Clearing Out and Letting
of All that Does Not Serve
by Donna Henes
On my birthday last week, a friend presented me with
a gorgeous amber necklace that she had gotten in Russia
twenty years ago before she emigrated to the United
States. Though she felt that it did not suit her, she
held onto it for two decades for sentimental reasons.
When she gave it to me, she apologized for it not being
a new store-bought thing, but I was thrilled. Not only
does it suit me perfectly, but I was extremely touched
by her sharing of this nostalgic gem.
And I completely understood her motivation for giving
it away. It is common for women in midlife to display an
overwhelming urge to purge, to clean out, throw out,
refuse, release, discard, to distill and streamline all
of our attachments. We refine our needs and tastes and
now want to be surrounded by only those people, places,
and things that add something positive to our lives.
If we are to practice living life with intention,
purpose, and appreciation, we are called to take stock
— on every level imaginable — material, mental,
emotional, and spiritual. And we feel the need to
evaluate everything in terms of its value to us. Do our
belongings, attitudes, ideas, obligations, commitments,
habits, goals, dreams, relationships, and wardrobes
still fit us? Do they suit us and our current life
style? Are they flattering? Do they please us? Do they
continue to serve us? Do they feed us what we need? Or
do they drain our energy and slow us down by the amount
of maintenance that they require?
It seems to me that we spend the first half of our
lives accumulating things and the second half getting
rid of them, paring our possessions down to a manageable
cache. At some point in our middle years, it is
important to take the time to catalogue what it is we
have, what we have accumulated, what we hold onto, what
we have carried with us through the years, and what we
would be better of letting go of. As we face the second
half of our lives, it is prime time to check our baggage
and lighten up our load.
With practice, we can distinguish which of our
possessions and commitments expresses our true desires,
needs, values, and aesthetics, and which do not. Which
relationships serve us in a reciprocal manner, and which
do not. Which engagements, involvements, and assignments
are fulfilling and life-affirming and which are empty
busywork. “It's not so much how busy you are, but why
you are busy,” The writer Marie O'Conner reminds
us. “The bee is praised; the mosquito is swatted.”
A thorough house cleaning, internal as well as
external, is a fabulous way to delineate the purpose of
our lives. Letting go of the inessential creates an
elegant order to our existence. An orderly house always
seems like the invitation to a fresh start, which is why
so many cultures incorporate a thorough house scrubbing,
a clean sweep, as it were, as well as an internal
ablution in their New Year’s rituals. Our messy
thinking and sloppy habits come more easily into focus
when our surroundings are tidy and beautiful and filled
with only what is meaningful, so that we can release
them, as well.
When we clear out the inessentials, we make space for
ourselves to grow and expand to fill the void. With the
chaff, the distractions, and dirty corners of our
environments and minds cleared away, we can better see
the structure of our lives, the foundations of our
support, the bare bones that comprise our true Selves,
and dedicate ourselves to living a more authentic life.
The Queen Suggests: House Cleaning
From the Inside Out
- Throw out, re-cycle, or donate one thing every
day. This is a great practice in claiming what is
important to you and discarding what is not.
- Spend an evening in the closet playing dress up.
Get rid of everything that that doesn’t fit your
figure or your evolved Self-image.
- Eliminate one food from your diet that you know
you should not eat. When you get used to living
without it, eliminate one more.
- Send all of the novels that you know you will
never re-read to a school or hospital library. And
that pile of magazines, too.
- Clean out your paper and computer files, your
address book, old correspondence, and tax records.
How much of that clutter is really relevant any
- Do the same with your medicine cabinet and
cosmetic drawers. How many of the products crammed
in there merely mask superficial symptoms and flaws
rather than enhance your essential strength and
- Remove yourself from situations and relationships
that no longer nurture you. Refuse what does not
- Monitor your thoughts, and edit the negative,
Self-derogatory ones in mid-stream. Eliminate
- Reduce stress through yoga, exercise, breathing
techniques, warm baths, sex, music, art, meditation.
- Eliminate the accumulated toxins in your body by
- Slough off the old, like a snake shedding its
skin, or a butterfly its cocoon. Emerge renewed and
© Copyright 2004
Donna Henes. All Rights
Reserved. From her forthcoming book, The
Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife.
Donna Henes, Urban Shaman, is the editor and publisher of the highly
acclaimed quarterly, Always In Season: Living In Sync with the Cycles. She is
also the author of Moon Watcher's Companion, Celestially Auspicious
Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations and Dressing Our Wounds In Warm
Clothes, as well as the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy & Me.
In 1982, she composed the first (and to this date, the only) satellite peace
message in space: "chants for peace * chance for peace."
Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, has offered lectures, workshops,
circles, and celebrations worldwide for 30 years. She is the director of Mama
Donna's Tea Garden & Healing Haven, a ceremonial center, ritual consultancy
and spirit shop in Exotic Brooklyn, New York.
For further information, a list of services and publications, a calendar of
upcoming events and a complimentary issue of Always in Season: Living in Sync
with the Cycles. contact:
MAMA DONNA'S TEA GARDEN AND HEALING HAVEN
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, NY 11238-0403
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