The Liberation of Less

I have never felt more liberated in my entire life.

As you may know, my mother visited me in NYC last weekend.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

And it was amazing.

But…not for reasons you may think.

It was not because we went ice skating at Rockefeller Center under the gorgeous Christmas tree. Nor because we got hot cocoa and strolled through Central Park amid a gentle snowfall. Nope. We didn’t gaze upon the Christmas window displays at Macy’s, or see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall…all things that, I had planned to do, but never actually happened during our Christmas girls’ weekend extravaganza.

Nope.

What did we do last weekend?

We cleaned out my closets.

That’s right. While Christmas was on full display in the greatest city in the world, my mother and I spent the entire weekend in two 8 foot x 3 foot walk in closets.

My mom took one step in my apartment, looked at my looked at my closets and said, “We’re tackling this.”

Now let me be sparkling, crystal clear about one thing. My apartment is in no way, shape, or form messy, or cluttered, or disheveled. I run a tight ship, and if you were to walk in my apartment unannounced, it would be immaculate.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

My closets however, are a bit of a different story…because they are out of sight…only I can see what’s behind those doors. ((And let’s not play armchair psychologist and dive too deep into what that means, k thanks.))

But my closets were a bit…full, shall we say.

I am not a hoarder, but when it comes to clothes, I really hate throwing away clothes. Mainly because A) many have sentimental value/emotional memories attached to them. B) I take really good care of them, so they are still nice and look like new. And C) I haven’t changed size since high school so they still fit (minus the season of anorexia – and I got rid of all those clothes AGES ago — *read why that is important for recovery*).

So anyway…I had a lot of clothes.

Couple that with the pandemic, where I had to order everything from toilet paper to shaving cream on Amazon…all of which came in bulk…so I had a closet jam packed with a year’s supply of paper products, and really nice clothes dating back to 2006.

I wish I would have taken a proper “before” picture, but frankly, I was too ashamed. But here’s a little glimpse of what they looked like…you couldn’t see the floor.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity
BEFORE

Well…my mother and I cleaned those bad boys out! I threw away/donated literally 35+ garbage bags full of just crap that was in my closets.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity
AFTER!

My mom and I — aside from a couple nice dinners out, and a brunch with Steven and his beautiful mother — spent the entire time either in my closets, or at The Container Store.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

We ran back and forth to the garbage disposal room on my floor so many times, we literally got a noise complaint from my neighbor!

But this is where I need to just pause and express how lucky I am to have this amazing woman as my mom. A woman who is so selfless as to spend an entire vacation, giving up all the holiday hustle bustle and glamor of Christmas in New York City, to help her daughter clear out her cluttered closets.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

She is truly an unbelievable woman. And I am so grateful for all her help.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity
AFTER!

And you know what, it was actually an empowering experience!

It was so freeing to just throw crap away. Clear it out! Get rid of it!

I realized that I had been holding onto a lot of things because I was living from a scarcity mindset, thinking: Gosh, I’d better save this because who knows if I’ll ever get another one. I am a very frugal person, but the fact of the matter is, scarcity living does not invite abundance into your life.

If we’re clenching our fists around things of the past, either out of fear or another unhealthy attachment, it prevents us from living with hands open to receiving what God has to give us.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

The other thing I learned, is that you’ve got to be in a mood to throw things from the past away. You know what I mean?

For example: I had saved all the Broadway playbills from from shows my mom and I saw together in the ten years that I’ve lived in NYC. Now – today, living in a place of fullness, where I feel fulfilled, full of joy and truly feeling life in abundance, I don’t need to hold onto those tokens of wistful memories. Yes, they were good times, but there are good times happening now, and I don’t need to dwell on the past. I need to clear out so that new goodness can come in!

Finally, in clearing out my things, I came across this handmade, laminated scripture flip book that my mom had made me when I left for inpatient treatment for my anorexia back in 2007. On one side, she wrote a scripture verse, and on the back, she wrote in her own words, the practical application for that verse — in words that a teenager would understand.

And I picked it up, and it was open to this verse: Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

And on the back, my mother wrote, “God wants us to let go of our past and grab on to the plan and promises for your future, for it is a glorious one!”

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

Leave it to my mom to know exactly what to say. I just imagine her writing that, during that time in 2007 when she was terrified for my life, clinging to Jesus that I would make it through alive, praying for the words I needed to hear. She has always been – and continues to be – the most thoughtful woman: loving, steadfast, faithful, kind, patient, joyful — I sat there and read through all of those little verses and notes that she wrote to me, from probably the lowest point in both our lives.

