If you don’t really love or hate that one sweater in your closet, why get rid of it? It’s not causing anyone harm in there.
That’s false. It is.
“I don’t love it but I spent a lot of money on it and I really like the color but it doesn’t quite fit me right and just doesn’t really go with anything but I can’t get rid of it because it was expensive and maybe I’ll need it for some day when I get a dress to match it and if we ever go to that one event where it would be appropriate and then I’ll regret it if I get rid of it and ughhhh.”
That innocent little sweater is a mental hurricane.
It causes you unconscious stress to see it in your closet, and even when you aren’t looking at it, it’s energy is in your life. It sounds so subtle, and I was skeptical that it really would make a difference when I read about this before I minimized, but getting rid of it changes everything.
All of your stuff in your room, in your house, in your files on your computer, in your storage unit a few miles away, is talking to you.
Every piece of clothing has a story and a history and a reason why you do or don’t love it. Every memento or trinket or gift that someone gave you that’s sitting on your bookshelf is yelling, “Hey remember that one time… Remember all these feelings you used to have… Remember what it was like way back when…” Every stack of old papers and cards are saying, “Imagine what is lost in here that you will never be able to find! Look at all this information that you never sorted! Look at all these cards that can reassure you that you are loved by all of these people.” Every book on your bookshelf that you’re planning to read someday is saying, “Read me!! Read me!! I can’t believe you’re still putting me off…”
Imagine what it would be like if they were all quiet…
Right now, as I sit in my minimized room, only surrounded by things that simply bring me joy and have nothing else to say, I can focus. I am here, in the now, with space to discover what that means and what that feels like.
I was so used to being yelled at and pushed and pulled by all of the “things” I owned that I never even heard what they were saying. I did my best to ignore the noise and “focus really hard on my work” or escape to somewhere else. But the weight of knowing you own all of these things stays with you, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.
I didn’t know there was another way. And besides, it was way easier to just keep everything. It’s too much of a hassle to figure out how to get rid of everything, and it’s too scary to actually face all of my things and see how I feel about them.
But once I saw the photos of the way minimalists live, I couldn’t look back.
Some things were easy to get rid of: old t-shirts, repeats of the same items, those earrings I never wear…
But a lot of things were hard.
I didn’t want to admit that to myself. “No, I’m not attached to all my personal belongings…”, I told myself. Wrong.
But the amazing part about facing that is all the feelings I got to unpack, and all the things I got to learn about myself.
The brilliant and famous, Marie Kondo, says in her must-read book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “If it doesn’t spark joy in your heart when you hold it, get rid of it.”
So that’s what I did. Item by item.
Your instinct deep down knows right away if something brings you joy or not. The hard part is what your brain tries to tell you to mask that.
“I don’t really love this, but… I can’t get rid of it! My mom gave it to me on my birthday!!” Yes, you can.
“I don’t really love this, but… I can’t get rid of it! I might need it if we ever go on that camping trip in a few years!” You can get rid of it, and you should.
When it’s gone, it will be out of your life. It won’t be talking to you anymore. The emotions you have about it that aren’t joy release the minute you give it away. And you are left with space.
I can promise you, you won’t regret throwing it away. There are always stores if the moment arises where you realize you do need something.
The best part is, even with the items that are the most difficult to part with, every single time I work up the courage to let something go I am immediately relieved. Releasing it brings me new energy and is honestly just SO FUN. I could talk about how fun it is all day.
An unexpected bonus to going through everything you own and deciding whether or not it brings you joy is that you become so much more aware whether every day life things make you happy or not.
After minimizing I was surprised to realize one of the jobs I spend time doing frequently really doesn’t bring me joy. I also notice when a certain relationship isn’t adding anything positive to my life. And I can choose to minimize those things as well! All I get is more joy and more awareness of myself.
Don’t expect all of the things in your home to go quiet after your first go at minimizing. It takes practice and you build up the strength to get rid of the really hard things over time. I’ve been going through things almost once a week for the past couple months and always find something new I had talked myself into keeping.
The very hardest one, which it pains me to admit, was when I realized that my brand new, highly expensive, Louboutin black heels didn’t bring me joy. They brought me SO much joy when I bought them in Paris, and I sadly didn’t realize that I bought them really snug and after you wear them for 10 minutes, your feet start to swell and they become SO uncomfortable. I talked myself into keeping them day after day because I COULD NOT admit to myself that I didn’t want them and that I had wasted all that money. But I eventually got brave enough, and sold them online for about half of what I bought them for, and now they are not yelling at me from the closet and my life is happier for it.
In going through your things, you have to face the decisions you’ve made. Good ones and stupid ones. It can be humiliating but it just helps you know yourself more and make new, more attuned choices in the future.
I don’t walk down the streets of New York, with the millions of ads and store windows, and want everything I see anymore. I am happy with all of the joyful things that I own and the value they bring to my life, and I am less distracted by the things in the world that are always trying to pull our attention and distract us from what is truly important.
And, the moment that hasn’t gotten old since I’ve minimized is, every day when I come home and walk into my quiet room.
I smile as I breathe in the welcome of my things that love me and I love them. I put away each thing in my bag from the day with care. And then I sit and listen to the quiet that leads me into the next moment.
Happy minimizing :)
With love and space,