From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Out with the old

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Jan. 16, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

I celebrated New Year’s by cleaning my closet, a job long overdue. I let go of my TV news job years ago, but was still hanging on to my old wardrobe.

Like calisthenics, this exercise in getting rid of what I don’t need hurt so good. I feel freer, lighter, more energetic.

Going through the boxes and hangers I discovered I owned four pair of red pants. You might ask what anyone would want with one pair of red pants, let alone four. In my defense, I can only say it was a seasonal thing. I had one wool, one linen, one silk and one corduroy. And they were different shades of red. And I did get each pair on sale.

They’re gone now. I filled three boxes and two bags with stuff from my closet, and I’m looking next at my bookshelves and kitchen cupboards. This purging is a spiritual act and a promise for the coming year.

Having less holds the promise of a simpler life. Less to worry about, less to clean, and less to care for means more time, more space and more energy for the riches of creativity, spirituality and friendship.

At middle age life seems to become a journey of letting go. But it’s a practice the whole family can benefit from. Here are some strategies we’ve used to help get everyone involved.

The Stuffed-animal Draft: Ever feel you’re being overrun by Teletubbies, Pooh Bears and beanie babies? Sometimes I swear they’re multiplying in the night. My husband is a big sports fan, often watching the NFL and NBA drafts live on television, so the “stuffed-animal draft” seemed a natural solution for us. We put all the plush toys in a big pile in the middle of the room. Five animals per child seemed more than reasonable, so they went five rounds choosing cuddly creatures they couldn’t live without. Then tearfully, they said goodbye to those left over.

I ended up needing a couple picks myself, like Teddy, the bear that had been my oldest son’s constant bedtime friend. Once after a frantic phone call we’d rescued Teddy from a hotel lost and found, but here he hadn’t even been a fifth round pick. Maybe I’ll be able to let him go in next year’s draft.

The Two-for-One Art and School Paper Challenge: I developed this strategy while helping my daughter clean her room. We discovered a pile of papers under her bed that would’ve put a bureaucracy to shame. I insisted every one could not be a treasure, and stood over her while she went through choosing two to throw away for every one she saved. In the end, we managed to press all her masterpieces into one shirt box.

The Get-Rid-of-It When They’re Not Looking Gamble: This is my last resort for those favorite, but too small or ragged clothing items, the comics my kids are endlessly drawing, beloved scraps of toy packaging the children seem to have enjoyed more than the actual toy, and stray baseball and Pokemon cards. I make my move when their backs are turned. Just in case the item turns out to be more valuable than I knew, I don’t put it directly into the trash, but stash it out of sight. If it’s not missed in a week or two, I bury it down deep in the garbage and cross my fingers.

Sharing With Others: My propensity toward pack-rat behavior either runs in my genes, or I learned it from my parents who were formed by the Depression. I hate to throw anything away, especially if it’s useful. Donating items to charity in the hope someone can use them makes it easier for me to let go.

Noticing others around the world who have less also helps me more easily distinguish between wants and needs. I like this airy, spacious closet and don’t want to simply fill it up again. In fact, I’d like to start clearing clutter from my mind as well as my closet. Now there’s a challenge for the New Year.

© 2003 Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane freelance and children’s writer.)

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