Many of you may remember George Carlin’s popular monologue about “stuff”: Your stuff, my stuff, everyone’s stuff. By the end of the late comedian’s humorous take on how we deal with keeping, hoarding, sorting and other stuff related to stuff, listeners would be left laughing with one overarching thought: If you had all the stuff in the world, where would you put it?

The question challenged my husband Ted and me a year ago when we moved from a 2,300 square foot house in the suburbs to a 1600 square foot one in the inner city. To say it was merely a physical “moving” experience would be redundant. To say it was a “moving” experience emotionally, psychologically and intellectually would be an understatement. To say it was a worthwhile learning experience to discover what really had heart and meaning for each of us at this stage of our lives would be right on target.

As we all know, permanently moving ourselves let alone anything of physical, psychological and spiritual value to us is about so much more than the act of lifting or pushing our stuff from point A over to point B. Foremost, it is about letting go – letting go of a time certain and place in our lives and the stories about them that have heart, soul and multiple meanings. So as we sort through stuff, invariably who, what, where, when and how we came to possess some things flashes in our mind’s eye. And with each recollection also comes nagging “shoulds” or “should nots” concerning present physical, psychological, and emotional needs and an imagined future.

Intellectually, Ted and I knew before we started packing that parting with a lot of our accumulated memorabilia and clutter would be sorrowful as well as sweet. So we made a pact to try to not diminish the real emotional and spiritual realities tied to acts of letting go.

In order to do that, we decided to rekindle a ritual that evolved several years earlier during another move. Since then, every time we use it, this centering approach has helped us to transform our thoughts, feelings, and choices about detaching from and letting go of our real trash on one hand and our true treasures on the other. Hopefully, these steps can help you, too, whenever you are called to “downsize” your home, office, or life and take a journey to lighten up literally and metaphorically.

Letting Go:

  • First, invite a trusted friend or relative to do this with you. If none is available, imagine a trusted one joining you in the ritual.
  • Next, write down the name or draw something that represents an object or several ones that you believe you should let go of but feel otherwise. It can be just a line or a scribble, or it can be a picture of the actual object. Symbolically the drawing represents what you are concerned about “dispossessing.”
  • Now take your paper to a peaceful place, light a candle, and sit in silence until are ready to tell a story or stories about the object(s). Speak to the candle—not to the other person whether real or imagined. Throughout your storytelling, experience the other person as a silent witness who unconditionally accepts your truth.
  • Both of you will remain silent until you decide it is time to either burn the piece of paper in the flickering flame or signal that the time is not ripe to let go by putting the paper away. In silent unison nod your heads to acknowledge that the choice you made is right.
  • If you put the paper away, together say the words of Julian of Norwich aloud: “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” If it is now ashes, use this quotation from Nobel Peace Prize–winner Dag Hammerskjöld: “For all that has been, thanks! To all that shall be—Yes!”


The exercise above is one of many in Caren’s award-winning book RESTORING LIFE’S MISSING PIECES: The Spiritual Power of Remembering and Reuniting with People, Places, Things and Self (Skylight Paths).  It was recently named a “Best Spiritual Book of 2011” and it is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Skylight Paths Publishing and booksellers nationwide.