How I slayed the hoarding monsters and became an alchemist!

— By Yasmeen Iqbal Degenaar

One morning I woke up wanting a simpler life.

This one morning business happens to me a lot of times, with a lot of things. So this one morning I looked around me and I realised that this simplification had to start with clearing the physical space around me. A conversation with a friend in Holland came floating back to me – she had told me about an exercise where we consciously give away one thing each day for 30 days, as a way of creating miracles in one’s life. “You don’t have to give away a ‘thing’, it could even be a smile or a hug”, she had said. “You could either set a specific intention or just let a miracle happen in your life”.

So I thought, “Hmm, smiles and hugs I can give away pretty easily, no problem there, so let me see if I can do this exercise with a little bit of a twist and make it just a wee bit more challenging for myself. Let me see if I can give away one item from my house, something which I don’t really have use for but am hanging onto ‘just because’. And since I don’t want to add to my list of expectations, let me see if I can give these things away without expecting anything in return.”

Here are some examples of the ‘hanging onto just because’ things.

Hanging onto that gift because it was a gift,
Hanging onto those craft items because I still hope to make time for that craft, Hanging onto that dress just because ‘It still fits me so well’
Hanging onto that piece of embroidery because it took me weeks to finish it, Hanging onto those files because I haven’t had the time to clear up my filing rack, and so on…

In other words you could say things I am part hoarding, part undecided about, part attached to and part lazy to get rid of and then some more. So I looked around me and bravely gathered up a first lot of items to give away. This lot of items was rather easy to find, easy to photograph and easy to give away. It felt good to just have some unexpected space created in the house!

So I went for the second lot, but now everytime I pulled out stuff to photograph

and give away, a little monster would rear his head and ask, ‘Why don’t you do a charity sale instead, because you could atleast ask a 100 bucks for that and 100 x 30 items would raise a 3000 bucks and that would at least be useful for one child’ and if I pacified this monster with some power-reasoning, other more vicious ones would raise their heads ‘Do you think people really care about your exercise, could it be that you are saying you don’t want anything from this, but you are just looking for attention?’ ‘Do you know that all this daily give away business could end up giving people the impression that you are totally jobless?’ ‘And hey, should you really be giving these things to people, who can easily afford these items – what are you trying to prove here, huh?’ ‘Yasmeen! Darling, I just cant believe you are spending so much time on this exercise! Why don’t you just go drop them off to an NGO or something, instead of wasting so much time and effort?!’ And then there were some other varieties of monsters too ‘ Hey you could make a nice bag out of that, no?’ or ‘ If I were you I would keep that for an emergency’. And I would be like, ‘What! Keep an extra micro-wave bowl for an emergency!? – You gotta be kidding me, monster!’

So now is the time ya’ll can pat my back, because I battled all of these monsters and then some more and ensured I dug out and gave away 30 items ranging from ‘not difficult to give away’, ‘somewhat difficult to give away’ to ‘oh no! I can’t really give this away!’

What I learnt in general:

1) Committing to a 30 day project in a forum of about 10,000 people really helped a lot. I couldn’t risk not keeping my word and losing face! No I am not kidding and the point I want to make is that when we give our word in a community, we are more likely to follow through in keeping our word. And monster slaying requires the power of community – to egg you on and to help you understand.

2) Listening to the monsters very patiently each day helped me understand and unravel a lot of the underlying psychology relating to our attachment to material. In this case more specifically to ‘my’ attachment to ‘my’ material!

3) I realised that when it comes to things/material, it doesn’t matter that it might be just some useless scrap of metal or fabric – If you are attached to it for some reason, then you are attached to it. Period! And all attachment has a monster attached to it, that is best slayed the moment it sticks its head out.

4) I saw that if I have put more energy into something then I am more attached to that particular item, as it was for me with the puzzle that I gave away. So when I saw this phenomena, I gave away more items from this category, both within my 30 day exercise on 220 and outside it!

5) This exercise reiterated my learning that the fundamental reason we hold onto something is because we live and believe in a world of lack and in having to hold- on in order to survive. Instead of realising that there is enough for everyone and there is an abundance of possibility all around us.

What I learnt in relationship to people:

1) In the beginning I just gave away items on a first come first take basis but later realised that who was taking them and why was an important aspect to take note of, because here lay a huge treasure – the gift of finding meaning, satisfaction and experiencing contribution. And contradictorily I also learnt that it doesn’t matter who took what, because in giving there is no need for judging.

2) In interacting with a lot of people I was hit very hard by the realisation that many of us are dealing with tough problems – sometimes financial, sometimes relating to our health and so many other areas and we all are trying very hard to put up a brave front, face our problems the best we can, not wanting to show what we are actually going through. So the importance of my exercise was not in the monetary value of what I was giving away but in the happiness my giving gave to someone, in the love it brought in someone’s life or the temporary respite in offered!

3) I realised that it is most difficult for people who believe that they have their life sorted, to receive a free item. Not realising that receiving requires more courage and is more difficult than giving. I have learnt that there can be no giving in this world, if no one would be willing to receive.

4) I was very moved to see a loving husband pick up books to make his wife happy. Delighted to hear that a dhurrie was now the favourite hang out spot for someone’s toddler. Thrilled to hear that a student’s room now has some color because of a décor item I passed on and so on and so on and so on…!

What I learnt about the ‘Energy of Things’

1) I saw that there are things we keep that are down-right ‘draining’ our energy right now, even though the whole idea why you got them into your house is with the expectation that they would ‘give’ you energy. Like a box of paints and craft supplies for instance – they were purchases that at one time gave me lot of joy but now only tend to remind me of my laziness or inability to finish yet another ‘some-day’, ‘one-day’ project! Let these things go asap!

2) And then there are things that carry a positive association for you. Like a skirt you liked or a game you enjoyed playing as a child. Giving these away seems to multiply the positive vibrations manifold, no questions asked!

3) I saw that every item has an energy attached to it. And often when we keep things we don’t need, then the energy these things carry is distinctly stale, so guess what this energy can do to us? And the real magic is in seeing that the only way you can change the energy and vibration of these things is by giving them away to those who want them/need them. And so every now and then I’d like to do this without expecting anything in return.

4) Furthermore, I have felt that when I gave away these things and the vibrations of these things changed, the transformed energy somehow came back to bring me good things in interesting ways. I now know for sure that this is what people call miracles, because I’ve serendipitously experienced them in these 30 days. Miracles both seen and unseen!

What miracles? Big ones!

The shattering of a multi-year, heart-breaking creative block! A date to paint with one of my favorite artists!
Our investments/markets turning in our favour!

‘Alchemy! This is what I believe I have practiced in these 30 days!’ Now the question is…Who’s going to take on this exercise next?