How I Discovered Healing And Self-Care By Cleaning Out My Old Crap

I’ve never felt so clean. Image: Thinkstock.

Goodbye to using stuff to try to convince myself that I am OK.

I’m here to tell you that there are creative and personal epiphanies lurking in our shoe boxes, drawers, and bookshelves… If only we are brave enough to purge.

Spring cleaning has been a near-spiritual experience for me, and it can be for you too!

Minimalism can heal.

For you skeptics out there, Becoming Minimalist has a list of statistics that will strike the fear of the Hoarding Gods into your soul. For example, the average American home has 300,000 objects, and half of American households don’t save money. Coincidence?

But here’s what hit home for me: The “average woman” has 30 outfits, as opposed to nine in 1930.

I actually have maybe 78 outfits. So… yikes.

I certainly wasn’t saving any money. I could barely fit my body past my bulging closet doors, and my chairs were usually covered with crap for which I didn’t have a place.

Ironically, in my space, there was no space for me.

I was drowning in stuff and constantly felt tired — even though I’d made an art out of trading in my old clothes at secondhand stores, minimizing expenses, and sharing apartments with strangers. Something felt fiscally oppressive, despite the fact that I’ve never owned a house, a car, or anything larger than my bed.

My fantasy of owning only enough worldly possessions to fit into a single backpack will probably never happen (that’s maybe my Oxford Shakespeare and one pair of shoes, so, no).

But having a well-ordered room with everything in its place? God, yes, please!

I decided to clean out my belongings and to get rid of as much as possible.

What I didn’t realize was that, in my quest for minimalism, I would have to fight a truly dangerous foe: My own insecurities.

There are reasons we hoard. Mine were all fear-based: fear of running out of soap, fear of not having the right outfit for an audition (and therefore losing a job), fear of not having enough money to buy what I need, and most terrifyingly fear of losing the memories and pieces of myself that I had wrapped up in my things.

Author, professor, and hoarding expert Randy Frost told the LA Times, “Our possessions all have magical qualities. Many, if not most, of the things we keep have an essence that goes beyond the physical character of the object.”

This struck me as exactly why I’d kept much of what I’d accumulated — that magical essence.

But there is dark magic, too. Some of my possessions were like Horcruxes Hoardcruxes that I had hoped would grant some kind of immortality to a time, person, or dream from the past.

But guess what? It doesn’t work like that!


 

I can let go of the ideas about myself that no longer fit — along with the pants that are two sizes too small.


 

Instead, those hopes, feelings, and dreams stagnated in my stuff. As I cleaned out my things, I got to sit down with them and let myself feel what they symbolized to me: financial stress, a person from my past whom I didn’t want to lose, a particular self-image.

I realized there was a lot I needed to face and let go of, so I took the chance to say goodbye… and release my emotions, as well as my excess stuff:

Goodbye to the necklace from a friend who died in an accident: I won’t forget him, even without the necklace.

Goodbye to the boots my mother bought me when I was 15: They're falling apart, but my mother and I are getting better and better at loving each other.

Goodbye to the books from college I haven’t read or loved since: I don’t need objects to prove that I am who I am.

Goodbye to the expensive clothes I bought for myself when I was avoiding grief: I don’t want to return to that unhealthy coping mechanism.

Goodbye to a present from an ex I didn’t love: I don’t need to carry around that guilt anymore.

Goodbye to a present from an ex I did love: That story is complete and I don’t need a souvenir.

Goodbye to using stuff to try to convince myself that I am OK.

Goodbye to the weight of avoiding and mismanaging my own needs.

I found so many memories and feelings hiding in my drawers, my papers, my accessories... and in cleaning them out, I set them all free. I can let go of the ideas about myself that no longer fit — along with the pants that are two sizes too small.

I’ve never felt so clean. I’ve finally carved out space in my home.

Now, instead of filling my space with things, I can take up the space myself.

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