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  • Felice Cohen

Cast This

This past weekend was Yom Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday, whose spiritual meaning is about reflection and asking forgiveness of sins. For me it’s also about looking to new beginnings, shedding past demons and, quite simply, shedding stuff.


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One tradition done during this holiday is tashlikh which means “casting off.” And while it’s custom to cast off the previous year’s sins using a stone as a symbolic gesture and tossing it into a large natural body of water (which I did with my family from the shore of a Cape Cod beach), as an organizer who’s always on the lookout for incentives to downsize, I like to think of tashlikh as casting away something else: excess.

Fall is prime time for apple picking, leaf peeping and yard sales. Weekends can find many a driveway covered with unwanted wares pulled from dank basements, musty attics, and hidden in the back of closets; items long forgotten and most importantly, unneeded or never used. These items – books, sweaters, chairs, weed wackers, turntables, and Jello molds – all take up valuable real estate, not just physically, but mentally. Clutter around us can seep into our minds and add, among the other unneeded items, unneeded stress. A visually calming atmosphere is sure to make you happier and might possibly leave you with less to cast off (and regret) next year.

While I don’t need a holiday or a certain time of year to rummage through my own inventory (it’s an ongoing task), this is one I enjoy. Growth comes from letting go, whether it’s letting go of stuff or letting go of the edge of the pool and trying to swim for the first time. There’s freedom in it. Friends and family are always emailing when they’ve cleaned out a closet, their garage, or the trunk of their cars. They know I’ll understand the accomplishment and appreciate their effort. Life is about collecting experiences, and sure, along the way, we collect T-shirts and shot glasses and gigantic copper plates from Mexico to commemorate those experiences, but those moments are not contingent upon things, they’re dependent on memories. We don’t need trinkets to bring them back.

If there are items or thoughts or feelings you want to unload, while Yom Kippur and New Year’s Eve are great motivators, you really don’t need a holiday to do it. Anytime of the year is the right time to cast off!

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