Cheryl's Blog

Shredding the Past

I glanced at the armoire in my office last week and thought, I’ve got to clean that thing out. It’s a tall, three-door cabinet that I bought as a gift to myself when I decided to convert my traditional office into a salon more than fifteen years ago. In the armoire, I placed all my work-related items – office supplies, files, computer, etc., so the room would be an elegant space for both myself and my guests.

Over time I stashed more and more stuff in this cabinet to the point where it became nearly impossible to fit anything else in. Although the clutter was out of sight, it felt like a needy child pulling at me for attention each time I walked into the room. But for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to clean it out.

This week I discovered why.

One afternoon I decided to tackle one shelf of the armoire. I picked the one with larger items first because they were easy to sort through and organize. Inspired by my progress, I tackled the second shelf that evening. That’s when things got a little tricky. This shelf had boxes with mementos that were dear to me, things like photos of me and my dad, special notes from readers, and a handwritten quote by my first crush – the kind of items that deserve presence and attention.

As I held each treasure I realized that I’d been avoiding the armoire because I knew it would evoke grief, wistfulness, or the sadness that comes from saying goodbye to what once was and will never be again. So, I took my time savoring each piece before deciding whether to keep the memory in a digital photo album or bless it and let it go.

The next day, feeling less overwhelmed, I arrived at the bottom two shelves that held stacks of notes from workshops I had both taken and taught, and files filled with book ideas, outlines, and potential projects. As I sifted through the paper, I felt a storm of resistance. What if I need these notes from the Enneagram course I took five years ago to teach a future workshop? Shouldn’t I keep my angel investment class summaries? What about all these ideas and outlines? Won’t I need them for a new book?

I stepped away from the armoire, pulled out my journal, and wrote about my reaction. An hour later, I realized several things.

First, I’ve metabolized all I’ve learned over the last three decades and don’t need to rely on paper. I can trust myself to reach inside and find what I need when I need it.

Second, knowledge and experience have given me a wealth of wisdom and I’d prefer to lean on that wisdom moving forward.

And third, the experience of sorting through all the paper showed me that to age consciously I must be courageous enough to say goodbye to the identities that no longer fit. I couldn’t put a new dress over an old one and expect it to feel right. Instead, I needed to clear out my career closet and make space for a new wardrobe that reflects the woman I’ve become and the one I’m growing into.

So I shredded everything.

As the last piece of paper entered the shredder, I smiled knowing that life is a grand adventure – a big question mark that inspires excitement and fear. We can either hold on tight and invest in the illusion of comfort and control or we can let go, leap, and trust ourselves to handle the ride.

I’m choosing door number two.



P.S. – Check out the audiobook/workshop called Self Care for the Wisdom Years available through Audible. You can learn more here.