Her strength is abounding.

But what a timely message for me to hear today, in 2021…Trusting in God’s plan and promises of a hopeful future.

I definitely have days where I struggle with wondering what God is doing with my life, because it sure as heck looks a lot different than what I thought it would be when I was 16 and dreaming. I mean, I thought I’d be married with three kids, a dog and a picket fence by now!

But God’s timing is not our timing. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that His timing truly is perfect, because all the while, He is doing interior work on our hearts and spirits, so that we are ready and able to receive the blessings that He is so excited to pour out upon us. But the process of getting to that point is a lot longer and more difficult than what we think.

My mom – in her wisdom – touches on one minuscule detail, that upon first glance, is looked over: “grab on.”

GRAB ON to the plans and promises for your future.

That is not a passive state of being. Grabbing onto something is proactive. It’s productive. It’s helping move things along.

It’s showing a willingness, an openness, a readiness. We let go of the past, and only then, when our hands are free, do we have the ability to grab on to God’s promises for a good and abundant future.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

What a thing to read, not only now as someone who feels like they’re waiting for those plans to come into focus, but also for a girl who is cleaning out her closets, and literally letting go of things of the past in a very physical, tangible manner.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

So anyway. That was our weekend.

Though it was spent cleaning and organizing, it was truly an amazing time. We had some powerful and illuminating conversations until 1:00am every night, and she truly blessed me with — not only her organizational prowess — but also her patience, her love, her charity and her selflessness as my mother and friend. So, thank you, mom. I love you.

What freedom there is in clearing away things from the past that no longer serve you! When we let go of those things we’re holding on to, it allows us to have open hands for the blessings to come! #Catholic #recovery #edrecovery #Faith #god #christmas #cleaning #life #nyc #christianity

And also – maybe this will be just the inspiration you need, to tackle that cleaning job you’ve been putting off, like I had.

To hear my story, click here.

“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5

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40 thoughts on “The Liberation of Less

  1. What a weekend, that beats any sight or stroll thriugh NYC! The love of God shines through your mother – and what a treasure of godly encouragement. Thank you for sharing such personal memories.
    In our small NYC apt our ‘walk in’ closet allows one toe in. Haha, but I try to live simple, if not strive to be a minimalist.
    But I still have my Broadway Playbills….😀

  2. Love this post! I recently went through a period of purging (a nice way of saying getting rid of a ton of crap!). There were old hard drives of stuff, clothes, collectible bottles (not really collectable, but I was the collector haha) and I can’t even say how freeing it is/was to not own a ton of stuff. And you reminded me of a quote I liked from Stevie Wonder. I don’t remember the reason he said it but he said, “Forwards ever, backwards never.” Thanks for sharing your not so typical NYC story.

  3. What a wonderful post, Caralyn! Your mother is a beautiful person inside and out. I am a Minimalist and never keep things that are not needed. Donate, give away or sell is the way to keep clutter at bay. I’m glad that this was so liberating for you! ❤️

  4. What a wonderful and inspirational post. Thank you. I love how God works through your mum to bring out the best in you and He clearly works through you in your writing to impact us, your readers.
    Thank you for the reminder to “open my hands”. It’s the perfect time of year to let go of what was, embrace and appreciate what is in the here and now and the future possibilities. 💐

  5. Wow, C! That was definitely a top ten! So many things to mention that God can use. Awesome!

    And yes, it does inspire me to complete some things I’ve been working on myself, including getting rid of the past clutter and learning to live in God’s now. Problem is, with my stuff, it will probably take more than the entire Bengal defensive line to tackle it. 🤣🤣🤣

    I’m sure every second with you was worth more to your Mom than any show or window in NY. You are indeed blessed. Have a wonderful weekend! 🤗🙏

    1. Me and my cluttered closets feel so attacked! You are seriously right though. 😊When I cleaned out my bedroom walk-in it felt like I was releasing some of the past to God and moving forward with life! Now it’s full of Christmas presents again lol. But I have no basement or attic so what’s a girl to do?

  6. Great post! I love the laminated cards, as what a great teaching tool! My Mom wrote Bible verses on index cards for me during my psychotic break in my twenties. I held on to the cards, like how I hope you do, too! Thankfully we have each turned a corner, and sometimes cards are what it takes to get through tough times. Please keep well!

