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Liberation from Clutter

How do we liberate ourselves from all the stuff that holds us back?

As someone who helps people declutter, it’s fascinating to witness how, as a culture, we are becoming aware of the overwhelming burden of stuff in our lives. That’s why Reconstructing Judaism and Ritualwell are offering a four-part series on #Zero Waste Passover: The Life Changing Mitzvah of Tidying Up and I am honored to be a part of it.

On March 26 from 7:00 – 8:00 pm, I will share my DeClutter2DeLight Compassionate and Green Method of decluttering. Sneak peek: it has to do with interconnection, mindfulness, kavod/honor, compassion and sustainability—both human and environmental. My work is based on the foundational tenet of interconnection. We need one another. Your Torah and best/juiciest self is needed to fix this aching world and if you can’t find your keys to get out there to do your part, I’m here to help.

As we start, I want to acknowledge that not everyone is fortunate to be burdened by stuff. Some people do not have what is needed to get through the day. Others have more than they need and are felled by it. My work mindfully moves things from those who have to those who need and I get that the movement from here to there can be very hard. On my website, I have a resource page of places that accept donations and I invite you to read this case study of a home remodel where every single thing was saved from the trash stream.

Aligning this series with Pesach brings gratifying opportunities to consider what we carry as we move from bondage toward redemption. In the past you may have used these discussion prompts at your Seder: “You have 10 minutes to leave Egypt. What do you take?” or “Are you enslaved by your things?” This year let’s go deeper.

Liberation from mitzrayim/the narrow place. For many people, clutter defines their home and impedes the critical need to relax and replenish the well. Our home needs to comfort our souls and support our weary bodies. Where do we sleep when piles of clothes occupy our beds? How are we nourished when we’re assaulted each time we open a cabinet? Some of us bob and weave through literal narrow places as we navigate rooms filled with detritus, memories, newspapers and guilt. My work begins with self-compassion, then strategy, then work to get through the narrows.

“In every generation…” So much of the Passover experience is either accessing sweet memories of our own childhood or creating new ones for others. What to do with the Hagadah from your grandparent’s Seders? How many handmade paper Seder plates or froggy hand puppets do we need to remind our kids – and theirs – of the joy of family traditions? Too often we keep all our stuff because we think it’s special. But think about it, if we keep all of it, then it’s all equally weighted; nothing rises in significance and nothing is actually special. When we mindfully decide what to keep, we give kavod/respect to the objects and honor the associated experience or memory.

Tzimtzum/contraction. Tzimtzum, the pulling in or contraction of energy can serve to propel us toward what is next. Passover forces us to mindfully adjust our palates and behavior for 8 days as we constrict/restrict our daily lives. And although we worked hard and might even feel deprived, we actually have simplified — liberated? — our lives by having fewer choices: rye vs. seeded rye, multi-grain, whole-grain, whole wheat, spelt, Italian, French, bagel, croissant, pumpernickel, sourdough…. We could have new, brighter eyes when we come out of the Passover experience. What lessons will the newly liberated you carry? Will you mindfully choose to limit your endless options? Can you say “no thank you” the next time you are offered a goodie bag at a conference? A tchachka from your accountant or samples from your salon?

This year as you prep for Passover, contemplate the life of things and mindfully discern where you want the celebration of liberation to lead you. When you look at your environment differently and actively make change, you can access flow and freedom. Make choices about what surrounds you. Bless the things that no longer serve you so that you can give them to others. How will you do it all? Where to begin? Ah! We’ll talk about that on March 26th. Learn more and register here.

Gari Julius Weilbacher is a communications consultant and personal life coach with a commitment to human and environmental sustainability. Her most recent book is DeClutter2DeLight: Handbook+Workbook and her workshops are often standing room only. Read more and enjoy before-and-after pictures here.

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