Cleaning House and Practicing Aparigraha.

Let me be frank with you – I kind of love stuff (especially pretty stuff). I am not a light packer and I never have been!

I hold on to old ribbons and wrapping paper, dresses  and hats from years ago, countless postcards and letters, books and beads. I love making collages and I often engage in spontaneous crafty projects, but this is a poor justification for all my stashing of randomness.

I have this fantasy in which I only own enough stuff to fit in 4 boxes. One for clothes. One for books. One for memories and art and one for shoes, jewelry and accessories. But seriously, even that’s a bit excessive. Basically – I would be a terrible ascetic! But, no harm in trying to pare it down a bit now and again.

And yesterday was a day for deaccessioning! My father took advantage of the rare opportunity of having all 3 kiddos in town to get us up in the attic sorting out old stuff. It was quite an ordeal.  30+ years worth of dusty treasures! We combed through furniture, books, children’s toys and costumes, games, crafts, pictures, artwork, suitcases and a lot of clothes.

The biggest project of all was deconstructing the “memory boxes” that my mother has been compiling for us individually since birth. These boxes were full of pictures, favorite clothes, videos, cds, school papers and grades, newspaper clippings and more! My brother found some pretty hilarious stuff in his like the apology letter he wrote in elementary school to a neighbor kid that he beat up. By the end of sorting, my 3 overflowing boxes were down to a single small box only half-full with a few pictures, cards and clothes.

I also had to pull down 4 huge cedar hanging bags of my vintage clothes collection to be shipped to CO. I have decided that the time has come to let go of this collection so one of my big projects for the winter will be organizing and photographing these pieces for a new etsy shop!

Anyways, all this attic-cleansing got me to thinking about attachment to material stuff. Each of these items in the attic had personal memories and real strong emotions connected with them. I realized that in truth, I didn’t actually want to be in possession of all these things, but the thought of not having them made me feel sad. I guess I thought they would always be there, safely tucked away in the rafters for whenever the time came that I might actually “need” or want them.

But without them, I am the same. The things that were mine do not make “me”. There’s not a massive gap in my heart just because I gave away some sweet things from my childhood, because my heart is already full to the brim with the intangible joyful memories of those times.

This past year I’ve been whittling down my closet too. I’ve probably given away/consigned a quarter of what was there in the beginning of the year. Because I’ve literally been this same size since I was 14 and even as a kid I loved fashion, I still have dresses that I wore in 9th grade. I love a lot of these funky clothes, but rarely wear them. My lifestyle these days doesn’t call for a lot of outrageous dresses like it used to in high school and college. So, I’ve been slowly liberating these items, and thus, feeling more liberated myself.

It’s so easy to get too attached to material objects to the point of letting them define us. I remember I had a fantastic huge citrine necklace that I wore in college every day. Then, near the end of my senior year, it was stolen/disappeared. I was devastated! I called my mother and just sobbed to her. I couldn’t imagine myself without that pendant around my neck. She soothed me and told me that if it is meant to turn up, it will, but if not, life would go on and I would still be “me” without my signature piece. She reminded me that we are not what we own but what we do. This was an important lesson to learn.

Aparigraha is a Sanskirt term that means “non-grasping” or “non-hoarding”. It is the final of the five yamas laid out in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

For me, practicing aparigraha means to let things be, to appreciate the material world for what it is, but not cling to it. All things must pass and by possessively holding on to material things (the body is included in this as it is just a material thing too) you are only causing yourself more suffering and pain.

Understanding and practicing aparigraha is one of the most essential tools for happiness in today’s world I believe.

It’s so easy to get distracted by all the shiny glitzy things out there, to crave and covet, to be greedy and hoard what you possess. But we all know this doesn’t actually bring happiness, right? I think most of us have had the experience that we receive more joy giving a present than getting one. This is symbolic of so much in life.

It is through service and sharing our gifts with others that we find the most fulfillment and peace in our lives.

So as I deaccessioned yesterday these material things, I thought a bit more about what else in my life I could “give away”. What false identities, what stories, what grudges or resentments could I let go of? What bad memories or feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy can I release?

