December 29, 2006

Cleaning house

Something Like Life
Dec. 29-30, 2006

ONE of my favorite shows on cable TV is Clean House. It entertains me to no end seeing how couples or families with their messy homes have such gut-wrenching reactions to letting go of their stuff. Often the items the Clean House gang wants the homeowners to get rid of are nonproductive, nonessential and totally worthless products that only clutter up the home.

Of course, most of the featured homeowners beg and plead with the show’s host Niecy Nash to let them keep their stuff, perhaps out of sentimental reasons, with some even resorting to stealing back their belongings already tagged for the yard sale. Often Niecy has to bargain and negotiate with the homeowners, promising new bedroom sets or new office furniture just so they let go of their “precious” goods, which no longer have a place in their homes’ new aesthetic direction.

Every year or so, I try to Clean House myself by throwing out stuff from my cabinets or donating items that have been gathering dust in the attic to people who can use them. Last October, I finally threw out papers I had been hanging on to for almost 20 years—like old college class cards and projects, reading handouts, notebooks from when I was still a cub reporter, newspaper clippings and documents I had based my long-ago stories on.

There were also so many articles of clothing I’d been keeping all these years and if it weren’t for the Guimaras oil spill victims, they probably would still be tucked away from view in my closets. Like many women, I was hanging on to clothes I wore 10 pounds ago in the foolish hope that I’d still be able to wear them someday.

Of course some of them were not just from my “thin” period but shirts or dresses, bags and shoes I probably bought on impulse and, like most women, just kept them around without actually using any of them. So as Linda Coopersmith says, if you haven’t worn an item for three years, chances are you never will. So away with those size 8 dresses, pencil-slim pants and never-been-worn shirts and skirts! Begone, unused bags and boots! Hopefully, others less fortunate will find some use for you.

Cleaning out my cabinets is for me a way of letting go of the irrelevant things in my life. It seems that as I’ve gotten older, I long for the simple uncomplicated lifestyle and only want to keep the few items truly essential at this stage of my evolution.

It is the same way with relationships and the other nonmaterial aspects of our lives. When we are young, we spend our time “accumulating” people, some of who may turn out to be really good friends while the others, just brief encounters in our journey through life. But as we grow older and our tastes and lifestyles are refined, there is a need to purge and lighten our load. We need to discard the unnecessary baggage in our lives and surround ourselves with those people who have only enriched us with positive experiences.

Sometimes we still hang on to these relationships which no longer have any place in our structured lives… a spurned lover who keeps hanging around desperately trying the friendship route for a change; an abusive lover who keeps battering us physically and emotionally, diminishing our spirit; a relative who has latched on to us for financial support instead of trying to find work; even a friend who has only used us for the connections to the right people we offer.

Who among the people we know are really important and vital to our existence? How many of them have actually contributed to our growth as human beings, and how many of them are now just plainly toxic and have kept us from achieving our dreams?

With the New Year upon us, perhaps it’s time for us to clean house...not just physically but perhaps emotionally as well. Good healthy relationships are the only things actually worth keeping. Everything else is just plain clutter.

(My column, Something Like Life, appears every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror.)

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