Posts Tagged ‘cleaning up’

I promised you a picture of my sock drawer.

But first, can I tell you how amazing my sock drawer is? I am not kidding when I say I am excited to choose my socks every morning. Because it’s so neat, and I can see all my options, and I can see when I’m running a bit low on socks. And I even have a separate pile of my dance socks so I can just dip in and grab them before heading out.


I had no idea a sock drawer could give me any pleasure at all, but I have had my eyes opened. Yes, it does take a little longer to roll the socks after you wash them, but the extra few minutes is entirely worth it.

While we’re at it, why don’t we take a look at my T-shirt drawer, because that looks pretty cool too.


I finished going through all my clothes about a week ago. In the end I got rid of maybe 40% of my clothes, twenty-one garbage bags donated to Goodwill. A few bags of pure landfill trash in there as well, unfortunately.

Next on the agenda was books. I did them all (except music books, which is its own special category) in one brutal afternoon. My friend came over to offer moral support. There are now stacks of books all over my house that I am giving away, once I box them up and maybe get a response to my email from the book sale I am hoping will take them away. Also a big stack of DVDs, and soon stacks of VHS tapes (why do I still have these?) and CDs.

Again, I am giving away a lot, but there is still so much left over. It is very humbling.

It is an intense experience to be engaging with my stuff in this way. The pure excess is shocking, and the amount of emotion that can come up is quite tiring. I have an actual aversion to buying anything right now. My favorite clothing store sent me an email about a sale and I instantly deleted it. Last weekend a friend mentioned there was a sock store down the street and I deliberately didn’t go that way. The last thing in the world I feel like I want is more stuff.

Marie Kondo says most of her clients take six months to tidy their homes, and I don’t know how they do it. I’ve been doing it four weeks, and I’m already so incredibly ready to be finished. In addition to CDs, which shouldn’t take long, this weekend is all about papers, and I either need to find a shredder to borrow or else I need to pay for a shredding service. Even the logistics of tidying are tricky and boring. No wonder I’ve been putting it off forever and ever!

But in spite of my fatigue at this process, I am still committed and really glad I’m doing it. As one of my friends put it, do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you? My stuff has been owning me way more than I would like. And this process also reminds me of the things I own that I truly do love: my beautiful copy of Hyperion, the wooden dragon I picked up in Bali, my collection of knee socks that keep my feet warm.

And then I can peel back yet another layer and say this: it’s all just stuff, and this isn’t where I want my primary focus to be long-term. It is how I spend my time and who I spend it with that matters, and the purpose of my stuff is to support that.

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Stuff has a weight.


It doesn’t matter if it all has its own place. It doesn’t matter if much of it is hidden away behind doors and in cupboards and drawers. It doesn’t matter if it’s nice stuff or old stuff or ugly stuff or useful stuff.

Stuff has a weight, and I know that because engaging with it deeply the way I am now, I feel it. And so much of it carries the weight of the past.

I wore this skirt in high school. I got this T-shirt in Norway. I wore this dress to a high school formal or during a time when someone hurt me badly. I got this table from my stepmom who disappeared after she broke up with my dad, never to return. I wore this at my wedding. My mom made this. My mom gave me this. My mom owned this. My mom loved this.

I hold on so tightly to my stuff. But none of this is now. None of this is even close to now.

It’s as if this stuff, it proves these things happened. It’s physical proof. Coming from a household where memory was seen as the opposite of reliable, proof matters. I used to run over things that happened again and again because I was afraid I would forget, and by forgetting I would lose myself. And I’d seen exactly how ugly that could be. So I had my litany, like a horror show bedtime story, so I’d remember who I was and where I’d been.

It worked. I remembered.

And I realize now, so many years later, that I know what I know. I know what has happened to me. I know what I’ve done. I know the choices I’ve made, the good and the bad and everywhere in between. I know who has been important to me, who I’ve loved without measure, and I know the difference between the people I know who are safe and the people I know who cannot be trusted.

I don’t need stuff to tell me who I am, or who I’ve been.

Trust me to find something profound in engaging in spring cleaning. Yup, this is definitely who I am.

In The Life-Altering Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo says:

“It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure.”

When I was a teenager and a young adult, there were things in my life I wished were different. Hard things. I thought about wishing they’d never happened. I mean, I did wish I’d had it easier. But then I thought, “Well, I am the person I am today because of everything that has happened to me. And I like who I am. So that is something to be grateful for.”

