From the shamanic perspective, everything is alive, which means that everything also “dies.” The subject of “dead things that we keep hanging around” came up in a class some time ago. Imagine all those items being like beloved friends and relatives that have passed on, and see that they are like little boat anchors that you keep dragging around. All that stuckness makes it hard to move, much less move forward. So it is good to periodically release things you no longer use or need to keep the energy flowing.
Many of us have closets and storage units full of these things, and lots of reasons (or excuses) for why we keep them. Who knows? That book may be worth something in 10 more years or that blouse will come back into fashion and I won’t have to buy a new one!
I used to say that these things are now dead, but I’ve come to see that it’s not the things that are dead, but our relationships to them. The object itself is still alive: the book still has something to say, but not necessarily to you; that blouse could be someone else’s treasure, just not yours any more. We had a relationship with each thing that we purchased or was gifted to us at some point, but that relationship is no longer vital or relevant. It is dead for all practical purposes.
So what do you do with dead family and friends? You honor the relationship that you had, perhaps grieve, and you let go. You can do exactly the same with that shirt, that book, that vase your aunt gave you 20 years ago. Honor the memory and let it go: give it away, throw it away, bury it.
If you have a lot of “stuff,” it may be daunting to handle each individual item that way. My suggestion is to put things in piles: things to throw away; things to give away; things to burn, things to keep – making sure that you still have a viable relationship with the things you keep – and so on. The categories are yours to define, and you can have as many as you want. Then honor each pile for the relationships and connections they once had for you. You might even do a kind of funeral ceremony.
This doesn’t mean that you must discard everything. You also can rekindle the relationship. A friend who went through this process for several months renewed her relationship with a beloved relative. As she worked her way through many boxes from storage, she discovered her grandmother’s dressing bench tucked away in storage. It didn’t seem right to give it away or sell it. The memories were dim, yet still very real. So, carefully and mindfully, she stripped away layers of old paint down to the wood, then lovingly refinished it with care. She recently had it reupholstered, and after many months of work she was done. The relationship with the stool and the memories of her grandmother it brought to the present were lovingly restored.
I have known people who have done this process with stuff accumulated over many years. In each case, they realized that the “letting go” was often the hardest part. They didn’t have the proper frame of reference to handle their relationship, dead or alive, with the memories each of the items held for them. But as they went through the honoring process, they learned quite a lot from it about themselves and relationships. Eventually, they became not only clear in their physical space, but clear in their energetic space, as well. And being more clear, could move forward with strength, no longer weighed down by their physical and energetic boat anchors.
This process of clearing out and letting go by mindfully honoring each item and appreciating the relationship puts everything in place for everyone – you and your once-beloved items – to move forward into their fresh and unfettered futures.