Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thoughts on Letting Go


One day back in the spring, I found myself standing in my bedroom, in front of a full length mirror, trying on clothes.  Were these new clothes?  No.  In fact, most of the items were probably at least 5 years old and, truth be told, hadn't been worn in equally as many years. 

Flashback to the winter of 2014.  During an unexpected, week long, "snow-cation" from work, I conducted what I have come to call the "big purge." Following Marie Kondo's decluttering method that she painstakingly outlined in her book, I systematically went through the various categories of possessions in my house and eliminated.  Now, I must admit that I didn't follow her methods to a T, because thanking each and every item that I discarded just seemed a tad too silly.  But, I did try very hard to express gratitude for all the items in general because I know there are many people in the world who have practically nothing.

At the end of the purge, which extended weeks past my "snow-cation," I thought I had done a great job.  I had given away 6-7 bags of clothes and shoes to charity, sold several items on eBay, and threw away just as much in trash. However, as evidenced by the amount of clothes I found myself trying on back in March, I hadn't done as good as a job as I thought.  I know all of the clothes I tried on that day were too small for me three years ago, but somehow they survived the purge.  

One of the rules in Marie Kondo's decluttering method is to get rid of clothing items that don't fit. Are your jeans too small? Toss them! Does that shirt looks like a tent on you? Donate it! Are those shorts ill fitting? Adios! And that's what I did, or at least that's what I tried to do. In truth, I did get rid of a lot of things that were too small at the time. But, I obviously held on to some items that were too small at the time for some reason or another. Looking back, I guess I held on to them figuring that if I lost weight, I'd be able to wear them again. 

As many of you know, especially if you are a regular to my blog, I've been losing weight since last August. When I pulled out those items that had been sequestered to a storage box since 2014, I was excited.  I remember thinking, "Yay!  I can now wear those capris again and I won't have to buy any this spring!"  Well, as it turns out, yes, I still had to buy some new capris because the ones I had held onto and kept in storage  for 3 years still didn't fit - they were too big.

As I looked at myself in the mirror and analyzed the fit of each article of clothing, at one point I actually found myself thinking, "Yeah, these capris are too big right now, but they don't take up much room. I guess I could put them back in the box just in case I put some of this weight back on - that way I'll have something that fits."

As soon as I finished that insane thought, I immediately chastised myself. I scolded myself and said out loud, "No... You've hung on to them for three years and even after losing weight, you still can't wear them! There's no point of letting them take up valuable real estate in this tiny house!" With that, I slipped them off, folded them neatly, and put them in the charity bag. Voila!

Since then, I've given much thought to the big purge of 2014 and the ongoing clothes removal I've been doing over the past 10 months as my clothes got too big for me. One of the thoughts I have regularly pondered is why I, as well as many others out there, am so reluctant to part ways with things. Why is it sometimes so damn hard to simply let go?

I've learned that I have a tendency to hang on to clothes because of the monetary implication - I spent hard earned money on those clothes and it's hard to part with something that may not fit now, but, given my track record of losing and gaining weight, might fit again sometime in the future. If an item is too small, I often say to myself, "Well, you might lose weight and then you can wear it again." Conversely, if an item is too big, I justify keeping it "just in case," basically keeping the item as a safely net in case I gain weight, just as I was thinking about doing with those damn capris back in the spring.

But, this letting go of things extends way beyond clothes. It can be anything - from old love letters to outdated home furnishings to books to high school and college memorabilia to miscellaneous items of sentimental value that no one but the owner can understand. It can also apply to relationships that are long past their expiration date.

A close friend of mine is currently struggling with this. For reasons beyond her control, her marriage has been strained for years, the better part of a decade really. Her husband has made some not so great choices and because of them, they haven't live together in a long time. 

Despite the obvious deterioration of their relationship, despite the fact that she cannot stand the man he has become, despite the fact that she deeply resents him because of how his actions made their once very stable, happy life as a family now completely unrecognizable, she still clings on. She hopes that the man she married will show back up one day, even though she knows in her heart of hearts how highly unlikely that scenario is. The man she married no longer exists, his string of bad choices changed him many years ago. These changes affected her, too, for she is no longer the woman she was eight years ago. She is hurt, she is scarred, she is mad, and she is tired. Yet, despite all the legitimate reasons she has to divorce him, despite all the shit he has and continues to put her through, she is struggling to let go of something that she knows is already gone.

Why is it so damned hard to let go of things that we no longer need, that are no longer useful, or that are no longer beneficial? Do we hang on to things out of comfort? Habit? Or perhaps fear of change or the unknown? 

As I asked myself that question about things in general, not just clothes, I came to the conclusion that I hold on to things for various reasons. Sometimes it's monetary (like with clothes), sometimes it's sentimental (like with the college jacket that I had the hardest time parting with even though it was worn out and I never wore it anymore), and sometimes it's for reasons that are just harder to put into words.

What are your thoughts? 

As always, thanks for stopping by!

5 comments:

  1. I am pretty good at letting go of things that don't serve me anymore - ways of doing things, ways of being, ways of thinking, people, clothes - but it's something I am deliberate about.

    In the case of people or relationships, it is initially painful, but pain is part of life and if we keep things that aren't working we don't have room for other things that come along that will.

    However since being at the shore every weekend, I have realized I have way too many clothes and I do not wear them all.

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  2. I find myself doing the exact same thing with clothes! I keep my skinny clothes and my fat clothes, hoping that I'll be able to wear the skinny clothes again one day and hoping that I won't wear the fat clothes again but knowing that it might happen. I'm planning on doing a purge this summer though, and hopefully I'll be able to let go of some of these things!

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  3. I think we all have our reasons for what we keep - at least we have ways of justifying our decisions. It's also, I think, harder if we are making those decisions alone. I'm better at practical choices, for example I would tell you to get shot of clothes that are too big. Yes you might put weight back on and need them again but if you don't have them it might serve as more incentive not to put the weight back on and worst case scenario? You'll have to buy more clothes. Sentimental things are much harder to deal with but again I'd recommend storing them in a way that's accessible so that you can enjoy them from time to time rather than hiding them away in the attic.

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  4. Good points. Like you, I'm in that place of "one day this may fit" though I do donate several times a year. I think it's the clothes that I made such good memories when I wore them that end up back in the closet. I have the dress I wore to Junior Prom too many years ago to count. And I absolutely know I'm not wearing that again. Ha!

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  5. I do keep some jeans that are a little big and a little small in case I gain or lose weight, so I know what you mean. I did some big decluttering since the death of my dear husband, but see there is a LOT more to do. As you unearth something and give it away, something else appears. Are these items reproducing? I found an old physics book of his and threw it out today. Most things I donate of course.

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