Thinking this way didn’t make everything okay. But it did make it meaningful, and that was enough for me to move forward, to keep trying, and to not give into despair and rampant cynicism.

This is what I think about now while I make decision after decision about what stays and what goes. I’m not getting rid of the things I really love right now. And because it’s me, that’s a fair number of things. There’s no worry about me going all minimalist any time soon.

But it is not the stuff that matters. And some of this stuff, I’ve been dragging it around from place to place for reasons that are no longer true. If they ever were.

I’m letting go of the things that are heavy.

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I have a lot of stuff.

I am not extreme, in that I don’t have a storage unit and my apartment doesn’t require daily excavation to get from point A to point B. In general, each piece of my stuff has its place where it lives, and there is an order to the madness, and while there is definitely some clutter, it’s not all that bad.

But. That being said, I still have an awful lot of stuff.

So I decided to get rid of some of it.

Getting rid of stuff is not something I’m particularly good at, hence the aforementioned lots of stuff issue. This is due to two factors, that together prove to be fairly intractable:

  1. I get very sentimental. This is unfortunate. If I got something on a trip, I have trouble getting rid of it. If I got something as a present, I have trouble getting rid of it. If I have a bunch of memories relating to an item, yup, you guessed it, I have trouble getting rid of it. And heaven forbid it used to be owned by my mom, because then I lose all willpower.
  2. I struggle with feelings of scarcity. I fall very easily into “maybe I’ll need this one day” and “this could be useful” and “you should hold onto this so you don’t have to spend money to buy another one later.”

The best time to clean my things out would have been when I moved out of a house three years ago. And I did get rid of huge amounts of stuff. But ultimately that was such an enormous job, and I was freaking out about money the whole time, and so I ended up holding onto a lot of inessential stuff from a combination of exhaustion and fear. Fast forward to now, when I still have a lot of that stuff weighing me down.

Anyway, I decided to start with clothes, because I’d been wanting to do that anyway, and because Marie Kondo says you should start with clothes in the part of her book I read for free on the Amazon preview page.

Side note: You cannot speak to people about doing a major clean-out right now without them bringing up Marie Kondo. It is literally impossible. So I am helping all of you out by bringing it up myself.

It’s a good thing I determined to start on clothes first, because once I actually began, I wanted to do anything BUT clothes. I wanted to go through my DVDs. I wanted to go through my papers and figure out what can be shredded. I even wanted to go through my books (which is going to be simply awful). I wanted to do anything but what I’d actually committed to doing.

Also I refused to dump all my clothes out on my bed, which is another thing Marie Kondo tells you to do. I’m pretty sure if I did that, a.) I wouldn’t be able to finish by the time I wanted to go to bed at night, and b.) I would start to cry over the sheer quantity of items to go through. I really like clothes. Most of my stuff is clothes. And books. My two materialistic vices. (I also weirdly have a lot of kitchen stuff, but I don’t care as much about that so I have gotten rid of a bunch of it over the years.)

Here is what I’ve bagged up to donate so far:

The first spoils of war.

The first spoils of war.

And there’s a lot more to go through. I haven’t even started on my dressers yet. Yeesh.

Shall we talk about a few of my victories? Hopefully they will fuel me to greater heights of throwing shit away.

  • I had a pair of my mom’s old socks. They were argyle. They had holes in the toes. I’ve had those socks for eighteen years. I threw them in the garbage.
  • I had a plaid button-down shirt that I thought would work great in some kind of Wild West costume. It looked a lot cuter on the hanger than it did on me, so I never actually wore it. I donated it.
  • I got rid of an entire bin of cheap costume pieces and random stuff, except for one beanie that is soft and my favorite color and maybe I’d actually like to wear it once I wash it.
  • I’m donating some expensive dresses that I don’t like and that don’t fit anyway. It’s always harder to get rid of things when they cost a lot.
  • I threw away every single old bra that isn’t in my current drawer, none of which is the proper size and all of which I was holding onto anyway because???

Next up is socks. And then T-shirts. I think I will pile both of these items on my bed. Separately. So I can see how ridiculous it is how many of them I have. (Also did you know you can’t donate socks? You can’t. Unless they’re brand new.) And then I will watch more Marie Kondo folding videos on Youtube. (If I actually fold my clothes based on her techniques, I will post pictures. If I don’t, we will pretend this never happened. Deal?)

In conclusion, this project is going to take me a while. And maybe I should buy Marie Kondo’s book.

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