Some people do their best thinking in the shower. I do my best cleaning when I’m on the phone.
I’ll never clean otherwise. But get me on the phone and I’m wiping down the cabinets, cleaning the refrigerator and de-cluttering everywhere. One day about five years ago, while on the phone, I went into my walk-in closet and noticed a few things that we never used. Our house was plenty big and the closet wasn’t overflowing, but I grabbed a box for the seldom used items. I looked again and saw a few more things, and then a few more and so on. When I was done, I could see what was left just a little more clearly. By putting space between the things I’d kept, I was able to notice and appreciate everything more. It felt good. I was hooked. An addiction was born. I am still getting rid of our stuff.
I don’t know what it was about that moment or that day. Perhaps feeling overwhelmed with raising these three little boys and all their toys and clothes and equipment all over the place left me feeling suffocated by all the stuff. Maybe feeling out of control of my life and at times helpless to know if I’m doing the right thing as a parent left me feeling like I wanted to have control of something.
While life definitely feels more manageable now that the boys are older, I have new motivations for getting rid of stuff.
My family and friends think that it’s a little odd to be getting rid of things when there’s plenty of room for it, and I’ve never really been able to explain why I feel so good when I get rid of my stuff.
It’s really more than just a pleasure; it’s an actual relief. As if I’d been carrying each item around with me and getting rid of it allows me to move more freely, breathe more deeply. I’ve grown to see each possession like a small pet, a goldfish. Individually, they’re small and don’t take up much space. It doesn’t take much time to feed and care for them, but when you add up all the goldfish you’ve collected over the years, it’s a lot. Each item is a responsibility. A responsibility to make space for it (which sometimes means buying more storage), a responsibility to clean it, provide for it and pack it up and move it when it’s time . And when you have so many fish, none of them are very special.
Each time I decide to get rid of something, I feel like a tiny burden has been lifted. I am free from the responsibility of caring for that item. I see the space that has been made by its departure and I feel lighter.
So now whenever my husband and I talk about whether or not we should get rid of something “big” or “meaningful,” we look at it as another goldfish.