As this month of purging is nearly over, I thought I would share some thoughts on this first monthly challenge (More details here and here).
Week 1 was fine and week 2 was not much more difficult. It was pretty easy to breeze through my closet and kitchen and find a couple of things that I didn’t need to hang onto any longer and really exciting to see some spaces open up.
But the dreaded week 3 was where it became hard. 126 items in one week. I am going back to places I already combed through to see if there was anything I missed. As I stare down the final week of the MinsGame (175 items!!), I am really struggling to come to terms with what my stuff means to me and how I can have a better relationship with my things.
I turned to the philosophy of closet-master, organizer extraordinaire Marie Kondo, the woman behind the uber trendy KonMari movement (and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). A central theme in her approach is to simply
Keep things that spark joy, get rid of all else.
This is a high standard but it resonates with me far more than the standard “get rid of anything you haven’t worn in a year” rule. Because sometimes you have a poncho that reminds you of a perfect moment in life, or a luxurious velvet smock that when you see hanging in your closet, you are happy to see it. But that also means there are a lot of things that can be given away or thrown out, as very rarely do old course packs and textbooks spark joy.
Kondo goes on to explain her approach as “extreme empathy” for the objects you have in your life. That everything – from your socks to your hats, are worthy recipients of mercy. Socks, for example, “take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet,” she writes. “The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest” (from NYMag).
Taking this message to heart has allowed me to get rid of lots of things, and has helped me make small modifications to my living space that have brought a tremendous amount of pleasure! For example, I organized my books by colour and think it looks so pretty – a tiny change, but rather delightful!
However, it wasn’t until I tried to incorporate this emotive style to purging that I became attuned to the true tenure of my emotional relationship with my things. I had always thought I was a hung onto things because I had strong feelings of attachment and nostalgia associated with them, but I started to realize that there is a lot of guilt entwined with my possessions. That I am not holding onto things because they bring give me the warm-fuzzy remembrances of days gone by, but rather that I don’t get rid of things because of guilt. One level of this is the guilt associated with being wasteful – of throwing away perfectly good items. I was brought up to respect frugality in every way, so the idea of getting rid of something that is usable brings up feelings of guilt.
Even more than that, there was shame linked to the relationships that some of these things came from. This became clear as I thought about getting rid of a particular scarf and a sweater, I would get a wave of negative emotions, that seemed to reflected my guilt for not keeping in close touch with those I love. I have been hanging onto these items to prove to myself that I care even when I don’t always keep in contact the way I should. I worry about the regret I might feel if I got rid of an item, only to have that person was taken away from me and I didn’t have that tangible item to hold onto to “prove” how much they meant.
I think this is closely linked to the fact that I have lived far from my family ever since high school. Further, I have moved often, picking up wonderful friends along the way and tucking bits of my heart in far-flung places. While this has been good for my personal growth in so many ways, I think this guilt follows me around with every move and somehow, I have carried things with me along the way to try to allieviate some of the shame I feel for not being better connected and more involved in their lives.
But these things are heavy, and maybe it is time for me to let go. To let go of the things and to focus some energy on finding ways that I can invest in these relationships, in creating memories and feeling connected, so I can let go of the things and let go of the guilt.
Overall, this month has been challenging in ways I didn’t expect, but also it has been really refreshing to get set free from some of these things I have been dragging around.
Some of the spoils of my labour:
Thanks to my pals Lisa, Kels, and Carrot for undertaking this challenge with me.
In the end, I get by with a little mocking from my friends (can’t stop, won’t stop!):
In the end, as this month comes to a close, my apartment has some empty shelves and my nails are gonna look so lovely once I treat myself to my #minsgame mani!
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