A few months ago as I opened the flatware drawer to grab a spoon, something made me stop and look at the contents within. Huh! I pulled out a bunch of spoons and spread them on the counter. A motley collection it was: mismatched, some slightly bent, some tarnished silverplate, one poor rough-edged piece obviously rescued from the teeth of the disposal. Most of them had ornate scrollwork on the handles, not at all my style; I prefer simple and smooth, more refined and elegant to me than the fussy swirlies on these strange spoons. Where did they come from? I know I didn’t buy them. I haven’t purchased new flatware since I was married at 20 years old. Some of those original wedding pieces were still in the drawer; some I knew had been chewed up in the garbage disposal and tossed years ago. I still had most of the original forks, knives, soup spoons, iced tea spoons. I also had eight matching pickle forks. Pickle forks that I had never used (does anyone use them?); pickle forks that I would never use in the future.
It’s funny how we collect things over time, not really noticing how things slowly accumulate, getting shoved into drawers, finding homes in closets or cabinets. Things are left behind, added to our other things, given to us as gifts (even though they’re things we’d never buy for ourselves). We keep and keep. Maybe I’ll find a use. As soon as I give it away, I just KNOW I’ll need it. I even saw a magazine pic with spoons used as garden plant markers with the plant names on the bowl of the spoon. What a great idea … that I’ll never do!
When we’re young, our parents choose our stuff for us; it’s not really our stuff; it belongs to our parents and we’re told when we can use it and how. We grow up and then we really start to accumulate our own stuff; the real fun begins! We get an education, a career. We get a spouse—and all the wedding and shower gifts to start our lives together. We get in-laws, children, a house, furniture, a garden, cars. In our 20s, 30s, 40s, we busily acquire all the stuff of life, adding and adding. Christmas lights, decorations, Halloween stuff, snow stuff, golf stuff, vacation stuff … stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff. Whew!
And then one day … we open a drawer and see all the stuff that we never really intended to acquire, the stuff that doesn’t add value and help achieve our highest and greatest good, stuff that no longer serves us well. We begin to reverse the cycle. We want less stuff, not more. We want stuff that fits us better, of our own choosing; stuff that elevates, that reflects who we are. We start divesting ourselves of all the old stuff, the things that don’t match us any longer. We release the burdens, the extra weight we’ve been carting around in life. We choose a new definition, a simpler, cleaner, more spare definition, tossing away the excess frills and fussiness that are not part of our essence, paring down to the purer sense of who we really are at the core and choosing those items that serve us better.
For Christmas, my thoughtful daughter bought me a new set of matching flatware, simple, clean-lined, perfect, my first new flatware since I was a young bride. I emptied the drawer, clearing everything out, amazed at some of the odd pieces I found in there. It all went into a donation box and I washed and dried my new flatware and put it in the drawer. (Doesn’t it look beautiful in the pic above?) Then I cleaned out the utensil drawer, getting rid of things I’ve never used (I don’t cook) or didn’t need (melon baller?), putting them in the donation box, too.
It’s snowballed and I’m starting to go through closets and cabinets and drawers, releasing things that no longer serve me well, packing it all up to donate, clearing my spaces and the excess that was burdening my life. I’m intentionally choosing what stays and what goes, not just letting the accumulation take over my spaces as before. Little by little, I’m reclaiming each of these spaces, dumping out the old, clearing the clutter from my life, getting rid of the “pickle forks” that I don’t need and will never use. I’m reclaiming my sacred spaces for myself, with intention and with love for the beauty and peace of empty spaces as well as for the things of value that I choose to keep.
It’s good to regularly stop and ask ourselves “What is no longer serving me well in my life?” We need to do a periodic cleanse and determine what that is, whether it’s pickle forks, friendships, a job, a location, a pattern of behavior. May we all have a happy and clear 2011!