Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Introspection via the closet cleanout

When it hit the shelves a few years back, I didn't read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I thought I already purge my belongings regularly, I don't need to try another way. I still haven't read it and don't plan to, but I got the gist of it and confidently said NO THANKS for a few years. I was wrong.

Some behaviors that were holding me back:

1. By going through either one season of clothing or one spot (closet, dresser, etc) at a time and storing things in different rooms, I was never getting the full picture of what I had. I was forgetting about stuff and buying things I didn't need.
2. By not going into purging with the mindset of only keeping what I truly loved or items that were utilitarian, I was never paring down. There were too many things I'd put on and take off immediately for one reason or another but still keep. So I'd keep buying things I shouldn't buy to plug wardrobe holes I actually didn't have.
3. I was still buying freely. It doesn't matter how much you get rid of if you don't stop the flow of items into your life. And if you don't think about what's coming in and what you're consuming and the rate at which you're consuming, you're definitely not thinking about textile waste and where these clothes that are often fast fashion that don't last more than a year in your life are ending up.We shouldn't be buying things just to buy them and we shouldn't be getting rid of things just to get rid of them. The second is taken care of if we can manage the first.
4. I thumbed my nose at the Konmari folding method.

Those things, combined with not being as diligent about managing my belongings since we bought the shore house in 2015, had me bowing under the weight of things. It isn't as easy for me to manage two households as I thought it would be and each year I am less interested in managing life here since I'd rather live at the shore. Not coincidentally, one of the things I like best about my time at the shore is living with less - I have no hanging room there and can keep limited clothing, my living space in season at least is extremely small...yet I'm happier there. With less. Living smaller. Spending my time living instead of managing stuff. At home I was wearing clothes, doing laundry, and then wearing those same clothes again. If I sort of liked something, I bought it without thinking about if I loved it or would use it. What I owned grew more in the last three years than it ever has in my adult life. I would do a bit of purging here and there, but I was not digging into it like I used to.

Last year with managing rentals solo while a campaign raged here at home then transitioning right into working on that campaign after the shore season was over and going full speed until November was the tipping point. I was mentally and emotionally drained from the entire year. I was also physically tired, but more than that I felt physically weighted down by stuff. Stuff stuff stuff. I was sick of stuff. That made me sick too. Such a privilege to be sick of stuff, a privilege to have too many things when so many people have nothing.

I started thinking about what I wanted out of this year, and on the last day of 2018 I shared it hereWhat's the plan for 2019? Be happy, be solvent, consume less resources and things, work for a better world, and mind my energy. If I had to boil it down to a phrase it might be consume less, be more. That all still stands, except I've added live smaller and own less, which are related but more articulated.

I knew I had to get rid of things to remove that weighted down feeling, but that getting rid of stuff without changing my mindset of mindless buying would only ensure that I ended up with too much again a few months down the road and that I continued to contribute to clothing waste that is a huge problem in the world right now. That's not what this is about. That would be grossly wasteful and flippant and not in line at all with my plan for living small and consuming less.

Saturday I took every single piece of clothing I own and put it out in the spare bedroom. Holy shit. I was horrified at the amount of stuff, embarrassed to have so much I don't use or need when so many people have so little, trying not to think about the money I've wasted on shit that was sort of okay, sick over all of it, and eager to make it go away.

Eight hours later I had half set aside to donate or sell. Of that half, there's not one piece I wavered on. I could probably stand to let go of some more, and I'll be using a system to see what gets worn and what doesn't. For the first time in the almost 10 years we've been in this house, all of my hanging clothes are in one closet and all of my folded clothes of all seasons are in one room, all visible at the same time. Nothing stored in the spare room. I can see everything and there's not so much of it that I don't know what I have and don't have. I agree with Marie...that does feel life changing. I have drawers that are empty and the four fabric bins that used to have clothes in them are no longer necessary. I was wrong about the folding too - I can do the folds, and it works even when they're not perfect.
I kept saying why the fuck did I keep this? The answer was clear quickly. I love color and pattern, and I was buying things because I loved the color but never wore them because the fit or material was just okay. It's like I was scared I'd never find another item in that color I loved so much so I bought an item that I didn't love overall and let it sit in my closet. When I would purge, I'd be like oh but it's the only thing I have of that color so I'll keep it until I find something else. Meanwhile I was never wearing that - no reason to keep it. It's nuts. It's a mindset that I'm now aware of and will be mindful of in the future.

I didn't take true before and afters, but here's my donate or thred up and sell piles (they're propped up by baskets so not as big as they look but they are big).
The closet full of dresses I've been holding onto forever and the dresses I kept.
This amount of stuff feels more manageable. I am secure in my mindset to own less, think before buying, and buy clothes from companies who pay a living wage to their workers and are investing in sustainable fashion. Will I be perfect in that quest? No. But I'm sure as hell going to try. And I'm never letting my clothing get so out of control again.

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