I’ve always loved the idea of minimalism…capsule wardrobes, clutter free counter space in the kitchen, and only having what you really need. And since I’ve moved every couple of years, I have been able to carry out periodic purges, which helped me feel like I was always moving towards the ideal. But, not really…because when I looked around a few months later, all I could see was…stuff. It had all come back!
I recently read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. The premise, very briefly, is that as you systematically go through your household items, you ask the question, “does this spark joy?” If it doesn’t bring you joy, you get rid of it. Ultimately, once you are done with the process, you will be surrounded only by things that bring you joy. Which sounded divine and daunting all at the same time.
I looked skeptically at my closet. Using this checklist, I started the process of going through just my shirts…gathering them from the closet, the dresser and the laundry, I heaped them in a pile.
I handled each item, trying to sense the spark of joy. Out of 31 shirts, I kept 7.
Motivated, I moved to bottoms…out of 15 pairs of pants, I kept 2.
Out of 13 dresses, kept 1.
Out of 7 skirts, kept 1.
Out of 4 shorts, kept 0.
Out of 19 outerwear, kept 4.
Out of 27 scarves, kept 5.
Out of 26 pairs of shoes, kept 9.
I stopped counting after a while, because the pile of clothes just continued to grow.
It wasn’t necessarily the volume of clothes that shocked me, but rather, what the volume represented. A massive pile of expectations, obligations, and memories.
I had expectations for clothes that didn’t fit…I had held on to them, anticipating that I would lose the weight, and then they would be back in the rotation again! But that never happened, and I just felt shame when I looked at them.
I had obligations to clothes that were still serviceable, but that I didn’t like wearing. I felt guilty parting with them because they still “worked.”
I had entire section of clothes that were from a care-free summer I wasn’t willing to let go of. It has been sweet season of life that, in brutal honesty, I had been wishing would come back. But it was time to release those memories
I had no idea how incredibly emotional the process would be. But as the hours wore on, the process got easier and faster. In the end, I had 5 Ikea bags of expectations, obligations and memories…and it was so liberating to drop it off at Goodwilll!
There isn’t much left in my closet…and actually, I was worried that there wouldn’t be anything left at all. But I have exactly what I need.
AND now that all the excess is gone, I can see clearly what I need to invest in…a new fleece that fits, new pajamas, yoga pants that aren’t 5 years old etc. But that will happen in time…and when I go to buy new things, I will ask myself, “does this spark joy?”