Clearing The Clutter
There is a lot of talk out there about the key to happiness, how it can be ours if only we consume less, and expect less as a general rule.
I think it’s partly true. I have always believed there are many facets and paths to happiness. What works for one may not necessarily be the answer for another.
I’m hopeless when it comes to things. Pretty, tangible things that make life colorful, that make me feel good. My shoe collection has exceeded the 100-pair mark. I have two dozen pairs of jeans and have absolutely no qualms about going out and hunting down pair #25. Don’t even get me started on handbags.
In other words, minimalism, and all its virtue, will never be my strong suit. But when happiness proves elusive, when life feels challenging, when I’m at the end of my rope and out of energy, my mind opens up just a bit more. I think I can do better when it comes to letting go.
There is hope for me. I can look around at a cluttered room and I want to pull my hair out. But I’m biased. Such animosity is often reserved for my husband’s stuff; boy stuff that just looks ugly, boring, even dirty to me. Really, who needs five sleeping bags? Ten fishing poles? Six tents? A half dozen tool sets?
But back to me. It’s about my stuff. My issues, not his. At least not this time.
Could I do it? Could I take a serious, honest look at my bursting-at-the-seams closet and find room for improvement? Would I be able to let go? Would I feel healthier, lighter, even happier?
My chance came when I received a postcard from a local charity, announcing a donation pickup in my neighborhood, the date quickly approaching. Here was my opportunity, to tear through my closet and be honest and realistic about everything piling up, and identify the things that serve no real purpose in my life anymore.
With a conflicted heart I embarked on this arduous project. Before long, piles of clothes, shoes, books, whatever, covered my floor and bed. The stress came roaring in. My head started to pound, looking around at all the space being taken up. I felt confined, suffocated. See, this is exactly why it all needs to go, I told myself.
After six hours I managed to fill five bags of clothes (grocery bag size) and set aside five pairs of shoes for the neighborhood pickup. I was a bit sad, definitely exhausted, and surely disappointed in my progress. All that time, and I spent most of it contemplating my items in question, weighing their worth and my emotional attachment to them. I looked around my messy bedroom.
The emotions were even messier.
I found a pile of five-year-old wedding magazines, purchased when I was in the midst of all that planning. I smiled as I flipped through the pages, remembering the moments I had with my mom, going over images and ideas, deciding on flowers and table linens. I found a soft cotton maxi dress hiding in a dark corner. I wore it on my honeymoon. It hasn’t seen the light of day since. My heart went aflutter as my mind went back to the night I wore it, private memories that would forever remain between him and I. I found a wool blazer I wore in high school; big shoulder pads sewn inside, no longer in fashion, and unlikely they ever will be again.
As ridiculous as it all seemed, each item had a backstory, and compelling ones at that. At least to me. They mattered. Almost always the memories involved love and care, family or passion. I was afraid that in letting go, parting with it all, by donating or throwing it away, I was somehow betraying that love, all of the good things and feelings associated with them.
Some of the letting go was easy. I found a pair of size 2 super skinny jeans. Sure, by giving them up I was admitting defeat, that I would never fit into them again. But age 25 was nearly fifteen years ago; there is such a thing as age appropriateness. Right in the donation bag they went without a second thought.
I looked at the pile of things that left me feeling conflicted. Of the 20 wedding magazines, I managed to toss out all but six. The honeymoon dress? I put it back. The wool blazer? I’m keeping it, for now. Some of these things still have a place in my world. They still hold a certain magic. When I’m ready to let go, I will. If holding on to some stuff is the worst thing I ever do, then I think I’m doing pretty darn good in the grand scheme of life.
I realize the memories, experiences, the joy, all of it stays with me, whether I hold on to these things or not. Parting with them does not make those memories any less vivid, any less significant. By letting go I’m not betraying the memories or love in my life, even if it feels like it. But when it comes to some things, I’m still not ready. Not yet. I will get there someday.
So I did manage to part with some things, even things I felt an immense attachment to. I did feel the twinge of emotion, but it quickly passed. In letting go I did capture that freedom, a satisfaction, in having some semblance of control. With reclaiming just a bit of my space, opportunity will have a chance to settle in.
For more love, and memories.
Maybe even happiness.
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