Saturday, 21 May 2011

A red-hot bundle of clutter

Yesterday I started reading Brooks Palmer's book Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back. It's hard to put down.

I was inspired to get rid of a small but emotionally powerful bundle of clutter.

For several years, I've had a scrapbook hidden in the back of an armoire, wrapped in a shopping bag, and sealed with packing tape.

The scrapbook contained photos and notes from some parties I hosted with a former boyfriend a long, long time ago. In a way, those were good times, at least on Saturday nights. We got together with friends, conversed, turned up the music, and danced. But those good times were a distraction from the fact that I was in a terrible relationship. The good times prolonged the relationship. And, ultimately, the good times emphasized the fact that the relationship was not good.

When I finally ended the relationship, I kept the scrapbook. The scrapbook wasn't about the relationship; it was about a circle of friends. But breaking up the relationship broke the circle. Today, I'm in regular contact with just one of those people. 

My life changed dramatically, and the scrapbook became a reminder of an unhappy chapter in my past. I felt some attachment to that part of my life, but I wanted to distance myself from it too. I remember thinking that I didn't know why I was keeping the scrapbook, even as I sealed it up and tucked it away. Today I realized that it was clutter and I decided to let it go. 

I started by re-reading the scrapbook. I laughed at a quote or two, remembered some songs I haven't heard in a while (whatever happened to Natalie Imbruglia?), and studied the snapshots. Tucked inside, I found a Valentine's Day card from the ex-boyfriend in question. 

I threw out the photos. Then I crumpled up the scrapbook pages, tossed them in the fireplace, and lit a match.

When the flames burned out, I realized that I'd overlooked the card. I tossed it onto the ashes and waited. Eventually it caught fire and burned just like a letter in a soap opera fireplace. First a few black spots emerged around the edges. Then the cover lifted opened a little, revealing an orange glow inside. Finally the lavender heart on the cover turned red-hot as flames burst through its centre and engulfed the card. It was so amusingly picture-perfect that I kind of wished I had a video-camera in hand. "Cut!" I would say,  "That's a wrap."

Who knew that burning an old valentine could make me feel lighter? I mean no disrespect to the person who gave it to me, but it is a relief to part with the past. To make room for the present and future.

I feel happy, and a little bit freer. 

The only page of the scrapbook I kept is a garden sketch I drew back then, an unusual and inspiring burst of creative energy that's full of ideas I can use today.

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