  7. (1) This is awesome… good for you!
    (2) That’s interesting what you said about holding on to memories. Maybe I do hold on to too many things from the past. But I also write a nostalgic fiction blog, so it comes in handy for all that to have all those things from the past around.
    (3) For example, one of those things I held on to was a handwritten note from a friend, whom I lost touch with around 2008ish, of that same Bible verse you shared here. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love those laminated scripture verses your Mum did for you with practical applications you understood. So inspirational. I have a friend who is in a very bad place and that is such an amazing thing which I could do for her. Thank you 🙏

  9. My dear friend Caralyn,

    it’s really good to clean yourself out every now and then. We are sometimes like donkeys carrying heavy baggage through life. But when we are lighter, it is also easier 🙂

    The outside is also a reflection of the inside. We also have so many “rooms and chambers” inside us, which are also filled with useful and less useful things – we also have to tidy up there from time to time when life draws our attention to it.

    Perhaps the saying “less is more” applies.

    Every now and then I clean out my wardrobe and give the things to the Red Cross or directly to people in need, then I also have a good feeling: to have a better overview again and to have done something good for others.

    Your mother is really great when she supported you in this work so helpfully. It is not only the work you both did together, it is time you both spent together in harmony.

    Love and hugs to you and best wishes to your mother 🙂

    Didi

  10. My eldest son is 19 and my daughter is 13. Sometimes I just feel so defeated in working towards showing them the love, mercy, and beautiful compassion Our Lord has for them. I pray that I can be such a window to Christ for them as your mother has been for you. God bless and may His peace reign in your hearts forever.

  11. Caralyn, for all that I love about you and Steven, sometimes you can be a pain in my neck! 😒
    Okay, it HAS taken me more than two months to clear out and paint my 30 year old unpainted garage, but I AM almost done!
    Now, you’re making me feel guilty about the unkempt taxis bushes in front of the house and my basement. The old bushes need to go and a friend said a coupe weeks ago, ‘C.A., you’ve been telling me for ten years that you’re going to clean out the basement.’
    Would you believe Anita and I have boxes that we have never opened since we moved here back in 1991!? 😱 In January, I promise, I’ll get started! (Just not sure WHICH January 😎).
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

  12. I have been blessed by your story of your mother visiting you and cleaning your closet. That’s what Christ wants to do in our lives sometimes. Like that verse Jer 29:11 he has plans for our life beyond our wildest dreams. I wish you a great Christmas to you and your family as well as Steven. You are blessed. Keep being thankful!

  13. Beautiful post precious, Carolyn! You and your Momma shine with the light of Jesus! It took me several moves and downsizes to move to my RV for four years. When I bought my little home last year I actually became overwhelmed with too much space! Less is more liberating. I know what’s it’s like to have….and to have not. And through it all Jesus has always supplied my needs! But I do grab and move forward as HE calls. Your closets look wonderful! Your place is perfect. Much love and hugs! ❤️❣️🤗

  14. Thanks for these observations!
    I’ve been doing a lot of unplanned decluttering this last week and it’s been exhausting but good. And then today took an unexpectedly hard turn, and I’m struggling with stuff again. But your words here are the encouragement I needed.

  15. Caralyn, your mother shares her unconditional love, and this is such a special gift to relish. Now for my closets, there isn’t enough space in this comment box.

  16. “If we’re clenching our fists around things of the past, either out of fear or another unhealthy attachment, it prevents us from living with hands open to receiving what God has to give us.” Powerful statement!
    One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 43:18-19:

    “Do not call to mind the former things,
    Or ponder things of the past.
    Behold, I will do something new,
    Now it will spring forth;
    Will you not be aware of it?
    I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
    Rivers in the desert.”

      1. oh wow, wouldn’t that be an awesome ministry! very useful too! Hugs and love xox

    1. haha aw, thanks Eden! Yeah, she is really the cat’s meow! hahah 😉 but for real she’s an amazing woman. Hugs and love xox

  17. HAAAA! Such a timely blog from you…only I’ll be in reverse: my nearly-30-year-old daughter is coming here for Christmas, and I’m asking her to help ME clean out MY closet. I have clothes from college…from the ’80s…’90s…and, well, you get it. Time to get rid of them…I don’t ever want to MOVE them again. If I could send you photos, I’d send you some “farewell fashion show” shots! You have a GREAT mom…which, of course, you already know. Merry (cleaner) Christmas!

    1. thank you so much! oh that’s too funny! you’re right – it’s gonna feel great to get rid of them! sounds like you’ve got a fun Christmas ahead of you! happy cleaning! 😉 Hugs and love xox

  18. “the fact of the matter is, scarcity living does not invite abundance into your life.”
    Such wisdom in those words! Thank you for sharing and how full less can leave our lives!
    (and it is always a blessing to hear of your love and appreciation for your mum)
    Carole

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