Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cleanin' out my closet

Not Eminem-style. Literally, I'm cleaning out my closet.

One of the books I got for Christmas was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has sold three million copies, and which my mom thought would appeal to me more on a "life-changing" level than a tidying-up one.

She was right.

Though I'm not following the tidying-up process exactly as the book suggests (doing so would, for me, require a week off of work and hiring a dumpster), I have been sorting the shit out of parts of my apartment that needed it, including all of my closets, and finding comfort in author Marie Kondo's reassurance that it's okay to let things go. Presents from well-meaning friends that I never used. Books that I will never get around to reading. Slogan T-shirts from a decade ago that will be weird to wear again even if midriff-revealing tops do come back in style someday. All of these can go.

A main theme of the book ties back to giving thanks to the items that you're discarding. These possessions once had a place in your life, but now they're done serving their purpose. The aim is liberation - to be freed from the weight of all of these things you've been holding onto.

Like a pirated movie collection on CD-ROM (thank you, Scour):

And downloaded episodes of Buffy and Angel from before TV shows were on DVD (thank you, Microsoft Publisher CD label wizard):

Thank you, pink hair gel from 2005, back when going out meant going all out.

Thank you, black-and-white dress that I bought to go to someone's wedding during my Fat Elvis period.

Thank you, tangle of cords that used to connect the N64 to my television.

Thank you, Pop Culture Trivial Pursuit, Volume 2 that I never played.

Thank you, old T-shirt that I wore for pajamas long past the point of decency.

Thank you, box of VHS tapes with my original copy of Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula.

Thank you, box of Sucrets that I bought three years ago.

Thank you, stack of old calendars.

Thank you, 22" computer monitor.

Thank you, family-size waffle-maker that doesn't work.

Thank you, midriff-revealing T-shirt that few kids today would get:

Thank you, midriff-revealing T-shirt that even fewer kids today would get (NEVER FORGET):

Thank you, life, for giving me all of these items, the means to have acquired them, and the room to house them for as long as I did.


It's been surprisingly emotional, to see what I've held onto, to think about how I came to have these things, and to confront how trivial much of it seems now (I was very distraught when Marissa Cooper died on The O.C.; in hindsight, that was probably not the best use of my emotional energy...or T-shirt money). Though the book's methods sometimes seem ruthless, the main stipulation for keeping something is if you hold it in your hands and it gives you joy.

I think the biggest revelation to come from this tidying project so far is how few of the things themselves give me joy. It's not the things, it's the memories attached to them where the response in me lies. And even those memories don't need to be revisited time and time again.

It's enough to acknowledge that I have a past, it's a colorful one, and who I am in the present is because of it.



  1. I am currently doing the same thing, both actually cleaning house of physical items and cleaning my mental and emotional house. It is shocking how similar it feels at times. And mostly shocking how I managed to acquire a lot of things I don't need and don't even feel strongly about in the last twenty years.

    Only stuff I care about is following me to the new place. Both in the time and space it takes in my life and in my head.

    1. I love that sentiment, of only taking with you what you care about. Though I'm guessing this may not have been a process you would have gone through at this particular time under different circumstances, I'm so glad you're taking this opportunity to cleanse. :) I couldn't agree more about the emotional effects of the physical act of discarding..."shocking" is the perfect word. Here's to a future with a lighter load! :)

  2. Oh, I could probably use that book. It is WAY to hard for me to throw things out. But, like you, I would need a serious amount of time off work to do it completely. Luckily (?) most people in our generation become unemployed at one time or another, right? ;)

    I remember telling M at one point that I'd read a quote from someone wise (perhaps the Dalai Lama?) that you should only own 80 possesions or it is the possesions that own you. M then counted the photos/pictures/magnets on our fridge which accumulated to 42, looked around the appartment and started crying. "Our things own us. I don't want to be owned by thing. We have to throw them out. But I like them. I don't want to throw out my lego".

    And I totally get her point... There's obviously a lot of work ahead of us, even if we don't set the limit at 80.


    1. She's wise. :) It is a tough balance!! I know I've also seen that quote somewhere, and I think you're right that it was the Dalai Lama. It's an enviable concept, but I think it might actually, literally be impossible for me to live up to it, even if I really wanted to (I probably have close to 80 things just in my makeup drawer, and that's after I cleaned it out!)...and I think that says something equally about me and about the world we live in.

      Haha, you have a very good point about people becoming unemployed! :D I've been in my place for nine years now (how is that possible?!), and only once did a clean-out as comprehensive (though not as ruthless) as the one I'm doing now. And it was after I lost my job in 2010. :)

      If nothing else, it's an interesting read; I recommend it! :D