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By Ben Hollis

More than 30 years ago – and just recently – my mailbox began to fill up beyond its capacity with Valentines.They started coming about 4 or 5 days before The Big Day and, on February 14, there must have been 20 cards in the box. All from the same person.

I was madly in love back then and those cards transported me into a stratosphere beyond Cloud 9, light years past “over the moon.” It was a crazy onslaught of written affection and it made me crave more. In those days I liked walking on air and being zonked on love. And I wanted it to last. Forever.

Today, I don’t even know if I still have those cards. I kept them for a long time. Years. But much has happened since that February 14 in the early ’80s. The sender and I parted ways. I got remarried. I changed a lot of things for the better, quit drinking, quit a lot of stuff. I even quit growing hair. I slowly got bald.

Why did I keep those letters? Why did I keep all the letters everyone has sent me ever since I went off to college? They didn’t take up much space. And maybe, some day, I would revisit them.

Clutter Busters

A couple of years ago, while attending a showcase of a couple of motivational speakers, one of the speakers, Brooks Palmer, author of Clutter Busting, gave me the answer. About one minute into his talk he nailed me. “So why do we clutter our lives? Why do we hold onto stuff? Here’s what I’ve found: Clutter is the physical manifestation of an unhealthy attachment to the past.” My body began to quake and tears pooled in my eyes. I knew exactly what he meant. My reaction was an involuntary response to a chunk of truth about myself that I haven’t faced fully.

Bottom line: those cards represented proof that I was lovable. Same for all the letters. And all the other stuff in my office including hundreds of videotapes, books and papers. They were the physical evidence that I had friends, lovers and fans. That I mattered. That I did good work. That I was an extraordinarily interesting person.

What’s So Unhealthy About That?

So what’s so “unhealthy” about that?  For me it was clear. My hanging on to that old stuff was a subtle way of saying, “Screw you, Present Day. What you have to offer me is just not as satisfying as the good old days. Never mind that I have a wonderful life now, that I am blessed with excellent health and caring people, a terrific wife, dynamic children who are blossoming so beautifully, and an ever-deepening appreciation for the great mysteries and joys of living. No thank you, Here and Now. I still need to rely on yellowing paper and VHS videotapes to insure that I’m okay.”

The good news is that I feel less dependent on those Valentines and letters and tapes today. It’s as if the past is loosening it’s grip on me  And I am letting go of my grip on it. The clutter has been paralyzing me––slowly but surely. And it’s getting in the way of the authentic unfolding of who I am meant to be now in this present moment. I’m actually excited to get rid of this stuff.  Some things I’m sure I’ll keep. But they won’t have that strong energy of attachment tied to them as I used to feel.  I’m getting free.

On Wednesday, my Feng Shui consultant Lyn comes over to help me clear away the unnecessary stuff to make more room for a new spirit to move in and do its thing.  It’s a Valentine to myself.


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