Burn the incense. Today’s the rainy day.
That’s what my good friend, Anne the Elder, texted me today. (I call her Anne the Elder because she is a whole ten days older than I. She’s also English and I think the nickname has a sort of regal sound to it. Want the back story on the incense?
It starts with me admitting to you that I had a tad bit of a problem with hoarding. I who teach workshops on decluttering. I love to help others look at why they hold onto things and then help them gently release their stranglehold on them. But, like the shoemaker’s kids going without shoes, I had a hard time coaching myself around the incense.
To start at the beginning, I need to go back to 1970 when I received a four-piece set of Love’s Baby Soft Lemon bath products for my birthday. I loved the scent. Did I wear it? No. I kept it in my bedroom and looked at it. I decided that I had to save it for a special occasion, namely my wedding day. Oh little 11 year old Anne, I doubt you’ll want to wear that on your wedding day. So I saved it and I saved it. And I didn’t wear it or enjoy it. And then I moved it to the bathroom vanity and forgot about it.
Over the years I developed this tendency to not use things – Love’s Baby Soft and vacation days to name a few. I’d hold onto them. Not enjoy them. Not wanting to use or spend them “just in case,” waiting for that rainy day.
If you’ve taken one of my workshops you know I speak of the “just in case” mentality. And now you’ve been let in on the secret that I know of it from first-hand experience. It comes from a feeling of lack. A fear of not having enough. Of not trusting that I will be provided for. But when you hold onto things you become stagnant, you stop the flow. And you never get around to enjoying those things that are in your life that you are hoarding.
So now to Anne and the incense. Anne and I would periodically meet up in Frenchtown to shop at Liz Gilbert’s store, Two Buttons. It was the only store I’d found that carried the incense that I loved. So I’d buy some, bring it home and burn it. And then Liz decided to close the store. So I kept returning to Two Buttons before it shut its doors to buy up the incense just knowing that I would never be able to find it anywhere else. And I began to hoard it. (The photo at the bottom of the newsletter shows just a portion of my incense stash – about 70 in the photo with 25 sticks in each pack. Do the math.)
And then I stopped burning it because, well, if I burned it (and consequently enjoyed it) then I would eventually run out of it. And I just knew I could never replace it. (Oh come on, this sounds mildly familiar to you, right? You might not do it with incense but you do it with something, don’t you?) I was convinced that Two Buttons was the only place on earth selling it. So I stopped burning it. And I stopped enjoying the scent that filled my home and inspired me when I wrote or calmed me in the evening when I wanted to relax.
Enter Anne. She had come to visit me in January and I showed her my incense stash. And she was gobsmacked (a cute English term). And then she admonished me (gently) and encouraged me (strongly) to enjoy the incense.
What’s made me change? I got hit in the back of the head by a two-by-four called Life a few weeks after Anne’s visit. Which is why I say now that I had the problem with saving things for rainy days, or wedding days, or when I felt worthy enough to enjoy something. So now I gladly enjoy my incense. I use my vacation days. And, I found out that Walmart sells Loves Baby Soft Lemon just in case I want to smell like an eleven year old or if I plan on getting married again.
And holding onto things “just in case” that rainy day comes? I say, save wisely but enjoy the sunny days, too. Treat yourself like a guest in your own life. Use the good china to eat your dinner. Put the good sheets on your bed. Bring flowers into your home on a regular basis. Eat dessert. Sign up for that dream vacation – and then plan another one when you return. Don’t wait until retirement to live.
What about you? What do you hold onto? What do you deny yourself? Think deep on this. Do you deny yourself working in a nice environment because you hold onto a toxic job? Do you commit to things out of sense of obligation and then resent it? Do you hold onto labels about yourself? Are you the flighty one? The undependable one? Do you live in a space that you hate or have you created a peaceful sanctuary in your home? Do you sign up for the class that you really want to take even though it seems frivolous (say, painting wide-eyed animals on black velvet)?
Anne called me last night and happened to catch me when I was “in the rabbit hole” as she likes to say – meaning I was just a tad bit down. I guess she remembered about my saving the incense for a “rainy day.” She texted me a gentle reminder this morning; my accountability partner, which I encourage you to have it you’re trying to declutter. I need to text her back to tell her, too late, soul sister, I burned it as soon as we got off the phone and I was winding down for bed.
Wishing you love and peace in this wonderful month of June. Enjoy the upcoming summer solstice!
Anne the Younger
P.S. If you’re interested in having an accountability partner as you declutter email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange a time to speak. Also, a few of you have asked if I speak at events (women’s clubs, professional development for small businesses) on topics such as decluttering and time management and the answer is YES. Again, email me so we can set up a time to speak.