Cleaning out the Past

Aren’t new beginnings amazing?  New seasons.  New chapters.  New Years.  Even better, sometimes you don’t even know you’re in one until it’s already here.

This year I felt the change.  The gentle leaving of 2012 and the soft arrival of 2013.  A shift without hard edges.  Just the knowing that the old had gone and the new was settling in.

I set my intentions for the year, included my Beauty of Life theme.  The decision to be more aware of my surroundings, and to make choices where I can that value appearance and presentation.  Not from vanity, but simply because my family and I deserve it.

In a funny way, that led me to finally tackling the mountains of boxes that we have stored in our garage from my business.  For years now, we’ve had boxes and boxes filling part of our garage.  Without a commitment to cleaning out and appearance I have allowed myself to avoid the annual cleanout for a few years now.

This year, without much thought and without any groan I decided it was time.  Time to clean it all out.

Last weekend, in the middle of a heat wave, I stood in my togs and a pair of shorts emptying box after box of old files.  Checking each file, in the way that only a lawyer understands, for anything irreplaceable that shouldn’t be there, before placing the contents into a confidential destruction bin.  File after file.  Box after box.  Until I had filled the destruction bins I had on hand, and was surrounded by a mountain of cardboard.  The flattened remains of what had been boxes.

I stood there, with the sweat running down my back, going through these files.  Some thin and transactional.  Creating documents prepared for beginnings or endings.  Others just a little bigger being the paperwork creating by the decision to buy or sell property.  Then big thick folders, and usually many more than one folder per file.  Those folders contained the paperwork created by conflict.  By disputes that needed intervention.  By Court cases.

While I saw pleadings and notes and submissions and correspondence, somewhere there was a person, a couple or a family who had cried mountains of tears and suffered hours and hours of anxiety and worry.  Because of something that was represented by those files.

As I tumbled their paperwork into the destruction bin, I wondered if their tears and worries had also been sent to their emotional destruction bin.  Or were they still holding tight to the story that led to the creation of the paperwork.

I hoped that they had let it all go a long time ago.  Or at least had found a way to move it from a space that was big enough to store every single piece of their conflict to a much smaller box, perhaps with just a beginning and an end.

Standing there, in the heat, looking at file after file after file created with high energy and probably being almost all consuming at the time.  Seeing those files, 8, 9, 10 years or more later.  Dusty and dirty, rusting paperclips straining to hold sheets of paper together.  Knowing that at my office right now, were clean fresh records of the disputes I am currently involved with.  Knowing that regardless of the pain, angst and importance of the outcome for my clients (and for me),  it is inevitable that one day those records would be dusty  and dirty.  Long forgotten.

I hope that I can keep that moment with me.  Particularly on those days when I am feeling stressed about what I need to do.  My thoughts clogged with worry about the outcome of a conference or Court.  Unable to sleep because I’m not sure how best to manage a meeting with a client.

My work is important.  I must be prepared and do my best.  And one day, it will all be contained in a dirty dusty box, probably to be destroyed by someone who won’t even know their name.

I think I am starting to understand the importance of what I had thought to be a cliche.

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As I stood surrounded by cardboard, I had a choice.  The hoarder in me wanted to keep the good boxes (scarcity, anyone!).  I talked to my hoarder about how my spirit needs clean, clutter free and beautiful spaces.  So does my family needs that.

Instead, I packed our people mover (yes – we’re THAT cool) to the brim with the empty boxes.

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Drove to our local recycling centre.

And drove home with this.

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In the past, I would have left that sort of job for someone else to do.  I’m so glad I did it.  I think I learned a great perspective about my work.  After a few hundred more days like that I’ll be able to look into a box free garage and know that I did that.

So here’s to cleaning out the past, and allowing space for the future.

Do you have any ‘past’ that could be cleaned out?  Ready to be looked at for one last time, before letting it go.  Forever.  Go for it!  I bet you’ll feel great on the other side!

K xxx

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About Kathryn Hodges

Hi! I'm Kathryn. I have many hats in this life. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother (of 4!), a friend, a keen try-er of yoga, a lawyer, a business owner, an avid reader and a lover of this electronic world and it's connections. As the Principal of a wonderful law firm on the Sunshine Coast, Qld, Australia, I focus on seeing my clients as people going through change and I am committed to practising mindfully that I am dealing with people and their families. Precious stuff, hey! I hope you enjoy learning more about the things that impact on me, my life and my practice. Please leave me a comment, as I'm sure you have something you can show or teach me. We're all in this learning thing, called life, together xx Oh, and my professional obligations mean I have to remind you that my opinions are my own.
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8 Responses to Cleaning out the Past

  1. Di Riddell says:

    OOhh, memories, memories… I had a major de-clutter a couple of years ago…the hoarder in me was going ballistic at the thought….funny I managed upstairs terrifically and efficiently, when I got to the flat which was actually my craft room I could not get it together…sooo not to be daunted, after all I had come so far, I called a girlfriend who I knew would be ruthless…her words “Right Di 3 boxes – one for rubbish, one for goodwill, one for garage sale and named tubs for the ‘keep me’s. So in effect we were clearing and organising at the same time.

    Rules for play…no double handling, instant decision required.

    She stood guard as I took ‘stuff’ that had been crammed into cupboards, if I hesitated, I was prompted. My plea of ‘I will think about that bit’ fell on deaf ears….

    After my initial panic and wailing of ‘what have I done!’ I was thrilled and excited, the lightness I felt was fantastic…there was a whole new energy around my home. Ok there is a bit more to the story…but these are the ‘bones’ of the event.

    And would you believe for months I walked around thinking ‘that could have gone’, ‘why am I keeping this’…I am about to embark on ‘de-clutter take 2’.

    So congratulations Kathryn on your clean out…I might just take my words from here and develop a blog article about it…Good thinking Di… oops sorry advising self here…

    Cheers and ps I loved the article… Di

    • Kathryn Hodges says:

      Thanks Di,
      I could use the 3 box system when I move into the house.
      I feel the beginning of a big BIG cleanse!
      K xx

      • Di Riddell says:

        And it feels fantastic when you are done… the box system works incredibly well if you are disciplined (I am not suggesting you are not) and you don’t allow the ‘maybe’ pile. I found that the major challenge, my girlfriend simply insisted I make a decision, difficult at first then it became easier… have fun girls…… Cheers Di

  2. Annieb25 says:

    Doing the same thing here as we prepare for renovations. It is cleansing and exhausting – mentally and physically

  3. Di Riddell says:

    Hi girls, and it feels so fantastic when it is done, that feeling of lightness is sensational! The box system works fantastically so long as you don’t allow a ‘maybe’ pile, I think that is the value of a firm friend….and it gets easier as you go…enjoy and have fun…Cheers Di

  4. Vanessa moore says:

    Oh yeah time for a clean out for my Mum. I did mine when I moved here and now that she is coming over it has been really ibis for her to let go of the unimportant and keep the really special stuff.

    I am very proud of her.

    Xoxo

    • Kathryn Hodges says:

      It’s not easy to clean up and clean out. And the longer we’ve been somewhere or doing something the harder that gets.
      So yes, HUGE kudos to your Mum. Wonderful courage.
      K xxx

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