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This past winter kicked my emotional and physical butt. With half my garage taken up by the many boxes of stuff from our parent's house down in Tucson I was just plain overwhelmed. As I went through the first 20, I sunk lower and lower into 'what am I going to do with this stuff' depression. The garage and many of the rooms inside the house looked like a bomb went off.

Sister Tracey had spent a month down in Tucson getting rid of things before we even knew the house would go on the market knowing eventually, we'd have to deal with it all. She filled up the garbage cans before pickup twice a week, took oodles of stuff the thrift stores, and gave away things. But even she was surprised at how much was left in the house when we went down to get it.

Rather than spend a lot of time in despair, I started journaling my feelings about the big mess that was my house. I didn't stop there though. I happened on a 12-week course called Uncluttered and signed up. I won't go into the details of the class itself, but it has been a God send. We're halfway through the class and while I am behind, I will keep going if it takes a year to deal with all my stuff and the folk's stuff. Between theirs, mine and ours, I have made many trips to the Humane Society, God's Love men's shelter, several thrift stores, and the dump. I'm giving away some of the things rather than trying to sell it. In fact, at our community yard sale this summer, all of what I put out will be free. FREE I tell you!

A few of the things I've learned in this process have surprised me. One is how exhausting it is. After a couple hours, I just want and do take a nap. Most of the time I don't actually go to sleep. I process and untangle the web of emotions. Letting go of things is never easy but finding the strength to work through why it needs to go and then following through is getting easier.

In my first book, Did I Say That Out Loud?, there is a prophetic chapter called 'Goodbye Old Friend'. It's about aging clothing and what to do when it has outlived its wearability. Now I'm getting rid of not only clothing but furniture, household items I have too many of, and endless amounts of paper. It started out as ouch, ouch, ouch and has now turned to bye, bye, bye. After brief moments where I either say goodbye or mumble incoherently about why some things were hung onto, it leaves my house.

My favorite method of getting rid of things is fire. Talk about cathartic! I stockpile anything I can put a match to until there is a safe day to burn. I fill up my two fire rings with just enough paper and branches from the trees in the yard to get them burning nicely. Then the fun starts. Garbage bags full of paper, magazines and broken wood objects Mom held onto for some reason sit nearby. I've managed to come up with a bunch of my own stuff I need to get rid of. Boxes of college textbooks relevant 40 years ago, letters I've saved, and other things I've dragged around for way too long get added.

For hours I sit and feed the fires. One by one, bags or boxes are emptied until all that is left are ashes. Peace reigns in my mind, body and soul. The next day, the ashes are moved to my raised beds and added to the soil. It'll be interesting to see if there is an improvement in the garden harvest this year.

Dealing with so much stuff has been a burden, but the load is getting lighter by the day. I continue to attack the house. The nightly survey of accomplishment is making me feel better about everything in my life. Daily journaling details the journey. I'm decluttering my home and my mind. This whole process has reminded me once again that I am and will always be a work in progress.

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Burning is cathartic. when Mom was in icu years ago, I wrote a letter to my Dad, who died in 83, and then took it out to the garden, built a little cairn and burned it. The medical system owned Mom and was manipulating all of us and I missed my Dad. It helped. I felt like the smoke from My pain found him and somehow I felt easier. Keep the fires burning Shelley!

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