There is no need to grasp and hoard those things  either, the citta “mind-stuff” that we falsely identify with (yogically speaking, thoughts are technically just as material as an old dress).

Without these stories, I can still be me; actually, I can be even more me without all that baggage that was actually a distraction from the core of me, the spirit-soul of my heart.

So I offer this to you today as a challenge….

What can you let go of? What can you release? Where can you make space? What can you clean up in your home, your car, your office, your heart and your head?  

And then after you’ve done a little scrubbing and sorting, ask yourself,

Who am I without this thing/story/identification?

Let me know what emerges….

Love and Blessings!




10 thoughts on “Cleaning House and Practicing Aparigraha.

    • Dontcha worry…I have a couple pieces that will be kept for daughters down the road. Most of my vintage collection is couture or really funky glam dresses. I sadly don’t have any vintage ray bans otherwise I would be wearing them right about now 🙂

  1. Exactly the process I went through in London: a surrender to living simply -And while I rationalized my relocation there from BH and 21 years of life with all the physical reminders of a place deeply rich in memories- LO! Ah, et Voila! Life is good and generous and abundance is a wonderful thing! I am so happy that BH is returned to me for another little while! I still have the little carrier bag I think I can live out of. jxx

    • BH is like Downtown Abbey – an actual character in your life story. 🙂
      I’m happy it’s getting a new life too…’s wonderful that you can now share it with others (like us!)…we felt so blessed being wed in that home rich with memories and history.

      • PS – you know, even with all the rich beautiful abundance in your life, I truly do believe that you could happily live out of that little carrier bag….unlike me…i still have a ways to go til I could manage that! One more reason you are a real inspiration to me Jan!

  2. Hey Frances, you wedding pics are so lovely:) The only thing that I have “heldon” to is my wedding dress and veil. My daughter actually wore the dress to her prom, yes, it’s that cool. The veil I am saving for her. Every year, I purge my closet and drawers, I get real with myself and give away what I don not use, even if I like it:) It is such a great feeling to release the extra stuff……………..the goodwill loves me:)

    • Thanks Joy.
      That’s awesome about your daughter and wedding dress. I am definitely saving my veil because I love it soo much. I’m also a bit obssessed with the white mary janes with gold stars that i wore for my wedding….I’ve already worn them again and I plan on wearing them until they fall apart! My dress is getting cleaned and then hopefully passed along to the next woman in my family who can fit in it/wants to wear it for her wedding. 🙂
      It’s very satisfying to clean out drawers. When we do our big pack up next week I’m definitely going to get even more serious about deaccessioning, especially t-shirts and yoga clothes…there are only so many old t-shirts you actually should hold on to, and I need to be a little more stringent about that.

  3. I think so much about this issue these days… I’m not sure why, really, except that the tie you talk about toward the end of your piece, between material stuff & emotional/spiritual baggage seems very real & important to me lately. It’s a tricky balance, though. There have certainly been times when I’ve thrown out or given away something that I then regret not having. But I often think about a Buddhist guy I once read about. He owned 600 things—including every fork, bowl, bar of soap, etc… in his house. He found that 600 was a comfortable number of things to own, and whenever he brought something new into his house, whether it was a rubberband or a dresser, he found something else to give away. It’s an interesting, very different way of connecting one’s identity to one’s stuff. I love this approach because the idea of ‘600 things’ is both constant and fluid (adaptable). Of course, as a householder, a mother of two kids, married, etc, 600 things seems impossible—laughable (would I count each and every one of my son’s legos????). But the general idea can be applied to at least a limited extent, & I try. Speaking of householders…. Your wedding photos are BEAUTIFUL! A thousand congratulations.
    sat nam.

    • Hi Kim.
      Thank you for your insightful comment. I’m going to chew on that “600 things” idea for a bit. Could get a wee bit obsessive if I tried that, I think, but I also like the discipline of it.
      Thank you for your congratulations….our photographer will be sending us more photos soon and I’m sure I will share a few more, out of mere excitement. 🙂
      sat nam

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