I’m moving house this summer within Dubai and feel inspired to declutter, to travel light and not take the old into the new.
It has been a joyful process – a fascinating life review through long-held-onto possessions and a timely invitation to relinquish several old me’s. As I announced the task, women appeared, happy to take my pre-loved or unused items, to pass on to those less advantaged materially, including Syrian refugees in a Lebanese camp.
I consulted books and the film, Minimalism, A Documentary about the Important Things, furnishing me with inspiration and questions to pose throughout the process.
SHOULD IT STAY OR SHOULD IT GO?
As the sorting and discarding began, some things I couldn’t put it in the ‘Give Away’ pile fast enough. But for those items I lingered on, each item was subjected to the following enquiries:
- Does this bring me joy?
- Does this item represent who I am now?
- Would I buy this today?
- Do I keep it out of guilt, fear or nostalgia?
- Do I use or display this item?
- Have I used/worn it in the last year?
- Is this too big or too small on me?
- Does this item deserve to stay with me?
- Would someone else make better use of this?
- I keep what I love, not what I like. Do I love this?
In What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You, Kerri Richardson writes, “You’ll also understand your clutter in a way that allows you to feel compassion and curiosity toward it instead of loathing and fear.”
I was discovering Nostalgia was a common culprit that tried to convince me to retain outdated items, like the beautiful kaftans my Moroccan friends gave me years ago. I loved them once, but frankly, they were no longer me. Or the garments my beloved grandmother had hand sewn for my daughter or me, but had been long outgrown or not worn for ages. Or my motorcycle gear I haven’t used for touring in seven years.
“Nostalgia is inauthentic grief.”
From Romancing the Shadow by Zweig and Wolf
Nostalgia is that cuddly zone we lapse into when we pull out old photos, tunes, eat yummy holiday foods and replay in our mind and heart, those tracks of past love in all its forms. Sure, some is an innocent walk down memory lane. For clutter that was depleting and taking unnecessary closet space due to apparently ‘Inauthentic Grief’, I asked what would ‘Authentic Grieving’ look like?
I decided to embrace the feelings of my grandmother meticulously creating each garment, for her celebration of my daughter’s birth and her love for us both. I searched deep for every emotion connected to the story of each garment, FEELING them all and then simply letting go.
Aside from ruminating on Nostalgia, I observed the fine-line between wholesome bereavement and downright neurotic, energy-sapping ‘Missing.’ I realized that Missing someone is when I don’t ‘give’ today what that person gave me then. I probably long to, but perhaps don’t know how to. I actually am missing Me! Now free, my creative spirit can evolve by taking time to make things, as well as becoming a doting, loving grandmother to myself.
HANGING ON – WHY?
What was I trying to really keep by wanting to retain the outdated kaftans? An era of exoticism and feeling like a princess? How could I unveil this feeling for myself and be congruent with my life today? By relishing the beautiful, flowing white garments worn in kundalini yoga, that is a big part of my routine nowadays!
HAPPINESS IS A PLACE BETWEEN TOO LITTLE AND TOO MUCH
And the motorcycle gear? I reviewed and relived the adventure, discovery and joy that those long haul motorcycle trips gave me. I also sensed any residual melancholy of sharing them with someone who no longer is. Even though I still ride locally, that true adventure, discovery and joy are nowadays endowed through my international humanitarian work. It is time to fully release a past era and claim the one I am living now.
HELP AT HAND
I decided to contact my dear friend, Kabrel, in LA. She is a total pro when it comes to de-cluttering, having elevated this process to an art.
Cyntha: “Hi, I’m doing a Kabrel! Clearing out my closets. Carloads are going to refugees in Lebanon and families in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.”
Kabrel: “Bravo! You’ll never miss ONE of those items, and someone else will treasure them.”
C: “I knew I was hanging onto so much out of either nostalgia, or ‘What if?’ But I now own ‘Me’ like never before, so those substitutes are superfluous.”
K: “Go for it. When in doubt, leave out!
Not sure if you should keep? You shouldn’t.
Or ‘I’ll wear that again when…’ blank filled in with something to do with ‘old you’ i.e., I see him again, I get pregnant again… Let it Go.”
C: I’ll take a picture of something if I really want to remember it, without having to give it closet space.
Oh…but the shoes?
K: Dump the shoes!
I initially chided myself for not getting rid of this stuff earlier, but that self-judgment didn’t linger. I took Kerri Richardson’s words and felt compassion for my clutter’s purpose: that it served as a gestating intermediary allowing me to reveal an even more individuated, self-loving me, who could live joyfully and freely in the Now. I trust a Syrian woman who had her entire wardrobe destroyed or had to leave it behind, will find that spark of joy in a finely embroidered kaftan, just her color and taste, as I once did.
There is a new door opening in your goodbye to the past; maybe you cannot embrace the opportunity right away, because your eyes are still blinded by the illusion of yesterday, but your Spirit will lead you to shine in your new beginning of NOW …
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. By Marie Kondo
What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell you, Uncover the Message in the Mess and Reclaim Your Life. By Kerri L. Richardson
Minimalism, A Documentary about the Important Things (on Netflix)
For Cyntha Gonzalez’s upcoming workshop DECLUTTERING FREEDOM, click here.