Cleaning Out My Closet and My Heart

Moving is not fun. I’ve been at it for two weeks. I’m tired. I’m cranky. My back hurts, and my hands are torn from ripping tape and hauling moving box after moving box. In lieu of my college-age brother, I have become the go-to heavy-object lifter, and I’m still upset about my favorite basketball shorts ripping on a particularly aggressive nail in the garage. Moving turns me into a short-tempered, irritable human being with a really short fuse, and I resent it because that’s not who I am in real life.

There’s absolutely nothing that makes you prioritize what you need and don’t need quite like moving. When you live in one place for a long time, decluttering and getting rid of things you don’t need requires some work. You have to think about it, think about the last time you wore it, used it, the next time you might wear it, use it, and make a decision. If you’re a pack rat, each throwaway decision can be emotionally wrenching. And if you’re an organizational freak like me, you have to re-organize everything around it once it’s gone. And finding a time when you want to declutter isn’t likely in the first place. Who even has the time, with work or school, family, friends and way more fun things to distract you on a regular basis?

But when you move, moving is suddenly your entire world, and it’s keeping stuff that requires work. Every little item that you deem worthy must then be wrapped carefully, shoved in a cardboard box, hauled across town (or state lines), and then re-opened and organized in a new space. Suddenly things I thought I couldn’t live without I found myself throwing into the dumpster without mercy or second thought, wondering why I couldn’t let go before.

Letting go

During this last move, I really started to think about the emotions behind moving and possessions. My own thoughts and experiences really made me wonder: Does holding onto stuff you don’t need take an emotional toll? I’ve been blessed with the chance to determine what I do and don’t need over and over again, but what if I hadn’t?

In spite of all the aforementioned whining, despite the headaches and random bruises, I kind of can’t help but love moving. There’s such a rush that comes with a fresh start. I always feel that once the dust has cleared and my belongings have been organized, I enter a new chapter in my life with an open heart and clear mind. I speak on this topic from a place of experience too — I am no novice to moving. By the time I was 10 years old I had lived in five states. By the time I was 17 I had lived in 10 cities, and at the ripe old age of 23 I have lived in 21 different houses or apartments.

During this last move, though, I really started to think about the emotions behind moving and possessions. My own thoughts and experiences really made me wonder: Does holding onto stuff you don’t need take an emotional toll? I’ve been blessed with the chance to determine what I do and don’t need over and over again, but what if I hadn’t? Would I have held on to that shirt I won a basketball championship in forever just because it was sentimental? Would I have kept my charcoal and brushes from college in the hopes that one day I would magically find the time and motivation to start painting again? What would have happened to all of the pictures I stashed under my bed? They were all I had left of some friendships.

Even though letting those things go came with some emotional pangs, once I did I felt a weird kind of emotional baggage tossed out as well. It hit me that even though I wasn’t winning championships anymore, I was still an athlete and a very active person. I knew that even though I really didn’t have time to paint or draw, I was still creative and expressing that creativity in different ways. I accepted that even though some friendships had come and gone, all had taught me something.

I felt like my closet and my heart were organized and cleared out for bigger and better things, for whatever God was about to usher into my future. If I clung to my baggage — both emotional and physical — would I have been able to take the life steps that came next? I don’t think it would have been nearly as easy. I think there would have been parts of me looking back at the past simply because there were more reminders around of it; when instead I needed to be focusing on the future. Only then could I really take fresh next steps without the weight and potential influence of old memories, emotions or fears.

So maybe it might benefit all of us to do a little emotional and physical decluttering every once in a while, even if it’s not prompted by the stress and chaos of an actual move. What don’t you need anymore that’s taking up valuable space in your heart and house? Find the courage to evaluate and the strength to let things go.


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