As the days darken, many of us are looking forward to carving jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, and horror movies, though we may not be so enthusiastic about the coming winter. Even so, we can energize our lives and our spaces by decluttering on both an emotional and physical level. We tend to think of spring as the best time to clear out drawers and closets, but aligning our work with the dying season can help us release our unneeded, unwanted stuff.

Just as the leaves fall around us, decluttering means letting go – releasing the past, outmoded ways of thinking, or deep pain and suffering. And don’t we need that right now? The daily news cycle, pervasive violence, and our political culture have dredged up a lot of old wounds, especially for women. Much needs to be done to heal, personally and throughout our society. That requires all of us to pull together and demand change – always a slow, difficult process. But tending to the hurt in our own hearts is within our control and can begin today.

Our Earth Mother supports us in this process. This is her time of release, the season of night. The Crone now emerges in the Wheel of the Year. Give Gaia your anger and she will transform it, just as she takes the fading flowers of summer and transforms them into the seeds of new growth next spring. What better time to allow the degraded, fearful parts of ourselves to die away, too?

We need not be afraid of the darkness that increasingly envelops us, as long as we look it square in the eye and have faith in our own power to regenerate, like the Earth herself. A simple ritual can help. Write out the concerns or old patterns you hope to release in the coming months and then burn the paper, sending your intention into the Universe.

Clearing the spaces in which we hold fear, pain, and humiliation can happen on all levels. For instance, I recently found a 1970s-style decorative wooden plaque that I had hanging in my bedroom as a child. Initially, I thought that it would be sweet to hang it in my daughter’s room. But first I sat with it a moment and tuned into its energy- always a good idea when you come across the personal tokens you’ve been carrying around for years! I was surprised to discover a subtle discomfort surrounding the plaque. I recalled the fear that I often felt as a child, awake for hours some nights, perceiving real and imagined spirits in our home. And to this day, I’m haunted by a nightmare from those years, which was set in my childhood bedroom. My daughter does not need that energy hanging on her wall. I did not realize that fear was still there, but when I allowed it in, I was able to confront it and release it.

We have a global tradition of ferocious Goddesses who can show us how to release this intense, sometimes unexpected, pain. Enter the space of old, calcified fear and then call in Pele’s fire to burn it away. Or by channeling the rage of Kali, you can banish this lingering hurt within you. The destructive energies of these Goddesses are our birthright, although that womanly power is too often denied. Conscious male allies can also embrace the fierce feminine within themselves and feed the conflagration.

Burn the old love letters and let go of that failed relationship. Donate the ill-fitting work clothes that remind you of the obnoxious, sexist boss. If we can start with ourselves, even in the smallest ways, we can clear space for the new, the healthier, the stronger energy to come into our lives. That energy will then reverberate out into our world. We can demonstrate the power and control that we have, even in the face of so many who would wish otherwise. In this dying time of year, let’s allow our past, our pain, our humiliation, to die along with the leaves.

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