A Strong and Clear Intention

by

A strong and clear intention does not mean that things will be easy.

We are living in Jerusalem for the year in a small apartment in a centrally located neighborhood.  With strong clear intention I was able to overcome lots of setbacks and pack up our house and our suitcases for the year in Israel.

Here are notes that I made about packing up our home in Boston and getting our house ready for tenants.

“My past four or five weeks have been a deep engagement, a struggle really, with material possessions.  Just about five weeks ago, I innocently began getting rid of excess items to create storage space for the things we wanted to leave in our house. I say innocently because at the time I did not realize how profoundly addicted I still am to things – hey, I wrote the book – surely I would have gotten over my intense need for physical possessions by now.  But no, every day I awoke with fierce determination to let go of possessions and clear out living space for our tenants.  And everyday, as I swam harder towards spaciousness, I felt farther from shore.  The more stuff I processed, the more it seemed there was to get rid of.  The closer I got to simplicity, the more simplicity I wanted.  I was battling the many headed Hydra* of possessions.”

I won in the end — I got the house ready for our lovely tenants.   But I experienced some sobering interludes that caused me great pain and continue to reveal the depth of my addiction to things. It almost hurt to give things away, yet now, I have no idea what those things were or why they seemed to matter so much to me at the time.  But also, at the very same time, a few things I really cared about were stolen – my wedding ring and a watch that my grandmother gave me.  Never-the-less, my mantra became – Keep going!!  No storage!!  Life is good without excess belongings!!  Other people can use this stuff more than we can!!

I was grateful for the deadline of being out of our house by 1:00 on Thursday, August 22nd.  I never could have summoned the energy and the raw will that I needed to get rid of so much stuff.  I had been taken in by my own sense of order – we had an attractive livable home, but one that was overly full of things.  Now I see what it can be, simple, pared down, nothing extra.  I want to live this way.

We arrived at our new home in Jerusalem exhausted but hopeful.  It’s less than a third of the size of our Boston residence.  Small, simple, clean.  We can’t fill this one up so much.  There just isn’t enough storage space.  The closets are large by Israeli standards but tiny by ours.  And, of course, no basement, no attic, no garage.

And, even now, four months after arriving in Jerusalem, our home is simply, actually sparsely, furnished.  The struggle with things has diminished greatly because we have so few things to deal with.

From this vantage point, I would like to say to anyone who would like to let go of a vast surfeit of items, “Keep going!  Let go!  And let go of more!!  It is a taste of heaven to give up the excess belongings.”

We miss our home in Boston.  We miss our friends and family and every once in a while I just wish we could have a night in our own home.  But, I am not looking forward to going back to the boxes of stuff that we placed in our attic.  I don’t know what seemed so important to store at the time.  But I do know that I never want to see that stuff again.

I know now how to go through those boxes when we return.  I will say for each item.    “Are we using it now?  When, within the next year, will I use it?  Is it valued and treasured?  Do we have an easily accessible place for it?  And as I do this, I will remember how light and right it is to have so few things around.

A caveat:  this level of simplicity might not be your goal.  However, for those of us into accumulation I am noting how great it is to have less stuff.

*The Hydra is the many-headed animal whom Hercules destroyed as one of his Twelve Labors. Every time he cut off a head, two grew in its place.

  • Carol Shaw

    Hi,
    By way of reminder we met while checking out the Temple Beth Zion Hebrew School (if that rings a bell). Then, my son briefly attended the Chabad Sunday school.
    This year three family members died – my mom and sister were serious hoarders/collectors. Now, it is my job to empty out houses filled to the brim with possessions. If just desserts is a theme, I too, have a bit of pack rat in me and really have difficulty wasting anything that can be put to good use. So, I try and re-purpose what I can. I am hopeful that this process, however difficult, has been changing my attitude towards material possessions. I certainly think twice before acquiring anything and actually look forward to trimming down my own piles. Considering that you can’t take it with you makes it easier to be more zen minded. Everything for a reason.
    Best wishes,
    Carol

  • Curdina

    Hi marilyn
    I so resonated with the sentiments in
    Your blog.on letting go of material things. I am in the process of trying to simplify and get rid of at least half of my stuff. I’m trying to do it with ease rather than grit and cliff hanging determination. Having to clear several rooms to repaint them has been helpful in returning to a more sparse space. Thanks for sharing so honestly. Curdina