Sometimes you just need to let go.
The other day Charlie and I decided it was time to tackle the closet. Not only was the hanging rod dipping dangerously in the middle, but the burgeoning pile of clothes (mostly mine) demanded that we do something. Stat.
It’s not easy to throw things away. After all, there’s an attachment to a favorite piece of clothing. You feel a little disloyal, even. “Hey, I remember when I wore that shirt and what a great time I had. I think I should keep it.”
Purging time is also when the frugality gene wakes up. “OK, I haven’t worn it for years, but it’s still in style and it’s in great shape and it wasn’t on sale when I bought it. I should keep it just to get my money’s worth.”
And there’s the bargaining chip. “I love this outfit. If I work really hard maybe I can get back into it. I’ll keep it a little longer.”
But this time, we were serious. Hadn’t been worn for a year? Out. Style completely outdated? Gone. No longer fits? Goodwill (unfortunately, this pile was getting pretty big). By the time we finished, our closet was lean and mean. We looked around and, for a change, we could actually see the floor of the closet.
Cue the “Aha!” music and let the sun bust through the clouds! There’s something freeing about purging. When it was over, I felt lighter and unencumbered. It was as though I could breathe without wheezing, and I felt cleansed of something that had been weighing on me. As I sat down to revel in the sight of a clean closet housing only the things that serve me well in this very moment, I decided it made a pretty good metaphor for life.
I don’t think we realize how much “stuff” we carry around with us. Every single day, it weighs us down. Oh, I’m not talking about the physical items in our closets – the shirts and pants and dresses – that buckle the rods or break the shelves. I’m talking about mental stuff – thoughts, challenges, fears, grudges, hurts, guilt, pain, sadness, anger, ruts, injustices. These are the things that buckle our will or break our spirits.
They’re heavy. They distort our lives in the same way old, unused, outgrown clothing distorts our closets. They keep us from being our best selves, just like a stuffed closet keeps us from finding the right clothes to wear. Having and carrying all that stuff takes its toll. Pretty soon we’re not so sure which direction to go because we’ve veered off course. (How can we avoid that when we’re all hunched over from the “stuff” we’re hauling around?) One day we realize we’re no longer skipping along like child but trudging as if each step is mired in mud. And instead of enjoying the scenery, we’re constantly checking to make sure all that stuff is intact and safely tucked into our arms.
My sister retired a few months ago. For a year or two before that, she systematically purged her home of “things” she didn’t need. In addition to making her house easier to keep clean, it also created an airiness about her home that translated over to her spirit. (I don’t know. Some of that may be attributed to her no longer having to get up and go to work five days a week.) The point is, she’s cleaned her mental and physical closets, and the end result is a woman who is obviously happier, who certainly isn’t mired in the mud but who, dare I say it, almost skips along.
So that brings me back to my closet. I realize now that all those clothes that no longer fit just made me feel bad about myself. And all those things I spent good money on (but hardly ever used or wore) just made me think about stupid choices I had made. They were rather like malevolent gremlins perched on my shoulder shaking their fingers and saying, “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”
Now that my closet is neat and filled with only what works for me, I see how I’ve purged myself of those stupid choices and negative reminders, too. My gremlins can’t gloat. And it feels pretty good.
I think there’s a nugget of truth to be found in the cleaning of closets: Whether you’re purging physical stuff or mental stuff, what happens can be almost magical. Let me ask you this: Is it time to let go?