Friday, November 21, 2014

making room

I cleaned out my closet this week.

This may not sound earth-shattering. In many ways, it isn't. And yet...

It was the first time I've ever (ever) successfully cleaned out my closet. I didn't stop halfway through, defeated, or shove what I was too tired to hang back into a hamper in the corner of the room to deal with later.

It also felt a lot more like therapy than cleaning.

A couple weeks ago, I started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The author, a Japanese organizational expert, is eccentric, unconventional, and exactly what I needed. Clearly, there is a reason she has a three-month wait list for her services. I'm so glad I gave her a chance! Here's how magic went down...

On Tuesday morning, while Caleb was napping, I brought every single piece of clothing I owned into the living room. I emptied every closet, dragged in every hamper, took all the coats off the hooks, grabbed my shoes from their shelves, and made a big ol' mountain. It was a ridiculous amount of stuff.

I stared at the pile for a little while and sipped my coffee, then finally worked up the courage to start. One at a time, I took each item in my hands and asked if it "sparked joy" in my heart and soul. I didn't ask if I'd worn it recently. Or if it was functional or trendy or new or old or WHATEVER. I did what the KonMari Method told me to do and asked ONLY if the thing in my hands sparked joy.

And I was AMAZED, people. One ratty shirt could leave me feeling deeply loved and cherished (a faded blue Coldplay T-shirt, from their 2005 tour--Andy surprised me with tickets as a "welcome home" present when I first moved back from Germany); another might contain deep feelings of shame and vulnerability (the high school hoodie I pretty much lived in at the age of 16. And by "lived," I think I mean "hid"). There were "classic" pieces my heart wanted no part of but that I'd held on to for years, because they'd always be in style. (Never mind that they'd never be my style.) I was surprised by what ended up as toss or keep, and I was shocked by the emotions I'd been storing up via my closet.

It makes sense. I've spent the better part of the last decade trying to find my footing, bouncing from one classroom, apartment, and country to the next. My closet told the story of my first teaching job in Berlin, followed by my return home less then six months later, when I lived with my parents for a year and spent way more than I saved, usually on cute clothes. There were long skirts and wide-brimmed hats from Abu Dhabi next to tank tops and short dresses I purchased when we first moved back. And in each of those impulsive indulgences I sensed a pang of guilt: I was only able to wear them a handful of times before discovering I was pregnant.

My life and body have been in a state of constant flux for over five years. There was so much upheaval. It's only now, after three consecutive years Stateside, that I can say I finally feel like I'm settling back into myself. Andy and I are much more focused on thriving right where we are, rather than striving to figure out where we'd like to be. Becoming parents definitely has something to do with it: We're in a season of establishing roots. It's time for our home--and my closet--to reflect that.

In the end, I packed up three trash bags to haul to Goodwill, and I have a fourth of newer, name-brand items that I'm planning to sell. The clothes I put back in my closet have room to breathe again (an apt metaphor). I also have a much better sense of my personal style: Tomboy with a feminine twist, folksy with a bit of polish or edge.

In lieu of a big family vacation this spring, we're setting aside some dollars to rebuild our wardrobes with quality pieces that suit the place we're at in our lives right now, in line with the slow fashion philosophy. My biggest priority? New socks, underwear, bras, and tank tops. Yes, I held each of these in my hands one at a time as well, and let me just say: Not a whole lotta joy going on in that department. But really, these are the things I'd like to feel best about. They're the items of clothing I wear closest to my body, every day. Same goes for pajamas. I'm going to choose just a few sets I feel GREAT about, then cherish them.

It probably all sounds so nutty and privileged, and I guess it kind of is. But I've been on such a high this week! There is so much FREEDOM in letting go of both the physical items and the emotional baggage they represent. As I say, therapy--some of the cheapest, most satisfying therapy I've ever had. Who knew?

And now... time to tackle the books!