New Life Resolution: Less Stuff

life-changing-magic

A pair of flat, black, over-the-knee boots rest in the back corner of my closet. They haven’t been worn in over two years, but when I was working full time, I wore them often. I like them. They’re comfortable and work well with leggings and tunics and dresses. I’ve let go of many pairs of shoes here lately, but to these I’ve held on.

I was introduced to a capsule wardrobe a few years ago through the blog Unfancy, before I had Sayla. I thought the idea was genius—to only keep clothes in your closet that you actaually wear and like, that fit your body and lifestyle, and usually a smaller amount of clothes than what normally constitutes your wardrobe.

I didn’t actually start a capsule wardrobe, but this marked the beginning of my journey to pare down. Yes, it started with my closet, but it flurried from there, to the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, you name it. I started donating things I had too much of, or that sat neglected in the back corners of a cabinet, tucked away up high in a closet. And it was relatively easy to discard these things; they had been out-of-sight/out-of-mind for so long I was unattached.

For the first time in my life, I no longer wake up every day and get ready to be in some public setting. Most days I get ready for a day spent at home with a toddler, usually playing outside. I need clothes that fit this lifestyle, preferably something that allows me to stop-drop-and-yoga whenever I get the chance, shoes that easily slip on and off, and something that can afford to get a little dirty, move with my body. Until this past year, when my purging intensified, my closet had a lot of office clothes and shoes still in it. This is when things got hard to give away, because I liked a lot of these things, had spent money on them. They were perfectly fine—except I never wore them. It’s one thing to give away the awkward-fitting pants or the shirt you got on clearance at Target, but things get real when you’re donating a $75 pair of shoes you’ve hardly worn or an expensive purse you got for Christmas one year.

I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, a book about decluttering your home. Kondo’s phiolosophy is to only keep items that spark joy. You must hold each item in your hands to determine whether or not it brings you joy, and you must complete the process of decluttering all at once (she defines this as within about 6 months). She gets a little too hokey/anthropomorphic—ascribing feelings to her belongings—but aside from that I like what she has to say. For me, the most eye-opening principle she offers is that some possessions are only a part of our lives for a season:

When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.

I needed to hear these words, someone to say, it’s ok to let go. And sometimes, when I’m really torn about keeping an item, I think about how someone might come across it at a thrift store someday and find great joy, and that makes it so much easier to part with.

The other thing I like about her method—the sparking joy part—is that I tend to determine what to give away based on utility, what’s functional. This is problematic because I will often hold onto something because it’s practical and not necessarily because I like it, or I will like an item that doesn’t get used very often and question whether to keep it. Her method has helped me get past these blinders.

So what things have I cleaned out? Clothes and shoes (obviously); my box of scarves, hats, and purses (I no longer need a box for these things); socks, undies, and bras (why do we have so many socks?); my box of fabric for sewing (sewing is not my hobby, so why hold onto it?); books, cds, dvds, vhs; countless picture frames (I took the photos out); table cloths, sheets, blankets, kitchen towels; makeup, toiletries, beauty supplies; kitchen items (utensils, dishes, recipes, cookbooks); the attic, the filing cabinet, my daughter’s toys. Even my computer files, and my Instagram and blog feeds. In the process of decluttering, we’ve been able to downsize from two dressers to just one between the both of us, and we were also able to get rid of our TV console, not to mention there are a few extra storage bins laying empty now.

Some things I’ve noticed throughout this process: one, it’s hard. It’s tiring and easy to lose steam. I started purging my house before reading the life-changing magic book, so it wasn’t something I did all at once, but I did do large chunks at a time. I agree with her—do as much as you can at once.

Secondly, the internet has changed everything. Especially with things like music, books, paperwork, and recipes; all of these things can be accessed instantly on our electronic devices.

Third: the process of decluttering is largely a first-world problem, it’s almost sickening how much we own. We have to buy storage units and bigger houses just to hold all of our stuff. There are countless families throughout the world living in poverty that possess a small fraction of what we own, and yet they are so grateful for it. Often, the more things we have the less we value each of those things individually. And likewise, the fewer things the more grateful we are for them. I want to be in the latter camp.

Lastly, tidying up has confronted me, caused me to be honest with who I am, what I like, and the lifestyle I desire. Both on a surface level (the kind of clothes that suit me, how to organize, etc.), and on a deeper level, the kind of consumer I want to be (conscious, intentional), the things I value, and how I want to spend my time and money. Tidying has helped distance me from the black hole of consumerism, curbed the appetite of materialism that’s impossible to satiate. It’s freedom—from cultural expectations and the media, from the desire to buy the next thing, and from the fear of letting go of the things you own, as if they own you.

For me, this process has been life-changing, and reading Kondo’s book was just the push I needed to tackle the areas I was avoiding, as well as let go (or keep) things I was unsure of.  Though it may seem superficial or purely external to declutter your home, our environment undoubtedly affects the mind, will, and emotions more than we acknowledge. My only regret throughout this process is that I wasn’t more intentional in donating unwanted items. In a perfect world I would have found a struggling family, a single mom, or a foster home with lots of teenage girls; someone who could have benefited directly from all my excess without having to pay for it.

So maybe those tall, black boots have fulfilled their purpose in my life after all. Maybe I can let them go with gratitude. Honestly, I haven’t held them in my hands to see if they spark joy. Perhaps I’ll give it a try, see if there’s any magic in her method.

If you need some black boots (size 7) or you want this book, let me know and I’ll pass it along. 🙂

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