decent literature, some what is considered “high brow”, and I really wasn’t sure I’d shift them. Yet what remained at the end of the day were the trashiest books. That gives me hope for the world. Although as I was walking along the road a little later on, I did come across one of my books, which had been chucked onto the pavement, abandoned without a second thought. Probably because as its new owner was walking away, all chuffed at having a beautiful tome in their mits, they soon realised said tome was in Italian. I swiftly picked it up and put it on another wall. Let’s see tomorrow!
Decluttering is proving to be so therapeutic. Just having got rid of objects, I feel lighter on the inside, my head is clearer, thoughts are clearer, I feel exhausted but in a good way. Getting your shit in order really reflects getting your life in order. Lightening up the load really reflects a lighter soul and spirit within. And taking out some of the weight from that backpack we carry around with far too much in it (oh, my backpack… harsh analogy, universe!), does ultimately free us of old, stagnant energy and past worries. Now, all that’s left for me to do is light a new candle and burn some palo santo to cleanse my space, ready for a brand new day and a brand new me.
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