03 January 2017

NESSA Update and Thoughts on Letting Go of Stuff

Happy 2017, everyone--hope the holidays were wonderful for you and you got lots of time to stitch. I didn't get nearly as much stitching done as I had hoped I would, but I did catch up on Pam Kellogg's Never Ending Sampler SAL (link on the right sidebar). 

Bands 1-12

As I mentioned in my first post about this SAL, I'm stitching it as a journal in which I've given each band a meaning, so this is December. If you'd like to see close-ups of the other bands and get color information, just click the Never Ending Sampler label.

Band 9/Christmas Ornaments: Cardinal, Emerald, Ethiopia, Blueberry, Daffodil, Copper, Moss
Band 10/Snow Angels: Arctic Frost
Band 11/New Year's Eve Fireworks: Deep Sunset
Band 12/Starry Night: Indigo, Snow White

Today I'm putting away Christmas decorations. As much as I love Christmas, once New Year's Day has come and gone, I'm ready to put everything away and move on. January is when I start my annual household purge... every closet, drawer, cupboard, etc. gets cleaned out and organized. Since I do this purge every year (in varying degrees of intensity), it's never very overwhelming, but it is still a big job. Being military, we can never be sure exactly when we're going to move, so it's important to stay ready. We are hoping, hoping, to move this year. We have been stationed in our current location for 7 1/2 years... and we're so ready to go. When (if?) the time comes, perhaps I'll treat y'all to a thrilling blow-by-blow account of how I prepare for a move. I've got it down to a science... I even have a moving "planner." How 'bout that? 

The first rule is: Don't wait until you know you're moving to have a big clean-out. Moving is stressful enough without adding the stress of trying to clean things out and make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Those are decisions that should be made on a random Tuesday, not when the movers are due to show up in two days.

Even if you're not moving, a yearly clean-out is a good idea. If we're not careful, we will gradually become "owned by our stuff." Letting go of things may be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice, and it feels good. We've all had the experience of finally attacking that closet/drawer/space that's been driving us nuts for a while, getting it all cleaned out and organized, and then just pausing as we walk by to admire our hard work. It's a relief to be back in charge of our stuff, instead of the other way around.

I'm not a minimalist, and I don't advocate parting with things you love or use regularly just because, but I do think we often invest too much emotion in our possessions. When cleaning out, it's helpful to ask yourself questions about an item instead of just feeling something about that item. When I'm cleaning out, I ask myself these questions:

Do I need this?
How long has it been since I've used this (or even seen it)?
Do I want to pack this up and move it across the country?
When I arrive at my new home, do I want to unpack this thing and find a place for it?

The last two questions are usually the killers. Even if there's an emotional tug from an item, when I think about having to unpack it and find a place for it, that emotional tug fades. Now of course, there are items that I would never get rid of no matter how many times I had to move them, things that may not be at all useful, but that I love. The key is: don't love everything. Keep the bar high. One of my favorite quotations on this subject is this:

If you keep everything, you honor nothing.

I think of this quotation often when I'm cleaning out things. If everything is too special to get rid of, then nothing is really that special. I had an experience years ago that imprinted itself very strongly on my mind. We were stationed in California, and a controlled burn got out of control, jumped a road, and began burning near our home. The firefighting helicopters were ferrying water from the ocean right over our house to dump on the fire. We could see the flames from our back windows. Mr. Wonderful was at school with our only vehicle. There I was. What to do? I assumed that if the firefighters thought the houses were in danger, some sort of evacuation would take place. What would I grab? Our kitty Shadow, my treasured Bible, and my purse... just what I could carry. Once I had decided that, I went into the kitchen and baked cookies. 

Obviously, that's an extreme example, but that experience has stayed with me. It taught me something very important about stuff: it's just stuff. I have a similar feeling every time I see the moving van leave with all our worldly possessions. You hear horror stories about moving vans catching fire, shipments being lost, etc. Every time I watch the van leave, I think, "Well, there it goes..." And... that's all. You just let go. If something happens to all of it, something happens to all of it.

When all is said and done, the only things that really matter are the things that breathe.


  1. Beautiful sampler and such true words! I live with three hoarders who are incapable of throwing anything away and it drives me mad. They are just things!

  2. I've been following and enjoying your blog for some time now and never commented, but this one really hits me where I live(d), As a "retired" Army wife, I have one question: Girlfriend, how have you managed to stay in one place for seven and a half years!!!! We moved 18 times in 20 years--you do the math. Cleaning and purging are the most liberating activities in my opinion. I have two rules that have served me well: If you haven't touched it in a year, out it goes. If you bring something new in (not breathing of course), take something out. I have also discovered over the years that organizing as you clean and purge can help bring outward calm to inner chaos. When my eldest son, also a soldier, went to war the first time, I cleaned every cabinet, closet, drawer, and the attic and garage. I like what you said--always remember: stuff is just stuff.

    1. Well, at the beginning of his career, we moved 5 times in 6 years! But since 2009, we've been at "headquarters" for his type of work, so there hasn't been any need to move. :O)

      I, too, cleaned like a crazy woman when my husband was deployed. Anything to stay as busy as possible.

  3. YOU are very wise. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Tiger Lily is so precious. ♥

  4. Love the picture of Tiger Lily! Hmmm, perhaps you could take a field trip to my neck of the woods and help me purge and organize. Your NESSA piece is gorgeous, Honeybee.

  5. Your NESSA stitching "journal" is really nice, it is a good idea to link each stitch to an event with the colours. Great advice about purging and organizing each year. I live in a small apartment and clutter can add up very fast. Cleaning out an area is very liberating, and I enjoyed your advice.

  6. Loved this post! It's a great guideline for cleaning out. Thanks!!!!