The New Year is usually a good time to jump in on all of those projects we procrastinate about, like cleaning out closets and clearing piles of crap we keep saying we are going to work on. Couldn’t we all use a little tidying up in our lives? I know I have way too much stuff and find myself being weighed down by the VOLUME of things that I have accumulated over the years. As I grow older and steam toward retirement, I find myself wanting to simplify, downsize, and relieve the heavy burden of material things. Carrying them around with me are like walking through thick, deep mud and I can’t make forward progress without shaking it all off and freeing myself from the pack I carry (literally and metaphorically.)
My situation is further complicated as I struggle with having to sort through the remnants of a 25-year marriage that ended with my husband’s sudden passing. It has been a rough road to sort through his belongings and I think when you have to let go of the things left behind by someone you love, it is even harder to face - it’s as if you are saying good-bye over and over and over again with every treasured article you let go of.
Every item represents a warm memory or intimate ritual. His favorite flannel shirt that felt so good when he hugged me. His toothbrush and his razor. His pillow and tattered bathrobe. His 25-year old leather jacket that didn’t fit any longer but he held on to because he knew I loved it on him. His phone that was constantly glued to his ear. His hairbrush. His cologne and shampoo. Finger-nail clippers and every scrap of paper that had his handwriting on it. His boots and his bible that when cracked open, let slip to the ground a photo of me from when we met. A lifetime. A life. An end. A beginning.
Two years ago, a well-meaning friend pushed me into cleaning out some things and although the gesture was well intended, the ramifications were disastrous. I would never recommend a “rip the bandaid off” approach to this process - it did more harm than good and I blame myself for not saying no. At a vulnerable time, I gave in to a gut-wrenching day of a Rambo-style assault on a troubling room in my house. Eliminating things before I had the chance to hold, them, love them and let them go in my own way caused great distress and unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough at the time to say, “I’m not ready.” What’s done is done, but I no longer let anyone in to help me do something so deeply personal.
Fortunately, I found something that worked for me. By now maybe you have read, seen or heard about the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. You may also have seen the new Netflix Show featuring the KonMarie method for tidying up our lives.
Still don’t know what in the world I’m talking about? Do yourself a favor and look it up! I read the book 3 years ago and while I loved it, I never put the method into practice. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the ritual associated with the process. It wasn’t until I watched the first episode of her show that I had the “ah-ha” moment and it all clicked for me. Marie Kondo, precious and doll-like, is the most gentle, respectful and lovable host and I find myself mesmerized by her. I want to be her best friend :)
Two episodes in and I was already emptying my closets and working through the steps! While I have complete respect for Marie Kondo and her method, I will say I had to tweak her practice just a tad to fit in with my beliefs. What I absolutely love the most and my biggest take-away is that she has taught me to honor my home and my things and to recognize that everything is a part of MY history and MY story. As she guides you through the steps for eliminating or keeping things, she first encourages you to take EVERYTHING out of a closet so you can see the AMOUNT of things you have. This was mind-blowing for me as I piled my bed high with my clothes. Who needs this much stuff??? The next step is to pick up each item and hold it. Does it “spark joy?” Yes? Then lovingly fold it and keep it. If you don’t feel absolute joy, then it is a NO - thank the item and place it in a pile to give away. This is where she and I differ just a bit. I don’t thank the inanimate object, but I do thank God for the item, associated memory, and ability to have things in my life. This act of gratitude literally altered my inability to let go of things I was holding on to. It made sense to me, finally, that they have served their purpose in my life and now it is time for that object to benefit someone else. There was no pressure and no judgment. I was able to truly hold every item and feel if it was a burden to me or it brought happiness to my existence.
Once I got started, I bombed through my closet, then the next and next and next until truckloads of things were going out of my house and on to people who really needed them. And as the space opened up for me, I was able to look at my home and my life in a new way. There is now room for me to grow as I have cleared out my drawers and my life and now have the freedom to move forward without the past dragging me back. The dust is settling and I can breathe a little easier.
And the best part is that I don’t miss or yearn for a single thing that I have let go of! Here’s to 2019 and a season of Tidy and Free! Good luck on your own journey into the New Year!
Note: After Publication, I realized that some might be concerned about “the friend” mentioned above, and perhaps feel like I had some harmful person in my life who pushed me against my will. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The clean up session was completely well-intended and my friend was only trying to help. That person knew about this blog post and approved the content as it related to them. I’m lucky to have some very good people in my life!