Growing up I spent my summers in upstate New York at my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Champlain. One of the most vivid memories I have of those summer days was the large two-story shed/barn/boathouse/office/garage that my grandfather built. This building was the repository for everything great about my young summer years. The first floor was your basic workshop - rows of tools hung on the walls, lengths of ropes and chains hung in a back corner, cans of old paint stacked neatly under a well-lit workbench. Then you had all the fun stuff organized on shelves and hooks along the other wall: fishing poles, oars, BB guns, life jackets, tackle boxes, etc. This was the place you would start and end your days at my grandparents’ cottage. But with all the great stuff neatly organized and categorized on the first floor it was the "attic" that held the truly amazing stuff. It was our families historical treasure trove with boxes of old family photos, cracked leather suitcases full of old clothes, a coat rack with an odd assortment of hats from an old fedora to a sombrero with 'Mexico' stitched in gold on the front. An umbrella stand filled with canes that my grandfather had collected on his travels. Old fans, typewriters, and clocks that were taken out to the workshop to be fixed and ended up in 'repair limbo' in the attic for years. And tucked way back in the attic was my favorite place - a make-shift nest made from haphazardly stacked boxes and some old steamer trunks one of which contained a collection of old toys that once belonged to my uncles. I would sit in that corner for hours with sweat pouring down my face in that hot attic while my grandfather tinkered with a boat motor or the ever troublesome bird feeder that was continually ransacked by squirrels down at his workbench. When finished, he would call up the ladder and tell me to come down and I would maneuver my way through the labyrinth of old suitcases and boxes, hopping over some, crawling under others. See, that's what made my spot so great, I was the only one who knew the path through the maze to get into that back corner play area.
Years later, one of my last summers at the lake, my grandfather woke me up and told me that on the day's agenda was cleaning out and organizing the attic in the boathouse. Hours later the lawn was strewn with the contents of the attic, my grandmother milled around opening boxes, taking random things out to look at, throwing some things into a large trash bag she kept close at hand, reorganizing some things, repacking others and every now and then she would call me over and show me an old picture, or memento and then carefully put it back into the box. By dinner the whole attic had been emptied, swept, and the contents had been reorganized, neatly labeled, and stacked in the attic. No more maze, no more nest, no more hot summer days tucked in that timeless corner. I remember standing in the newly organized attic looking at all the boxes feeling a sense of loss, but also a feeling of accomplishment at completing such a monumental task. I was exhausted, sad, and proud all at the same time.
While this is hardly a profound childhood story, it does illustrate the idea we at The Authenticity Project would like to focus on this month as we head into spring. The inevitable "spring cleaning" theme will be popping up everywhere from Good Housekeeping to the Today Show - helpful tips will be shared on how best to manage you time, life, and stuff to clear away the clutter and make those windows sparkle. But what if we could focus not only on cleaning up our physical living spaces, but also our hearts, souls and minds? An internal "spring cleaning" if you will. A chance to take all of the emotional clutter from the attic and spread it out on the front lawn to meander through, reminisce, and ultimately move on with a better understanding of what's boxed up that needs to be reorganized or thrown away entirely. This is no easy task - it's going to take commitment and most of all courage and we hope that some of the articles we will be posting here on the website, as well as some of the thoughts we'll be posting on our Facebook page, will help to encourage and help you through your own spring cleaning process.
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”
Erik Ewing is the Program Director for The Authenticity Project, you can contact Erik at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.