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Week 1 Reflection
I have lived a whole week out of my pared down closet and it has brought some clarity. Getting dressed for me on mornings I’m not in the office has never been troubling. Generally I grab whatever is most comfortable and get ready for chores, writing, or heading to the barn. Office days used to be a different story. But I found the process of opening the closet refreshingly simple this week. All my options were right there in front of me. I put together outfits that I felt great in, I even got compliments. I put together some brand new combinations, without shopping! And those couple loved pieces that had been lost in the over stuffed closet? I wore them! But more than that, my inner space felt more roomy.
Looking at that closet of just what I actually wear I find myself thinking about how little I need to have in my life. And I find myself thinking how freeing it is to get rid of the excess choices, the literal baggage. There are lots of reasons for that, but I want to talk about baggage. Every few years I’ve done a cleanup like the one I did as part of this Easter challenge. But in the past I’d grab certain pieces that I had not worn in years and stick them back in the closet, a little guilty, but also unable to let go. They were literal baggage following me around.
They didn’t fit me, I didn’t like them, but I loved them. Maybe you have stuff like this too in your closet, or under your bed, or in a bookcase. Hell, maybe most of your house falls into this category. My closet has been a haunting ground for years. You see I’m not creeped out by owning the clothes of a loved one who has died, to me that’s actually cozy and comforting. What’s closer to Grandpa than cuddling up in the evening in his worn old shirt, or wearing your Mom’s old sweater? I had an old dress shirt of my Grandfather’s (he died before I was born), a fuzzy warm sweater of my Mom’s (who is still very much alive and rolling her eyes that I still owned that ratty thing), and two of my Grandmother’s very high quality Pendleton blazers.
I had not worn a single one of those items of clothing in 10 years. And yet I had moved with them 5 times in those 10 years. They took up space in my closet, and in a way they took up space in my heart. Like ghosts hiding out in my closet, and jumping out when I least expected it, they weren’t doing me any good they were just adding to my (literal) load.
Making Room Getting Clarity
We are a material culture. Even before Madonna made “Material Girl” famous, stuff has been important. It just keeps getting more important. And yet, it’s just stuff. A suit coat that does not fit me (and never will, my shoulders will never be that broad, my arms will never be that long) isn’t doing me any good. It isn’t doing the suit coat any good either. If everything in the world has a purpose, the purpose of a jacket is to be worn.
So why own a jacket you never wear? As I’ve reflected I realized I felt that if I gave that jacket away I was letting go a last connection to a person I love. Or in the case of my Grandfather, never met but love wistfully. Or in the case of my Mom, giving up a tangible connection to someone who now lives far away. (She would say she lives in exactly the same place, I just keep moving! She is right, as always.)
But turning the rag that was Mom’s sweater into a literal rag does not in fact make me any further away from her. And finally donating my Grandmother’s jackets to women who really need quality clothing (and can’t afford it) isn’t forgetting my Grandmother either. Actually, my Grandmother would be pleased with that move, given her life of generous giving. Funny isn’t it?
There are of course other reasons things hang about our lives. There are the pants I will never fit in again (I’m 40, not 20), and the youthful body that they remind me of. The random cat toys in the ottoman that my beloved old cat adored and the new one doesn’t care for. I still have notes and papers from my favorite classes. I just can’t bring myself to get rid of books I read and adored as a child but honestly won’t really read again. And the list goes on, there is more work to do.
If you have a notebook, or here in the comments, think about what it is that you had the most trouble letting go of during your clean-out (if you haven’t done that step yet, you can find it here). What was hard to give up? (This could be the things I gave you the option to set aside out of sight for a time, or things you did give or throw away but found difficult.)
Now, for those things you struggled with, why do you think that is? Was it about their value, an emotional connection, or a memory? Take some time to really explore, if necessary just start writing and don’t stop until you’ve had your “ahah!” This is “stream of consciousness” and it can trick our brains into unearthing things we haven’t been consciously aware of. The key is to not stop. Put your pen down and don’t pick it up (or start typing and don’t stop) even if all you can write is “I have no idea why I can’t give that thing up.” Ramble, that’s OK! But keep pouring out of yourself thoughts and feelings.
It is almost certain that a thought will catch on your pen, and the whole story of what’s behind that stuff will come spilling out.
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here and the journey itself is what matters.