To fight off the winter gloom I recently indulged in a flurry of house cleaning. I went through closets and drawers, shelves and cupboards, files and bins, recklessly throwing out anything that wasn’t useful, beautiful or meaningful.
Outdated clothes, ugly knick-knacks, strange kitchen utensils, unread books, rusty nails, sell-by packages in the pantry – they all met the same fate without a backward glance on my part. In fact, there was a noticeable feeling of freedom and lightness. I found that emptiness agreed with me.
But then I was faced with the evaluation and winnowing of my creative work – old sketches, youthful poetry, paintings that were not bad but not the best, artwork that had been good learning exercises but ….
It was much harder to let go of these creative projects for they were like a diary of my soul. My measurement with the artwork was “Was this piece good enough to frame?” I also asked myself what was my family going to do with all of this when I died?
I ended up giving away or throwing away 50% or more of the artwork, keeping only what I believed was very good or very meaningful and throughout this process I pondered the meaning of attachment and identity.
Was I defined by what I had made or what I possessed? By releasing this evidence of the past, was I less as a person? In releasing these artifacts and memories had I thrown away part of myself? Were they really gone forever? Would I regret my actions?
it is now several weeks since this house cleaning process began and my attention has turned to more subtle possessions. What old memories are tying me down or holding me back? What emotions have I been secretly harboring in the dark corners of my heart? What thoughts continue to run like worn out tapes in the attic of my mind? These, too, must be evaluated. Are they useful or beautiful or meaningful?