Making space for the new
It’s Boxing Day! Woo-hoo!
What? What do you mean you don’t know what Boxing Day is? Ha, ha! Who doesn’t know what Boxing Day is? Well, actually, if you live in the United States, you’re not alone. Boxing Day is not really a holiday here. Many people don’t even know that there is a name for the day after Christmas. Guess what, my fellow Americans? There’s more to the 26th of December than general let-down and lots of cleaning. You don’t have to Google what it is, though, because I did all that for you.
I can’t remember when my family started to celebrate Boxing Day, but for me it’s one of those deals where you learn something incorrectly and keep on thinking what you learned is right for years. (I’m thinking I might be into the decades on this one.)
While researching for this post, I learned (re-learned?) that the origin of Boxing Day is somewhat muddied, but historically it is the day that churches open their alms boxes and distribute those alms* to the poor. It is also (and this part I originally got all mixed up) the day when people of wealth would give their servants a gift box to take home to their families.
When I originally looked into what this whole Boxing Day thing was all about, I somehow got the idea that the boxes given to the servants were filled with leftovers from the Christmas feast, “fine” clothing that was still nice but too worn to be used by the wealthy, etc. Even if this idea was based on flimsy (and dimly remembered) evidence, I’m really quite glad this is the way I learned it.
For all these years, our celebration of Boxing Day has been finding items in our home which still have plenty of life and still yearn to be used and loved, but which no longer belong with us. Perhaps we have found something that serves our purpose better, or perhaps our tastes have changed.
Whatever the reason, this is a good time for these items to pass from our home and into that of someone who will appreciate it more. When our children were little, it was an excellent way to help them part with toys they rarely, if ever, played with (and, not incidentally, make room for their new Christmas gifts). It it somehow easier to part with belongings such as these, knowing they will go to someone who appreciates them more.
This concept is equally valid for things we own as adults. In my experience, we often form attachments to our belongings even if we interact with them infrequently. It can be harder to part with our belongings than we might think initially. In theory we know there are things in our lives and homes that we don’t need, but as we go through them we can be bombarded with thoughts such as:
-Yes, I know that sweater doesn’t fit anymore, but it was a gift from my high school best friend.
-No, I don’t ever sift flour, but that sifter belonged to my grandmother.
-This watch hasn’t had a working battery in it for seven years, I get my time from my Fitbit, and yellow gold makes me look sickly when I wear it, but this watch was expensive, and besides, they might come back into vogue.
You get the picture. Many people have read, or are at least familiar with, Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her idea that an item should “spark joy” within you or it’s time for it to go. This can be a foreign concept to us in a society where acquisition is a measure of status and success. When you examine it more closely, though, it is less strange than it seems initially.
If you are keeping that flour sifter (for example) only out of a vague sense that you have an obligation to because it was handed down to you, it is taking something from you that you no longer have free for something that might better serve you in your life. If, however, you look at it and you are filled with warm memories of making your first batch of cookies with special family members, or of feelings of home and your place in the world, it is giving something to you. That’s the spark of joy, right there. If any given thing doesn’t do that for you, and it’s not a necessary part of your daily life, it might be time for it to move on. Be grateful for the purpose it served, and let it go.
I don’t suggest you sell all your belongings and become freegan, unless that’s really what lights you up. It is wise, however to delve into the concept that every item you own demands something from you. It might be emotional energy, it might be regular cleaning, or it might simply be the corner of your closet where it has resided for a decade and a half, untouched.
“Your home is living space, not storage space.”
There is another huge benefit of letting go of the things that don’t make your life better. In the process of this letting go, you are inviting in the future. You have made a space in your life for something new to arrive. Aristotle postulated that nature abhors a vacuum, and who am I to argue? With the new year approaching, this truly is the perfect time to purge the old. New ways of eating, of interacting with people, or even of thinking are easier to pursue when you are not surrounded with the reminders and weight of habits of the past.
If you are looking for a new tradition for yourself or your household, or simply something to do to overcome the post-holiday blahs, consider doing Boxing Day the Sunny way. You will feel lighter, your home will be less crowded, and you will be sharing your blessings with others.
Brightest blessings, Sunny
*In case anyone was wondering, “alm” is not a word. You do not give out an alm. Neither does the church. It simply isn’t grammatically possible. Yes, I looked it up. Englishgrammar.org has it on their list of words that exist only in the singular or plural form. If you, like I, find yourself wondering why the list seems to be alphabetical and suddenly is not, please direct your inquiries there. Also, please fill me in with any answer you receive. Hey, I researched Boxing Day for you. I’m not asking for the moon, here.