How Pile of Books Taught Me to Let Go

Spring has sprung, and my 2017 quest to live mindfully, with less clutter, has continued.

I was inspired by an article to try the popular KonMari Method of cleaning. The basic idea is to collect all items of a similar nature from around the home and place them in one pile.

Once gathered, it is much easier to decide what to recycle, give away, or keep. One should start with items with little attachment, like magazines. I easily gave them all away. Then, work toward others with more attachment, like for me, an English major, it is books. I wanted to keep them all forever, no matter how dusty they might be.

Picture this: a tall stack of books with different shapes and colors. How high is the stack in your mind?

Make it grow, so much so that the image from Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Sara Silvia Cynthia Stout,”comes to mind. From the smaller sized Life’s Little Instruction Book and Talking Dirty to the Queen of Clean, to the larger Book of Awakening, there they stood staring at me. It became immediately evident that these books offered a reflection of my life. The titles mirrored the many sides of me and my changes along the way.

Books like KonMari Method and The Minimalists held my hand when I resembled a potential mad woman: cleaning, scrubbing, and purging relentlessly for days. Those titles taught me about my tangled emotions caused by our overload of things.

I faced the fear of perceived judgment; thinking others would judge my ability to be a good wife or mother by how clean my home was. By sorting and clearing, I did the same to the thoughts in my head. As Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Change your thoughts, and you change your world.”

Less stuff in the house equals less stuff to pick off of the ground. I looked forward to more time focused on life’s joys.

Some of the books reminded me of when I acted like a pig in a pile of corn. What was happening in life that I couldn’t slow down and taste my food? When life threw too many lemons my way, I needed to be taught how to sit and sweetly sip lemonade instead. So, I read. Guidebooks like Eight Weeks to Optimum Health and collections of recipes came to the rescue by Alice Waters, Mark Bittman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and much more. I found better foods to crunch and reminded myself how nice meals are at a slower pace.

The lost athlete inside me was in that stack, too. I went from having fun playing sports every day to being injured and idle. Looking back, why did I smack so many tennis balls? Why did I walk at a pro’s pace? Why did I cycle for hours on end? Books like the Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance and The Power of Now helped me center my thoughts when I needed focus. Now in my hands, I wondered if I could let those titles go. I wanted to gain all of that back after my knee surgery and rehabilitation.

I thought back to what I needed when I started participating in the 30-day hot yoga challenges over and over again. Meditations from the Mat and 40 Days to Personal Revolution walked me through my quest for self-care. They brought me closer to an inner knowledge and some peace. Those might be the titles to hang on to as my new knee may need a gentler approach.

Lastly, I saw in that stack books my sense of wonder and thirst for something greater. Awareness, How to Have a Mary Heart in a Martha World, The Urban Monk, Ethics in the Real World, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Love Wins, Tao of Pooh, Kids are Worth It, The Four Agreements, Living Beautifully, and multi-colored prayer books stood out from the crowd. They were among the cherished titles that I have highlighted, scribbled upon, and stained throughout their time in my hands. Each one graciously guided me as life ebbed and flowed.

How was I to know which books to keep and which to toss? The KonMari Method encourages the reader to hold each individual item collected in their hands and feel the response. Does the item bring joy or a memory of joy? If it truly brings joy, one may decide to keep it. However, if it brings up memories or other emotions, let it go. Memories are already with us: We don’t need the tangible reminder collecting dust.

I imagined all of those books in one backpack that I needed to carry for the rest of my life. Then, I laughed—I’m still a book nut with genuine joy in more than a few works. So, I imagined all of those books in a larger roller bag instead.

As I began the next phase, I did it. I, literally, let go. Goodbye to the melancholy. So long to the search for something more. I was happy in the present moment and did not need the crutches that got me here. I kept more than I had originally intended, but most of the stack is gone.

Hopefully, they will now help someone new.

Are there items weighing down your space, thoughts, or life?

Do they look at you as a reminder of what was?

Why are they still with you?

Do you still need them?

If you are ready to make changes, try the KonMari Method. I highly recommend it.

Seeing everything thing you own of one item in a single pile certainly made an impact on me.

~Author: Kate Fleming 

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