On my run this crisp autumn morning, I notice the variety of trees and realize each species represents a beautiful metaphor for all the expressions of letting go. Some trees have shed all their leaves, others have crunchy brown ones still clinging to branches, and the pine trees remain everlasting green in a constant flow of dropping needles and growing new ones.
We cling to and then shed our clutter like these different trees. Each type of tree represents ways we often process disarray in our spaces, hearts, and minds. The method is organic and cannot be forced.
Perhaps you are like the maple tree and prefer the immediate results of the “whoosh” style of letting go. You may begin with a few items here and there in different rooms of your home, but quickly experience the relief of clearing. From this place of energized freedom, you set aside a weekend to discard many bags of unneeded belongings. The process resembles the maple tree vibrantly showing its bright yellow leaves. As autumn progresses, a few leaves flutter to the ground. Then a thunderstorm rolls through, and the next day the tree stands stark. Like the maple, once you’ve gotten started, “dead leaves” quickly leave your space and life. On the other side of this powerful catharsis, you experience a liberating exhaustion and may sleep deeply and free like a hibernating bear in winter. Your home and psyche feel peaceful after the storm.
Conversely, maybe your experience is like that of the oak tree. You let go slowly, but when it’s time to take action, you follow your internal clock. You deliberately process and reflect on all your belongings and feelings. Maybe you even ruminate. You may naturally co-exist quite peacefully with the “dead leaves” still tucked in drawers, closets, and cabinets, but in time you will let them go as the seasons of your life shift. Rather than judging yourself, you recognize there is a time, rhythm, and reason. We don’t look at an oak tree and ask it “Are you afraid of letting go of those crunchy brown leaves? Why do you hold onto them until February?” You gently let go in deliberate stages just like the oak tree.
Another style of clearing mimics the everlasting pine trees. You discard items daily or weekly in a systematic manner, making room for new opportunities and even new belongings. The mail flows into your home and gets opened and answered within a day or two, then taken to the recycling container. A proactive style of letting go suits you and supports your life. It’s rare for you to hang onto belongings that you won’t use or need, and you effortlessly send them on their way. There tends to be a state of relative dynamic equilibrium in your home. You welcome what life brings you and respond accordingly. You like regularly moving things around for a fresh experience and often do this when you clear out and clean. Outsiders looking in may not know that you ever have “dead pine needles,” but you do, and choose to sweep them away continuously. Your work to release follows a more consistent flow pattern. You accept that feelings, thoughts, things, and even people come and go in a pure, natural process. The structure of your home remains relatively constant as you proactively respond to many aspects of your life. People often count on you to be like that evergreen pine tree.
Many of us may have some combination of all three expressions. We may have some rooms in our home that we clean and clear regularly, like bathrooms, kitchens, and dining areas. These are the evergreen areas that we enjoy keeping in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Bedrooms, family rooms, and living rooms may be the areas where the maple tree style of releasing happens. Unneeded belongings accumulate for a couple of months and then in a whirlwind, perhaps inspired by guests coming for a visit, we clear out and clean in one fell swoop. The metaphor of the oak tree often presents itself in the garage, basement, attic, and closets. In these spaces, the clinging dead leaves of unneeded belongings stay until we realize we must let them go. When we do, we finally see how strong, healthy, and vibrant our trunk, branches, and root system are. Unburdened, we make space for a new season of our lives and experiences that enliven our hearts.
Which leaf shedding process best represents your way of letting go?