Over the last year, my efforts to transform my living spaces have been a reflection of my own path of change pushed on me from both within and beyond myself. During this time, I was literally living in a side room in a friend’s basement, with the rest of my possessions stored in the main basement. I have since shed the vast majority of what I moved into her house with (inspired by, but transcending, preparing to move somewhere else a month ago). I took that impulse of “Why do I have all this stuff?” everyone has at such times, and turned it into a true transformative process as I simplified not just the Stuff in my life but other aspects as well.
The metaphor has become reality, and I have thought often about the metaphorical basement for insight into how to change my life.
The basement is often that place in the house where you put the things you don’t want to deal with. When you’re cleaning the house, it’s the last place you’ll consider tidying up; since no one goes down there unless they have to it’s usually easier just to pretend it isn’t there so cleaning it up is a waste of time anyway.
The catch is, the things that are in your basement matter, and they need not just to be organized, but decluttered and carefully pruned.
There are many emotions attached to the things we possess. They all have memories, associations, pieces of your self image.
If you want to find your self as more than just a reflection of the things you’ve stashed away, you have to transfer the memories of all the pieces of Stuff evoke to somewhere else without losing that sense of permanence you thought you were getting by keeping all your treasured possessions in the first place.
As you bring back the memories and associations of the physical objects you’re shedding, do whatever is appropriate to capture what they meant: take a picture, write it down, think about it while meditating or taking a walk. How has the associated experience shaped you? Do they bring back feelings you wish you had forgotten?
Do you realize you never really processed the emotions that were connected to the object’s original purpose in your life?
But realize that the object doesn’t hold the memories; you do, and now that you’ve brought them back you can shed the Dumbo’s Feather that you used to remember them. If they are worth remembering again, be sure to capture a simple reminder and reclaim the space in your basement and your life.
And if you can’t remember why you have it, you almost certainly don’t need it.