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Cleaning House, Letting Go: Emotional Hoarding Is a Thing

I have a real difficulty with letting things go.

This struggle isn’t only limited to my emotional baggage, but crap I’ve collected over the years.

The times that I’ve let things go, it’s usually because I was forced to. I could literally go no further until I dropped whatever baggage, hurt feelings, ego and fear and let go.

It wouldn’t happen until I came to the realization that the things I was holding on to may have been ridiculously outdated, didn’t fit, represented or reminded me of a compulsion or obsession of the moment.

I’ve been reading the “Art of Tidying Up.” And while I’d be proud of small victories like cleaning out my closets, and donating old clothes and other items, I knew there were old boxes tucked away in closets, and loads and load of old junk mail hidden in all sorts of places in my house as I’d make a mad dash to clear it out of the way to hide from visitors.

I’d always say, I’d return, focus and get rid of it all someday, but I’d either forget about those hiding places, or ignore them altogether dreading doing the work to make good on the promise I’d made myself.

Clearing the crap out of your life is a necessary thing. It feels good once you’ve completed the task, and there’s a momentary high and a paranoia about keeping your home, workspace, clutter-free and not ever letting things get that bad ever again.

But old habits die hard.

We get tired. We collect the mail and throw it on a table and it just takes a string of dog-tired or tough days to throw us on track, and then visitors are coming. You have to hide them somewhere until they leave, and you’ll deal with it on the 48-hour Saturday, you keep telling yourself you’ll eventually have.

A therapist told me long ago, I have compartmentalized all of my issues, pains, problems in fantastic looking boxes. I also collect bags and tend to keep the “good bags” that come from nice stores to remind me that I bought something from such a place.

I had to laugh at myself while trying to clean out all of those good bags. I’m so terrible that I decided to rank the good bags and keep a few of the best ones. With the sturdy handles, that were large enough to carry gifts or clothes to take to good will.

In my mind, while these bags originally served a purpose, I’m still holding on because they appear to be in good shape and in my mind they can and will serve another purpose and when that day comes, that great shopping bag will be PERFECT! I will be right for holding on, proving everyone wrong who said it was just junk. My desire is to be right and to silence those voices real and imagined. This was worth saving. I told you.

Holding on to it via some system in my mind that I set up to put a value on it, a value that would make no sense to anyone else but me, that’s an extension of something deeper.

I was thinking about holding on, because I’m mourning having to let go of a project once again that I put my heart and soul into. The success of the project is growing and I’m very proud that I was instrumental in it. But this is the second time a project that I’ve put so much into I can’t participate in its evolution, this is where I get off. I feel like I’ve been used and discarded by my contract not being renewed after all of this excellent work.

It’s hard.

There have been seasons where I felt like I stayed in one place for a very, very long time. I kept saying I was ready to move on and yet nothing moved into place to allow me to do that. I had to stay exactly where I was.

In other posts, I said staying in the valley was a time for rest, organization, restoration and preparation. I still believe that.

But now, I feel like I’m dealing with the complete opposite.

As soon as I establish a groove, gain confidence, respect and get something going, there is an abrupt stop. I’m forced to move in a new direction when I still think there’s more work to be done and I have so much more to give.

But maybe this time, albiet short was just the amount of time I needed to be where I was and it’s not about the length. It’s easier to wrap my head around the valley period in retrospect of being at a job for 7 years, than it is for me to understand that I could have gained just what I needed working on a project for a year and a half or simply just 9 months. I also have to understand and accept that what I was able to produce and give to my clients in such short periods of time, the hard work, the level of detail and care that I gave, it has value. It means something. The people that I’ve met, I was able to form relationships and learn from them as they learned from me, and that can happen in a short season.

This is what I have to tell myself. Because as more good news and accolades come in, instead of celebrating I found myself sulking.

If the product was that great, why wasn’t my contract extended despite budget cuts why did you not see value in what I brought to allow me to stay?

But it’s not about that.

If the season is over, and the skills I’ve gained will take me to the next project, and the next challenge and I can do bigger and better things, I cannot limit myself based on the fact that I got comfortable and I got used to something.

Readjust.

It’s totally confusing, to be honest. I’ve literally changed two jobs in two years and about to change again. I wasn’t that person. I once thrived on consistency and stability until I felt like it was suffocating me. I was frustrated that I slipped into the sidelines and didn’t take risks.

The grass is always greener.

Now, that I’m living in a contractor world, the uncertainty and the constant change and reminder that no matter how good you are at what you do, you really have no control, that high risk equals a high reward until it doesn’t, it’s leaving me wondering about recalibrating myself. The holding on the letting go. How to balance. How to have peace about the future and confidence in my abilities to make things happen, and faith that it will work out and I will land where I belong for how long I’m supposed to. I’ve had to learn how to prioritize and how to deal with conflicts and contradictions in my heart and mind, and how to examine the things I said I wanted a year or even 6 months ago, and trying to figure out how that fits in my life right now and in my future.

I think about the things I fear, and how to face them down and not be overwhelmed with anxiety.

I think about what makes me happy, brings me joy and what interests me, and sets me on fire where I can’t stop talking about it.

There is an answer in taking the time to sift through the junk in my house, in my heart and in my head.

I have to be brave enough not to just drag it out in the open, but deal with it piece-by-piece, thanking each item for what it brought to my life and simply letting it go. Not moving it to another place in my house and heart to be forgotten and eventually dealt with “someday.”

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