Containers: Creating the Life You Want to Live
Amanda Kirk, MS
Confession. I am a complete sucker for totes and bins and storage-y things of all types. When I was first introduced to Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which she encourages her readers to find small bins and baskets for loose items that would otherwise just collect haphazardly in drawers and on countertops, I thought to myself, “Way ahead of you, Sister!” I have long held a strange affection for finding just the right size container to put odds and ends in to.
Over time, I’ve discovered that some containers are better than others, depending on what they are used for. Metaphorically speaking, this tends to be the case as well. I would submit that there are at least 3 different types of “containers” in our lives that, when tended to appropriately, can radically change and improve how we live.
Let’s just go ahead and say this right from the beginning – this is not a 3-step guide intended to change or make everything right in your life. Rather, this is a conversation starter, a thought-provoker, perhaps a starting line to begin your journey towards healthier versions of yourself and your environment.
The Garbage: Take It Out
Is it any wonder that the job of taking out the garbage is such a despised household chore? I mean, seriously, who wants that job?! When something becomes identified as trash, don’t we all just want it to go away forever, right then? Do we really want to throw it away twice, first in the trash can inside the house, then again, outside in whatever trash receptacle is deemed acceptable for our neighborhood? There is a long list of things most of us would rather be doing.
How much more so when the “trash” carries an emotional value? Now, the decision to throw it out the first time might require confronting an emotion like pain, grief, fear, hurt, confusion, longing. That seems plenty hard enough. But to get it out – then keep it out – of our lives? It better be worth it.
For our purposes, “taking out the garbage” means to evaluate any areas of our lives that are currently creating distraction, excessiveness, pain, or other unnecessary difficulties.
Some examples include:
- Evaluating habits – Do you mindlessly scroll through your Facebook feed? Do you stay up too late or eat too much junk food? Ask yourself: Does the way I spend my time reflect my goals, dreams, and desires? (More on that later.) If not, making even subtle changes may reveal how ingrained these habits have become and surprise you with the impact the changes can make, if you stick with them!
- Releasing vices – Are you addicted to a substance? Toxic relationship? Electronic screen? Admit it and seek help and support to earn your freedom.
- Getting rid of stuff – Maybe you are physically surrounded by so much physical stuff you can never seem to get on top of it and move on to other things that are important to you. There are plenty of organizational tools, resources, and books out there that will walk you through discarding and organizing your spaces in a way that is workable for you. Pick a system and see it through!
The Baggage: Deal With It
Not long ago, I heard one of my favorite speakers describe watching a performer who could fold her entire body into a suitcase. “I’ve been there before,” she said wryly. Haven’t we all?
Sometimes, rather than dealing with the baggage from our past, then leaving it there (in the past, where it belongs), we just fold up inside of it and stay stuck in old wounds, thought patterns, belief systems, and tendencies, as though we were in a worn-out, old suitcase with a faulty zipper.
How do we deal with this baggage? Consider:
- Fixing the zipper – If you find yourself stuck in your baggage, even recognizing it is a heroic and beautiful step towards recovery.
Sometimes “fixing the zipper” means replacing faulty messages from the past with truth from a higher source. Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” If your mind is consumed with lies, deceit, vulgarity, hate, and the like, consider retraining your brain to think in a way that promotes healing, rather than wallowing in poor patterns of thinking.
You will certainly need to have the “want to” to work through these things, but it will be of utmost importance to also have a connection to a safe, healthy community to provide support and accountability. To start with, your community can be as small as one other person, such as a counselor, pastor, or wise friend. Then, over time, you can begin to build it into a strong, complementary force in your life.
- Evaluating the contents – The extent to which this needs to be done will often depend on the individual person and circumstances. We can get bogged down all over again if we spend too much (or too little) time digging around in our baggage. But there can be tremendous healing when what can be redeemed, is. Perhaps a toxic relationship from the past was so full of pain and hurt, it seems nothing good could come from it. Maybe not. But lessons learned, insight gained, new strengths and resolve discovered – those are to be celebrated now just as the toxicity was to be rejected then.
- Dumping the baggage – And ultimately, the point of all this is to chart a new path forward. One that requires less luggage, because you are carrying less around with you. It is a path to wholeness, healing, and a healthy relationship with oneself and others.
The Baskets: Fill Them
Finally, we look ahead to our future. You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, meaning, diversify, make provisions in multiple areas in case one falls through or bolster the other areas. As you develop a life vision – a plan for where you want to be, personally, relationally, professionally, spiritually, and so on – you begin filling your baskets.
- Personally, you want to be happy, minimize the anxiety and stress, and be healthy. So, you start filling your personal basket with enjoyable hobbies, addressing current garbage and past baggage issues as needed, adding exercise to your weekly schedule and eating more fruits and vegetables.
- Relationally, you want your marriage to thrive and your kids to respect, maybe even like you. So you start finding ways to love your spouse well. Get intentional. Go on dates. Do the same with your kids, even taking them out on parent/child “dates” to spend quality time together.
- Professionally, you want to earn “Employee of the Month”, maybe apply for a promotion, or even change careers. So you find ways to improve your job performance, go the extra mile, get additional training or take a night class.
- Spiritually, you want to be closer to God. So you begin waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual. Pray and ask God to speak to you through Scripture, read from the Bible, perhaps begin memorizing a verse that stands out to you from your reading.
These are just ideas, of course; the point is to act on your future intentionally and proactively, rather than living in a state of reactivity to whatever comes your way.
In all the “container” areas we’ve discussed here, take heart. These things are not usually easy to address, particularly alone. Find your community. A trained therapist and others can help you navigate these processes. Together, we can empty, sort, and fill our containers in ways that become life-giving, freeing, and fulfilling.