Spring Cleaning: Cleaning out the closet
March 8, 2015 by
Categories: Mindfulness, Personal, Self

It’s the first morning in a long time that I woke up and wanted to fling my window wide open. As the sunshine filled the room, I didn’t dread the tasks before me: Laundry and grocery shopping. If you know how much I dislike laundry, you’ll understand that this is a special feeling.

Before I could change my mind, I grabbed my clothing bag and started throwing in over due items (e.g. SOCKS). Remembering that there was a clothing donation drop off outside the laundromat, I gave my closet a good, hard look. Space and storage being a coveted thing in NYC, I have been blessed with an abundance of closet space. Turns out, the more space I have, the more I act on my tendency to fill it up.

Stacks of folded (ish) clothing stood before me. Every nook seemed to be packed with a forgotten clothing item. I recalled the countless times I’ve been meaning to clean out the closet, then firmly shut the doors and walked away. If I don’t see it, it’s not there, right?

I reached up and grabbed a few shirts to add to the donation pile and a cascade of fabric fell around me. One thing led to another, and suddenly piles of clothes were on my bed and on the floor. I felt more and more relief as the closet started to empty. Why have I insisted on holding on to these things for so long?

Cleaning my closet suddenly took on an entirely different meaning. I began to unpack my closet both physically and mentally. I broke it down into a few categories and questions I had for myself:

Why do I always keep a stack of old jeans? 

Every time,  every closet, I have a stack of jeans that I am just so sure I will fit in again one day. That I’ll have an occasion for these ones or these ones (even the bell bottomed ones). As I unfolded the pairs, I realized many things:

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

1. Superficially, I held on to my first favorite pair of “nice” jeans. They oddly represent this change into adulthood, of buying nicer things that lasted. Of finding that perfect pair after hours in the mall and feeling too short, too wide, too petite, too little or too much of something. Each pair came to represent a distinct period in my life, bringing up memories and nostalgia the way a song of the past does. Truthfully, for much of my life I only wore skirts and pants for cultural reasons. Transitioning into pants and truly choosing my own clothing is a momentous memory for me and not something everyone will understand. Though that’s far in my past, I don’t want to forget that it’s a part of me and was once a struggle/cultural barrier that I overcame (that’s a whole other post).

2. All that said, there is NO reason they should be taking up physical space anymore. I will NOT fit into them. Now into my late 20’s, my body and metabolism has taken a life of it’s own.  That stack of jeans became a fear of growing into myself: a thicker, fuller, older, wiser (but not taller) woman. I look into the mirror every day and oh so subtly change over time.  I know it’s happening, but it’s only when I see old pictures that I believe it.  Yet no longer fitting into clothing feels more sudden and unexpected. While I cherish and celebrate my mental and intellectual growth, physically changing is a little scarier. I have to acknowledge that however youthful I look, I can’t treat my body the way I used to. That I over time, whether with age or sheer happenings of life and illness, I won’t be able to do as much, as quickly.

3. As I round out my late 20s, I am much more aware of what it means to have one healthy body in this life time, enabling me to walk and run and do all the things. Still, I know that I take it for granted every single day. But, I have been working on the skill of listening to what it’s telling me I need more of, even if I don’t always respond as I should. I’m going to bring this back to jeans and keep it real: I can’t fit into my current favorite pair.Instantly, my mind goes to negative thoughts about how I don’t exercise or eat well enough, which is not all true. Without wanting it to be this way, pants have become a temperature check for weight and subconsciously dictate how I FEEL about that weight.

4. But, maybe it’s not all about that— maybe this part of that growth I just talked about, and maybe I just need to buy new pants and not hold on to the ones that aren’t making me feel great. This isn’t the metaphor part here, I am literally talking about getting rid of those pants. And REALLY getting rid of them, not stacking them in the closet for the “one day that I will wear them again.” An article that has stuck with me is one where a woman in her final thoughts of life regretted how much time she spent lamenting or feeling bad about her body. I try to live by that and usually do, so out with the pants that test my will!

Now that I’m to this part of my post, I had no idea I would have so much to say about jeans or pants. But, if I think about it, for me it’s also about letting go of: Friends/people that create too much negative energy, thoughts and coping mechanisms that no longer make sense for the present, complaints, life plans that need an overhaul, and whatever else I try to force on myself that is NO LONGER GOOD FOR ME.  It’s good to try and see if there’s a fix, to work on things and contemplate their benefits. But just as I outgrow clothing, I outgrow people and habits and if I cling to them, I won’t make space for new ones or quality time for the great ones.

Why do I keep things with tears or holes in them?

I loved them so much I thought I would mend them later. I thought I would re-wear them.

Nope. Still there, with holes and tears. If I don’t have the commitment to fix it, I didn’t want it that badly.  Out they go.

Why do I have so much STUFF? 

T-shirts from different events and schools. A weird amount of pillow cases. Boxes from different electronics. Do I really need to look at them all to feel like that represent success and abundance? As I threw out more and more things, I truly felt a weight lifted. I stood still for a moment and took stock of my own internal clutter; the negative thoughts and past memories that have become deadweight. I envisioned tossing them out along with the clothing, breathing them out as I created space for spring. Every experience does have a purpose, especially the hard ones. But, some of them have had more than their fair share of time and space. It’s time to let them go. It’s time to welcome new experiences and mistakes and lessons.

Why didn’t I give it away sooner?

Guilt. I felt guilt that I was hoarding warm or professional clothing that I no longer needed. Clothing that could have benefited someone else over the winter or for a job interview. Because I waited, it’s not as useful.  I have the privilege of holding on to things for memory or” just in case that I might want to wear that one day,” and I really took advantage of it. Note to self: Don’t wait until spring. If I don’t need it, get rid of it or give it away. This will be a slow process, but I hope to get there.

Anything else? 

Old, new, worn, torn, I have gratitude for everything that has passed through my closet, for allowing my self-expression, for covering me, for being with me on my little ol’ journey.

Also, I need to attack my closet for a second round, because old habits die hard. And, I miss having my little sister hovering over my bags, snatching hand-me-downs. Miss you, sister(s)!

Happy Spring Cleaning! What’s in your closet? 


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