I spent the entirety of New Year’s weekend living my very best life, by which I mean I watched all seven episodes of The Queen’s Gambit while Marie Kondo-ing every inch of this house. You guys, my Tupperware is organized. WHAT. (Related: How is it that I have reached the age of nearly forty years old, and have only just realized that the tops of Tupperwares click together for easier storage?)
One of my favorite things about being single (and there are many, starting with shared custody that permits the aforementioned living of one’s best life) is that I have total and complete control over what comes into this house, and what goes out of it. K is a lot more sentimental about possessions than I am, so there was a constant push-pull over what could and couldn’t be tossed. As an example, I do not keep my children’s artwork. I keep *some* of it, sure – the really special pieces, to the tune of, say, ten per year per kid – but anyone who has ever had a preschooler knows that they regularly get sent home with foot-high stacks of “artwork” that mostly consists of paint splotches in varying shades of purplish-brown, which is the result you get when you’re thinking less about color theory and more about mushing your brush into the paper as hard as possible.
I do not need purple mush pictures. You don’t, either.
While I’ve always been big on decluttering, it’s been helpful to me to figure out the four primary reasons I have for holding onto possessions that have passed their usefulness date.
- “My kids might want it one day.” I’ve found myself storing blankets, thinking “My daughter might want this when she goes to college.” I’ve found myself keeping extra Tupperware for my son’s first apartment. My children are going to college and moving into apartments nearly more than a decade in the future. More blankets and Tupperware, I suspect, will be acquired. Also my daughter does not need twenty thousand pieces of my old costume jewelry; five or ten should do the trick.
- “I might be able to sell it at a yard sale.” I love yard sales. I’m really good at them. But you know what I love even more than yard sales? The daily peace of mind that comes from not having stuff I no longer want sitting in my home.
- “I might need it one day.” I can trace the roots of this one to the years I spent living paycheck to paycheck, getting stressed out by the possibility of having to replace a lightbulb: it’s hard to throw something away if there’s even a chance you might need to buy a new one later on, because that feels like such a waste of money. But how many things are we holding on to “just in case” that we will likely never even remember that we have, let alone remember to use? In one closet, I found an entire box of wires. I have no idea what any of them are for, but it’s paralyzing to toss them because what if an electronic pops up for which one of those wires would be required? But you know what would actually happen then? I still wouldn’t know which wire went with what; I’d go on Amazon and get a new wire.
- “It’s too much a part of my past.” This one is hard. There are so many things that I’ve held onto because of the memories – a now-moth-eaten cashmere sweater I snagged from the wardrobe department at Strong Medicine when I shot an episode; an old Mother’s Day card that is now sitting stacked under a bazillion things on my desk; a random little gift from my son that wasn’t, like, the most meaningful thing he’d ever given me but that I felt compelled to hold on to anyway. What I do when I encounter this stuff: I quite literally used Marie Kondo’s technique of holding it, appreciating the role that it had played in my life, silently thanking it for having fulfilled its purpose, and letting it go. And it works. The tchotchke my son gave me isn’t the point; it’s going to end up unseen and forgotten in the bottom of a drawer. The fact that he gave it to me at all; that’s what matters.
This single snowboarding glove existed in my life without its partner for five. years.
A brief smattering of some of the items that I’ve donated using this method:
– My first nice duvet cover, purchased for my first post-graduation apartment. Why I held onto it: It’s so pretty, and I remember how nice it looked in my first apartment. Why I let it go: It’s a little threadbare, and I always end up using one that’s in better shape. The duvet cover’s function in my life was to make my first apartment feel like a place I wanted to be, and that function has been fulfilled.
– A completely serviceable extra comforter. Why I held onto it: It seemed wasteful to get rid of it. Why I let it go: I have three completely serviceable extra comforters. All that excess comforter-owning is doing is taking up a lot of space.
– Two perfectly good eye masks. Why I held onto them: I used to use them every single night, because they helped with my insomnia, and now they feel like a bedside table essential despite the fact that I’m no longer struggling with a sleep disorder. Why I let them go: Just because something used to be a part of my daily life doesn’t mean it has to remain that way.
– Several baby blankets. Why I held onto them: Because I can remember how my children looked wrapped up in every single one. Why I let them go: Just because my children touched a piece of fabric once does not make it a special family artifact. Obviously I kept our favorite ones, but there is no reason to keep a massive stockpile of Aden and Anais stroller throws.
– Some really cute (and expensive) stuff that I bought at Destination Maternity when I was pregnant with my daughter. Why I held onto it: Because it’s cute. And expensive. And “totally works as non-maternity wear.” Why I let it go: I have literally never worn a single piece of it post-pregnancy. Because it’s maternity wear.
More things that I discovered over the weekend that I do not need:
Recipe cards for recipes that exist on the Internet, which is all of them.
Cleaning products (and tools) that are theoretically helpful but that you do not – and never will – use.
Broken items that are theoretically useful but that you do not – and never will – fix.
Holiday crafts (literally all).
So. At the root of all this is the fact that letting go – even (or perhaps especially) when it’s hard – feels so good. With your stuff, and in your life, it’s worth making the effort to say good-bye to the past. Especially when that past includes felt snowflakes.