On March 20th, I resolved to unburden myself of 27 things each day for 27 days. Many friends said I was crazy and wondered how I’d ever do it. Today, with a final book put in a donation box, I finished my commitment with my 729th item gone. In reality, it was probably closer to 1,000 items, since I rarely stopped at 27 items on most days. I am done.
The idea stemmed from an old Chinese proverb: move 27 things, change your life. Believers in unseen things suggest that every item we own maintains a small energetic tie to us. Everything in our home is our responsibility, and therefore is a tiny drain on our available energy. Even if it means dusting it once in a while, we give it some small part of us. Collectively, those small drains on our energy build up. So getting rid of things frees that energy.
Additionally, in the West (and certainly for this Westerner), we often put a lot of stock in the accumulation of stuff. Even though I’m not one for keeping up with the Joneses, I take some pride in having the right knife to cut bread vs. tomatoes, the right jeans for each occasion, plus an unnecessarily large collection of candle holders and books. But finding security in things is false and can potentially lull us and make us forget that life is inherently full of risk. Things won’t stop calamities. Learning to live with less reminds me of that and as weird as that sounds, it’s a good thing.
That was probably my biggest lesson: a daily reminder of loss and impermanence. Not in a dark sort of way, but as a meditation. Some days, getting rid of 27 things was a breeze and I kept going until a room was empty or a closet bare. Other days, it was a struggle to get there and I waited until just before midnight to finally do the purge. But every day I was reminded that where I thought there was nothing left to give, there was. Every day I realized that I can lose a lot more than I think I can and still be fine. It was an experience that was particularly useful at this point in my life.
My other big takeaway was that slow and steady really does win the race. If a month ago I would have told myself, “I’m going to clean every closet and drawer in this house in the next month,” there’s no chance I would have done it. It would have sounded too overwhelming. But 27 things are purged easily, in under 10 minutes. It was a great reminder that even big goals are reached by doing a little something to bring you a step closer to them every day.
Everywhere I look, there are signs of my Big Spring Clean. There are bookshelves that look lighter and rooms that look neater. I have given away just about every item of clothing I don’t wear regularly and I’ve done the same with my children’s clothes. I’ve gifted scarves and winter gear. I’ve thrown away drawers and drawers full of stuff I hadn’t looked at in years. (I found $75 worth of old, lost gift cards too, so the Big Spring Clean indirectly bought me a new dress and some gardening magazines). I got rid of items as big as a 12′ trampoline and a TV stand and as small as a hair clip. What is left now are, for the most part, things that truly delight and uplift me. And, yet, I also know that if I put my mind to it I could go for another 27 days.
I am proud of myself for finishing this project. All around my house, there is a lightness, a joy. I did move 27 things (times 27) and changed my life, mostly on the inside. I have made room for spring to light up everything. It feels amazing.