Cleaning Out the Basement – Literally and Figuratively

August 1st, 2012 by Laura Longley

For years I’ve been talking about cleaning out the basement of my house. I’ve been aware that there is a bunch of junk down there that I don’t want or need, and as time passes it gets messier and messier.

About seven years ago I was thinking of doing some remodeling to my house, but nothing was working out. I had a woman come and do feng shui to help me figure out if I was supposed to do the remodel. One thing I learned that has stuck with me is that even though all my mess was in the unfinished basement where I rarely went, it wasn’t really out of sight, out of mind.

What this woman told me was that even though the mess and chaos was not visible, it was in the foundation layer of my house – the basement – which meant it was also in my own foundation.

Cleaning out the basement has felt extremely overwhelming, which is why I’ve never done it until recently. I’ve lived in my house for nearly twelve years, and there were things that went directly in the basement when I moved in, never to be seen again. Add to that twelve years of accumulated stuff and the basement was full and very disorganized.

Even though I didn’t directly address the mess in the basement, it was always in the back of my mind, nagging at me. Five years ago I was considering selling my house. One of the things that really appealed to me about selling the house was that then I would have to clean out the basement. I could move somewhere pristine and start from a better place than where I was currently.

Well, I finally got around to cleaning out the basement over the past several weeks. I found I can only tolerate a few hours at a time – so many decisions to make about so much stuff – so it has taken me four sessions to have the purge mostly completed. The only thing left now is a dresser whose drawers are full of clothes that are at least twelve years old, and probably haven’t fit me for even longer.

Through this process of literally cleaning out my basement, I have discovered the truth in the feng shui woman’s words. Cleaning out my basement is about letting go of the past so I can make room for the future. It’s about letting go of my attachment to things, knowing that the things don’t really mean anything. It’s about letting go of the fear that I might need something I’m purging in the future, and knowing that if I do need it, I will always be able to find what I need without holding onto it now.

You can see that there is a correlation between cleaning out my physical, material stuff, and cleaning out emotional stuff. It’s no coincidence that the week I began the basement project, is also the week that I had an inspiration that I was meant to leave Seattle. Both of these require letting go of the past in order to move forward.

And it’s no surprise that having this epiphany about moving one day before I began my basement cleanout sent me into a tailspin the day after the basement project began. I wrote about that experience in Stuck in the Fog? Use Your Foghorn!

Over the past several weeks I have been challenged with letting go of the past and having faith that I am moving in the right direction, even though my destination is not always visible through the fog.  I have found the combination of physically cleaning up my living space at the same time as figuratively cleaning up my internal space to be a great way to move forward by leaps and bounds.

As I’ve continued to clean out my basement, I’ve felt lighter. I’ve come to view all the stuff I had down there as an anchor that kept me stuck in place. The more I have purged the material stuff, the more I have wanted to purge. It’s a heady feeling to not need all that stuff to be okay, and to realize that the stuff actually keeps me from being where I want and need to be in life.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling stuck in your life:

1.      What physical or material situations are keeping me stuck in the past?

2.      How is holding on to this material stuff related to holding onto emotional stuff?

3.      If I were to let go of some of this stuff, how would I feel?

4.      What are the fears that prevent me from getting rid of stuff that no longer serves me?


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