The Power of the Purge
No, I’m not talking about the American horror franchise. I’m talking about a ritual cleansing, purifying or throwing-away-of-useless-crap-we-have-accumulated. In two weeks, I’m moving house so I’ve used it as a great excuse for a purge and it always amazes me how much random stuff collects in forgotten nooks and crannies. If you’re like me, you absolutely love the process of ridding yourself of excess junk, but I know there are many who struggle with letting go of their material possessions, and don’t understand why they even need to.
We can link it back to the idea of saucha, or “cleanliness” which is the first niyama in Patanjali’s 8-limbed yoga system. Yes, physical hygiene, but also cleanliness in your space, cleanliness in your diet, cleanliness in your mind; cleanliness in the energies you bathe in daily. And cleanliness absolutely affects your energy. Think how good you feel after having a shower, or exercising (purging your body of toxins) or de-cluttering a space. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to concentrate or work in a messy room? Think about Feng Shui, which is a whole practice dedicated to organising environments to allow the free flow of energy. It becomes a ritual. After a shower, you put on comfy clothes and have a cup of tea. You clean a room and then light a candle. You feel light and relaxed. That’s the power of the purge.
We are scared to get rid of things “just in case”. Just in case of what? As this imagined emergency hasn’t occurred in the last however many years or so, chances are you’ll be alright. Also, we humans are pretty resourceful; if the unimaginable happened and a time came when you needed that particular top, do you think that *maybe* you might just be able to find something else to wear? And let’s say the worst case scenario is realised and you simply cannot replace that which you threw away. Will it be the end of your life? Or do you think you will survive?
When we accept that everything happens at the perfect time and in the perfect way, that everything happens for the greatest good, that we are exactly where we need to be and trust that everything we need will be provided for us when we need it, how can you worry about releasing material things? If you really need it, it will make its way back to you. This is the Law of Least Effort, the path of least resistance.
It’s also a great way to practice non-attachment. When you are holding on to something out of fear (and if you can’t let it go, it is fear), you are in effect saying this is the best it is ever going to get. I cannot do better than this so I must hold on to it as if my life depended on it. We become defensive and possessive, justifying why we NEED this. We give an object power over us. Why not open yourself up to the possibility that something even greater will turn up if you create space for it to flow in to. Things are just things. They do not belong to you, they flow through you; they are transient. You are merely looking after them for a short while. To become possessive is to stop the flow, and when there is no current, stagnation occurs. You have created a blockage, meaning nothing can leave and, more importantly, nothing new can come in.
I love a purge. Can drive my husband a bit mad sometimes as I am completely ruthless when it comes to throwing stuff out. But nobody could ever accuse me of being a hoarder and as an expert in ridding my environment of material “stuff”, I’d like to share some tips:
If there is something which doesn’t quite hang right or you don’t feel comfortable in it, get rid of it. Yes you ‘might’ wear it, but nine times out of ten you will opt for something else which you feel comfortable in. You don’t need to force yourself to wear things you don’t want to for the sake of it. Make it so you can put on any of your clothes and feel amazing. One thing you can try is to turn all of your hangers around. When you wear something, turn the hanger back. If after a year, or any nominated amount of time the hanger is still facing the wrong way, get rid of it. Also, don’t keep stuff just because someone gave it to you and you feel bad. Instead of it sitting in your closet never being worn, it could have a new lease of life with someone who will love it.
If it’s important, scan it and keep in on your computer, on a hard drive or backed up somewhere like Dropbox where you can always get to it. If it is sentimental, like a card someone made for you, either turn it into something to display or bin it. If you never look at it and it sits at the bottom of a drawer, what is the point!? Paper creates overwhelm. Also change your bills and statements to paperless where you can.
If it is a book you reread often (I have many of these) keep it! If you are never going to read it again, share the love; give it away so someone else can enjoy it. If you watch all of your movies on a firestick, you do not need endless DVDs and blu-rays. As humans we like to collect stuff but if you don’t watch it, it’s time for it to go. CDs are the same. My father-in-law is probably the only person I know who actually listens to his CDs. Everyone else, we’re in the 21st century! Sell them.
If they have sentimental value, that’s fine – you don’t have to get rid of everything. I have a teddy bear which is almost as old as me on my dresser. I have little keepsakes from my wedding, because they mean something to me and evoke memories and happy feelings. If, however, they are just something else adding to the clutter, it’s time for them to go.
Most of us get approximately one gazillion random unsolicited emails or newsletters we never read. Instead of immediately deleting, take the extra 30 seconds to unsubscribe. It saves you a lot of time in the long run. Now 98% of the emails I receive are actual useful messages, either responses to something I sent or from someone I actually know. Social media too. I was following over 800 accounts on Instagram which just meant I was scrolling through a whole lot of shit. I would spend hours getting lost in the void of mindless scrolling, most of which I wasn’t even reading. I went through and unfollowed any account which posted too many negative things, had too much junk food on their feed (as an overeater, seeing these pictures tends to lead to overeating) and anything which I usually scroll past. Now when I open the app, I see stuff I want to see. And as there are fewer accounts, there are fewer new posts so I can’t use it as a distraction as much as I used to.
Giving things away can feel good. The picture at the top of this post is from a street near where I live. Someone repurposed an old (post?)box and turned it into a little community library. I deposited a number of books there yesterday and on my way home today, I saw a man browsing the books I had left. It put a huge smile on my face, knowing someone else could now enjoy them. The saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is well-founded. It’s nice to have stuff, but when you understand that nothing outside of yourself can ever make you truly happy, it becomes easy to let things go. Do not give them misplaced prestige and do not become tied to your material possessions - you cannot them with you when you go.
Collect memories, not things. And I think you might just find when you clear your life of clutter, you clear your mind of clutter too.