All of you parents out there, no worries — this isn’t a post about the songs from Frozen (is that movie still playing on loop like it used to?). Even I try to not be that annoying. Instead, it’s all about the miracle of how I’ve been in my house for 5+ years and I’m not even thinking about moving.
For most people, this would not be a big deal, probably even pretty normal (of course, “normal” doesn’t typically apply to me). But since I started buying houses at age 23, I’ve not lived in one place any longer than 5 years. I usually get the itch right around 4 years to start moving, I deny the overwhelming feeling for a few short months and then with a speed that impresses some and terrifies others (Hi, Mom!), I’ll decide that it’s time and usually within weeks I’ll be signing offers and contracts and all sorts of other real estate type papers. It’s just what I do.
A side note — my family thinks it’s awesome (ridiculous? weird? not at all like any of them?) that I generally keep my vehicles far longer than I ever keep a house.
My reasoning for this is going to sound all ass backwards, this I know, but, it’s my reasoning nonetheless (intentional or not). See, around 4 years I start feeling a little hemmed in, surrounded by the stuff I’ve accumulated since the last move. And my answer to that? Move again so that I once again have to aggressively par down my belongings to a manageable amount of stuff so I don’t have to pay for a dozen movers and 3 semi trucks to get my belongings to the new place.
Perhaps my system has its flaws, but it’s always done a bang up job for me.
Plus, shopping for houses is about the only type of shopping that I actually enjoy. Like, really, really enjoy. I think it’s all hooked to the idea of seeing myself in a new place with a fresh start. In the same way that I love New Year’s resolutions, I love starting with a clean slate in a new home. Another opportunity to organize, to be free of unnecessary belongings; it’s invigorating, to be honest. It’s a new beginning with a deadline that, once the papers are signed, I’m legally bound to meet. What’s not perfect about that?
This time around, though, not only do I love the house that I’m in, but I love the location that I’m at. There’s nothing about the house that I hate and all the changes I envision are things that I can conceivably do without the need for new digs. I’m only 35 easy minutes from work, close to shopping, I have easy access to expressways and family is close by. Really, it couldn’t be too much more ideal. About the only thing that I want is to be closer to mountain bike trails, but even I recognize that I’m being a little nitpicky if I complain about that.
So, now that I’m past the 5 year mark with no plans in sight to move, it’s a little, well, different. I have this weird, almost subconscious feeling of being slowly suffocated. For awhile, I didn’t know what to attribute it to — job? house? life in general? — and then about a month ago it hit me: I wasn’t moving and therefore wasn’t going through my usual 5-year purging process. I’d gotten used to this 5-year renewal cycle — I think it makes me less aware that I sometimes buy too much unnecessary stuff — and without that purge deadline in front of me, the stuff just keeps accumulating. Which means, much to my dread, that I think I need to start Spring Cleaning (oh how that brings up bad memories from childhood! Spending what felt like my entire spring break helping my parents clean the house from top to bottom).
It’s time to let it go. And I find the process much more difficult as an “in place” process rather than part of this exciting “I’m moving!” process. Harder to start, harder to motivate, harder to finish. But slowly, I’m making a small dent. Books were first — made easier because the last time I moved, I donated 19 boxes of books, leaving me only with 4 more. Boxes for electronics were next — some of the items were in use and would never go back into a box, some of them were already gone, some could be sold. And bit by bit I’m trying to get through the house, looking in all the corners and crevices and drawers where I store things and forget about them.
There’s more to it, though, than just getting rid of stuff that I no longer need. It’s lightening a mental load, too — I never seem to realize that simply owning things, whether I pay attention to them or not, drains a little bit of energy from me. I’ll never be a minimalist (or even have a clean, things-put-away-in-their-place kind of house), but there’s some truth to the idea that cleaning up physical clutter can also reduce mental clutter.
Let’s take it a step further now. Anyone have any mental clutter that they need to eliminate? I know I do. My lizard brain definitely takes up real estate in my head that could be either used for something else or just cleaned out, leaving a blank, fresh page for something new and more helpful.
I think there might be a real benefit in pairing the house spring cleaning with some brain spring cleaning. Both processes create space and freedom — there’s nothing worse than not being able to move forward because off all of the stuff in the way.
Here’s some of the mental clutter that I need to seriously work on before my brain qualifies to be on an episode of Hoarders:
- Any time I’m out running, I fall into the bad habit of comparing myself to other people. Today, I was racing (using that word loosely here) the Chicago Quarter Marathon and the course was an out-and-back so I saw all the runners faster than me heading to the finish line as I was still making it to the turn around point. A few girls went by and I turned to my angel of a friend who paced me and said, “That used to be me.” You know what? That doesn’t matter. Even if I’m comparing myself to a past version of myself, it serves no purpose. I might not be fast like that anymore, but I’m also not fighting a daily battle with depression. There’s no comparison to be made. It’s like comparing apples and Mazdas, know what I mean?
- Self-care and self-compassion isn’t selfish or narcissistic; it’s the only way to be the best Laura that I know how to be. I fight with the voice that tells me that all of the “self dashes” are a waste of time, that my stuff isn’t bad so I should instead concentrate on helping others. How can I help others if I neglect myself?
- There are times when I have a real issue with feeling overwhelmed by all the things I want to do that I end up doing nothing. My brain realizes that I can’t do it all and then makes the decision to then do absolutely nothing. How screwy is that? (probably as screwy as buying a new house as a method of cleaning and purging?) As my trainer likes to remind me, something is better than nothing, every damn time. And whether it’s running, writing, reading or anything else I want to do, just because I don’t dedicate hours to it, it’s still worth doing.
- As I talked about in a previous post, I struggle with feeling worthy, especially when it comes to anything athletic or active. It’s as if being overweight and having a belly automatically makes me incapable of considering myself a runner or a biker or anything that requires stamina or strength. To remind myself: I run, therefore, I am a runner. I bike, therefore, I am a biker. Being something isn’t a matter of being better than others, it’s just a matter of doing (see the first point about comparison being the thief of joy).
It’s all a process, whether it’s physically packing up books or mentally working to eliminate the thoughts that keep me from moving forward. There will be hills to summit (I live in the Midwest, there are no mountains), but also downhills to speed down with happy, wild abandon.But with some persistence and the determination to rise after falling, I can do it.
Like so many other things, I’ll keep at it. Clearing the house of all the stuff I don’t need is freeing, and plus, a lot of times I find that my unwanted stuff is someone else’s treasure. And when I don’t feel like doing the work — because to me, it is definitely work and not something I want to do — I need to remember how good the results make me feel. Much like training and changing habits, I always feels awesome after I’m done.
Because the end result is worth it — clean house, clean mind. Or some still slightly messy equivalent.