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What kind of decluttering creates the most satisfying life?

“When I grow up, you won’t be the boss of me,” I said, according to my mother, in the 1960s. This was probably the refrain of a little girl who wasn’t getting her way, and thought that adulthood would cure all her woes. I remember that so many future dates seemed to loom, full of promise. When I reached 16 I would be able to date. When I reached 18 I would no longer have to live by my parents’ rules. When I was … (fill in the age), I could imagine many scenarios that would be fulfilling.

Thinking of that magical time when I would be an adult, seemed to be the cure for everything that wasn’t “going right” in my life. Then I would be able to do what ever I wanted, go where I wanted, see who I wanted, and stay up as late as I wanted. When I reached adulthood, I had another less childlike discussion with my mother about what it was like to be older. I asked her if it ever felt to her like more freedom … and did it become easier. I thought these were easy questions, just requiring a yes or no answer. Several hours later, she finished answering. In short, the answer was “no” to both questions. But, of course there were many other satisfactions that compensated for the lack of “ease.”

As I spend more time on this planet, I yearn for life to be simpler. In this effort to simplify, I allow the squirrel cage of my mind to imagine how I can accomplish this. Sell something. Give things away to the thrift shop. Pass things on to someone who might want them. It feels like I spend a lot of my life moving things around in my mind, as well as on the material plane. I am tired of this.

Perhaps focusing on moving “things” around is just another version of distraction. I prefer to look at it as a way of decluttering my existence so that I can enjoy and be more fruitful with the life that remains. But the question I ask myself is “Is this an inner or outer decluttering. If it is truly an outer decluttering, then a list and subsequent action will accomplish it. If it is a way of looking at and living life, then the “how” or inner decluttering emerges as more important. The inner decluttering is also a matter of choice; letting certain things go … choosing to paint a canvas rather than being concerned that the refrigerator needs to be cleaned; hiking up to Gold Lake rather than rearranging my bookshelf yet again. Time seems so much more important, when I sense the hour glass running. How do I want to spend my days? With the inner decluttering feeling like it is creating more space in which to enjoy life, the outer clutter seems less important.

And, how do I actually accomplish this inner declutter? I don’t really know with any certainty. I do have a feeling that we tend to judge ourselves about what our outer realm looks like. We “should” straighten up this or that room. We “should” go through all those old family photos before we forget who they are. We are hard on ourselves, living up to someone’s idea of how any part of our world should be. When I do this to myself, it doesn’t feel like I am being kind to “me.” It actually feels like I am beating up on myself. Instead I can practice reframing this inner dialog … asking myself which activity would give me a sense of joy?

What person do I want to connect with, in a whole-hearted, attentive, and kind manner? Letting go of the “shoulds” is a way of practicing self-kindness.

Although life does not seem to be any easier as we grow older, we can choose to be easier with life. We don’t have to twist the “should corkscrew” inside us. We don’t need to imbue the future with the cure for what ails us today. We can lighten up on ourselves, take that hike and plunge into the lake. We can enjoy a good sit with a friend while we listen to the happy sound of the creek. We can ask the question,” When I leave this planet is it more important to have all the photos arranged, life’s debris thrown out? Or is it more important that I create kind and loving connections as my most memorable experiences?”

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