Like so many other women I know I have trouble sleeping through the night. Three o’clock in the morning seems to be that witching hour that I struggle to stay asleep. Sometimes it’s because my to-do list decides to start adding more to the list, other times it’s hormonal and I find myself drenched in sweat and contemplating sticking my head into the freezer. Two nights ago it was the latter so I got up and roamed the house looking for a cooler place to sleep. I went it to my son’s room because I knew he had the fan blasting on him. I figure I gave birth to my kids so I can call eminent domain on anything they own. I would have crawled into his bed but there was no room. Although he has a generous queen size bed it was jammed with stuff as it always is. It’s been like this since he was in his crib. Even at 1 year old he would point to objects in his room and insist on sleeping with them, and not just the usual suspects like stuffed animals. Books, toys, shoes, nothing was off limits. And as soon as he had what he figured was the right amount of “stuff” he would then go easily off to sleep. I never fought him on this because sleep is sleep and we all need it.
Yesterday I decided that I could not remember the last time I had washed the kid’s sheets. Yes, that’s gross. I am claiming the laziness known as summer as my defense. In order to get to the sheets on my son’s bed I had to dig through mounds of stuff. This included but was not limited to: 3 sports themed pillow pets, an assortment of stuffed objects won at a claw machine, at least a dozen other stuffed animals, 2 keychains, 1 hockey puck, 1 street hockey ball and 3 books. The crazier part of this is that he completely panicked when I made his bed and only put back about 2 stuffed animals. He went through and put the exact same things back on the bed with him, explaining to me what each and every one meant to him and why he wanted them so close when he slept. Crazier still is that I understood. He had true sentimental value to all the stuff that I just saw as inanimate objects. He knew how he got each and every item, he had named each and every stuffed animal, and he had a sort of order to what I saw as a bunch of things thrown on the corner of his bed. I let go of the fact that his bed always looked messy and accepted that it made him happy.
Letting go of things sometimes has to happen to whether we want it to or not. This has been at the forefront of my mind this week with my kids getting ready to go back to school on Monday. My kids are going into the fourth and sixth grades and if I could freeze time I would. In fact I may even reverse it just a year or so to keep them both together at elementary school. Other friends of mine have children starting Kindergarten, for some families this is the first time that their child will be out of the house for a huge part of the day, every day of the week. They have to let go of time they get to spend with them and accept that their kids are starting to grow up and carry backpacks with homework.
I like to stay organized, particularly in my closet. If you can believe it I really don’t have that many clothes. Except for a few vintage items I am not even emotionally attached to my clothes, so it’s easy for me to keep up with editing and purging. My downfall? Shopping bags. Yep, totally weird I know. Not all bags make the cut. The prettier the better. Thick corded and colored handles? Love. Thick, sturdy bottoms that reek of an expensive purchase? I swoon. Stores like Lulu Lemon and Athleta with their eco-conscious reusable bags? Super hard to get rid off because they feel like real bags! I find myself having as much appreciation for the shopping bag as the purchased items inside of it. This is silly. I tell myself I will use these bags again, after all it is the socially responsible thing to do. I fold and stack them nice and neatly inside our front coat closet, ready to use. When I do use a bag I even find myself not just picking one out for it’s capacity but also for it’s style. In my mind each bag tells the recipient something about me because of where the bag is from. A Lulu lemon bag says I can afford overpriced and expensive workout clothes and I have the body of a Pilates instructor. A Lilly Pulitzer bag brightly covered with one of their signature prints? This says I am preppy and cute. A bag from anyone of the cool local boutiques in our town? Of course this must mean that I am hip and local. This is utterly ridiculous and I know it. These are bags I use to drop off a leftover dish from a party or send with my kids into school to carry a project. I don’t think anyone ever notices what kind of bag something is in nor are they making any assumptions about me and my family.
With school starting on Monday my head is a mess. I am already stressing over where they will store their book bags and where they will do their homework. These stupid shopping bags are actually in my way, and in reality I end up using them about 3 times a year. After all, I own about 3,000 of those reusable grocery bags that live in the dark corners of my trunk. Even there I never can remember to bring them into the store with me so I can actually use them. So I let go of all the beautifully constructed and printed shopping bags and in their place I gained an empty space. But that empty space gave my coat closet room, and that space and room gave my mind such peace, as weird as that my sound. Maybe I’ll use that space for book bags, or maybe I’ll keep it empty. I may have had to let things go but in turn I received so much more. And yes, don’t worry I did put the bags in recycling.
In my job I see clients struggling to let go all the time. A new client will sometimes ask me with fear in their eyes and a quiver to their voice if I am going to make them get rid of everything. I always tell them that I’ll never make them part with anything they aren’t ready to let go of. Forced interventions only work temporarily anyway, and that’s because they only deal with the physical aspect of our clothes, when in truth there is a huge mental aspect to our wardrobes. There are pieces in our wardrobe that hold specific memories, sometimes even scents. I remember how hard it was after my grandmother died to part with one of her sweaters because it still smelled like her perfume. Maybe it’s a dress you wore on your first date with your now husband, or a jacket from your high school sports team. I get it and I promise to never pry these things out of your hands. We are all allowed to keep a handful of items that make us feel something. The key is deciphering between the item and a memory. A bridesmaid dress you hated but wore for a friend you love? It can go. Letting go of the dress doesn’t mean you don’t love your friend. It means you don’t love the dress, and that’s okay because the fond memories from a great weekend will stay stored in your head and in your heart.
When you are ready to truly get rid of things you will know. The results will change your life, truly. Having less clothes to choose from actually leads to more outfits.Trust me on this. Keeping only what you love and makes you feel good is the real way to show others who you are. So much better than sending that message out in the form of a single shopping bag. In reality we are all somewhat of a mix. My Lilly shirt may be paired with cool local jeans and shoes, topped off with an overpriced athletic jacket from Lulu Lemon. But that’s okay, because that’s all me.
*Insider Tip – The 1 in 1 out rule.
Want to maintain a clean and organized closet? Try my 1 in 1 out rule. Or if you are already feeling too crammed make this a 1 in 2 out rule.Whenever you buy something new make sure to get rid of something else. Keeping a clean closet takes discipline. Too much input and not enough output can quickly add up and feel overwhelming, landing you right back to and overstuffed closet with nothing to wear. And this doesn’t mean if you buy another pair of jeans that you have to get rid of a pair of jeans, but make sure you get rid of something. Maybe it’s a pair of shoes that were always just a bit too tight or a sweater that is itchy. Just keep the flow and you’ll be good to go!
Thanks for reading and and extra special Good Luck to all my friends who are teachers. I don’t know how you do what you do but I am so grateful. Without all of you I would be homeschooling and that would be hell for both of us since I have the patience of a gnat. Oh and I stink at Science.