On my latest round of decluttering, I came across items that filled me with a sense of Ugh. You know the feeling, right? Your stomach sinks, your heart rate picks up and you feel trapped and, Ugh.
Often in the past, I would put the item back where I got it, tidy up and tip toe away, decluttering done for the day.
But it’s occurred to me that Ugh is not a good energy to have in my house. Ugh is an energy that imbues the thing you can’t get rid of and no matter how far into the corner you tuck it, it will radiate that Ugh all over your house and your life. Ugh is toxic. It needs to go, without guilt, without apology.
So this time, when I came across an Ugh, I got rid of it. A van load of stuff went to a local thrift shop. Several bins of paper went out for recycling and there was an actual bag of garbage. My house feels so much better now.
And here’s the thing about the items with the Ugh. Some of them were actually quite nice. Some of them were things I had happily bought. Some of them were still useful. But they raised that Ugh in me because they no longer belonged in my life.
As in decluttering, so in life.
I think we all have activities, commitments, habits that raise the same sense of Ugh in us. And it’s not necessarily rational. We may be doing good community work. Our daily jog might be good for our health. We should want to eat broccoli. Am I right? Well…
Not really. Because something, anything that raises the feeling of Ugh in us consistently, isn’t actually good for us. No matter how objectively good it’s supposed to be.
I am slowly learning to let go of the Ugh’s in my life, whether they be physical objects or the more intangible commitments that clutter up my life.
What is helping this process is realizing that my Ugh’s are someone else’s Yay’s. The stuff I send to the thrift shop will be snapped up eagerly by someone, just as I happily take home the Ugh’s that others have cast off. Some of the things that I love to do cause others to tilt their heads and say “Really? That’s fun for you?” And even though the thought of a desk job is my definition of hell on earth, I am assured that there are actually people out there who enjoy them. It’s a big old world we live in with plenty of Ugh’s and Yay’s to go around. Our task is not to try hang on to the Ugh’s, thinking that they should be Yay’s, or force ourselves into someone else’s Yay, no matter how dear that person may be to us. Our task is to pay attention to which is which and try to live our lives accordingly.
I’m slowly learning to see that it is actually kind of selfish to hang on to someone else’s Yay’s – whether it’s a set of dishes or a place on a committee – when you don’t even like them. Let them go. Let them be claimed by their rightful owners.
This doesn’t have to happen all at once. Cleaning out a closet is a lot easier than discarding a commitment. Sometimes you need to wait out the time frame of the commitment. Sometimes you need to find the job you love before you can leave the job you hate. I’ve been in those situations. I’m currently waiting out a commitment that I’ve discovered isn’t a good fit for me. It’s not easy, but I find it helps a lot to be able to acknowledge to myself that this is an Ugh and I don’t have to try to make it anything else or change who I am to fit it. Wait it out, see out the commitment honourably and then move on to something that’s more of a Yay.
But what about the times when everything is an Ugh?
I know those times oh, so well. When my depression is acting up, everything feels awful and I don’t want to do or have or be anything. This can happen when you’re grieving or making big changes in your life.
These are the times to be especially gently with yourself, to rest up and to notice the finer details of your own, very personal Ugh.
I can now (mostly) tell the difference between an Ugh caused by depression and an Ugh caused by the thing itself. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I get rid of something that I later kind of wish I hadn’t. Sometimes I scale so far back on my commitments that I end up feeling lonely and bored.
But those things are so easily fixed. You can always find another thing. There are always groups of people waiting to make use of your special talents. Don’t let the fear of an occasional mistake stop you from unloading your Ugh’s.
Because the alternative is to hang on to them. All the things you should love and be and do. Collect them and nourish them and take care of them and let them elbow out all of your Yay’s and wake up one morning realizing that you’re living someone else’s life.
Because you can’t outrun your Ugh. No amount of trying and willpower and pep talks can change an Ugh into a Yay. You are who you are, unique and precious and worthy of honouring those inner promptings. There is no judgement to attach to your Ugh’s and your Yay’s. They aren’t right or wrong. They simply are.
If you step away from your Ugh’s and move toward your Yay’s, your life may be messy and a bit raw. But it will be all yours. And you won’t regret any of it.
Again Barb you have challenged me to move outside my comfortable place and dispose of some of those Ughs.Thanks
Yay Sue! You can do it!
I saw you on becoming minimalist.
Thanks for this post I really liked it.
Thanks so much, Emily!
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Gentle, kind and sensible advice – this is wonderful, Barb.
Thank you so much, Mindy!