Let’s commune: The Haywood Street Congregation is one of many local organizations that collects new or gently used items for sharing with those in need. High on the list this time of year: warm coats and clothes, as well as children’s toys. photo courtesy of the Haywood Street Congregation
I had my carpets cleaned the other day, and it shook up my life like a snow globe. Trapped in the middle of the sphere, I felt barraged by my belongings. The rain of letters, books, clothes, rags masquerading as clothes, and odd plastic things swirled around my room as I scrambled to get everything up from the floor.
After seven years of living with Type 1 diabetes, it’s hard not to see everything in the terms of blood-sugar balance. But this excess clutter, well, this was clearly high “habitat sugar.”
Why all this stuff hanging around, pulling me down? There were reminders of who I was at 2 years old (plastic jack-o’-lantern), at 7 (kids’ books), at 13 (journals — all right, I'm keeping those), in high school (jeans painted with peace signs and shout-outs to Joplin and Hendrix — decades late, but still felt it, man), and who I was some months ago (letters, bank statements, numerous prescription-refill bags).
Why? Did I think my room was going to be audited by my Self? (“Are you really who you think you are? Prove it!”)
No, not really. And in fact I have a pretty good memory even without that plastic orange pumpkin accumulating dust under the bed.
Things have been better since the cleaning. I separated stuff into give-away, throwaway and keep piles, and I’m now slowly relocating those belongings to the appropriate habitats. But the process has made me think about the origin of stress in my life. Is the frustration really coming from the traffic jam? Is it really coming from the fact that I’m five minutes late for a meeting? Or did it start months ago, years ago, stuck energy piling up in closets and corners?
Not all of life's stress comes from clutter, but a lot of it does come from excess on one end and lack on the other. Many in our community are experiencing an acute need, especially during these winter months, and I suspect there are at least as many of us who could use a little paring down.
Simplifying one's habitat to only those objects that truly enrich one’s life, either functionally or emotionally, creates an opportunity for clarity — a jumping-off place. Meanwhile, for those who live in fear of being cold or not having the basic kitchen goods to cook their family a healthy meal, it’s a chance to enhance security.
Some of what we hold onto is junk, but a lot of it is really good stuff that we're not using but may just be afraid to let go of. Potential is unlocked by use. Giving away clothes, appliances and other things you don’t need is a great way to nourish your community — and yourself.
There are so many amazing organizations working to make Asheville a city built on equality and caring for individuals. Please don’t let fresh, viable food go to waste when people are hungry — especially healthy foods that could help children grow. Do not let a single coat go unworn this winter. And let that cast iron you’re not using fry eggs the way it was made to!
Asheville resident Katie Souris is a care counselor in the YWCA’s Diabetes Wellness and Prevention program.