Decluttering Minimalism

Decluttering & the Pain of Letting Go

The clothes I once loved – thoughts on the pain of the pain of letting go…

Let’s be honest, decluttering is hard at times. The process of letting go can be tough and even painful. The feeling of liberation is why we are doing this, but sometimes the price is higher than we expected at first.

A few days ago, I gave away some clothes to the mother of a friend. Just briefly before, I had decided to let clothes, of a certain period of my life, go and sorted them away.  My friend remarked, that his mother would really love these. Since she had once given me an incredibly beautiful decorative item, which I cherish to this day, I figured it would be a good way of saying thank you. Also, I love giving things I no longer need to somebody around me, if it brings them joy.

So thought and done, I packed the box with my old clothes into the car, carefully running my fingers over the one or other shirt and skirt. This was hard. These used to be my favorites. I identified with them. This was me. This was who others thought I was. Or was it?

These outfits defined the image of myself, that I had painted into the world for a long time. I had worn them on stage, for videos, for everyday life. They represented me. I was hesitant when I pulled the box out of the car to give to her. Something inside screamed “Nooooo!”, but I went through with it. I would never wear these things again, time to move on.

To my surprise, she loved them so much that she took almost all the clothes, except a few that I never really liked that much either…interesting. All my favorites, gone for good. I was so happy, that she liked them, but inside I was screaming. What the hell was going on? I surely didn’t want to wear these things anymore, the decision had come from a peaceful and clear place. Also, if I would ever decide to wear things in this particular style again, I would want something that is new to me, without memories attached to it and less worn down.

I didn’t understand myself and as I left, I was in such an inner turmoil, which extended into a very dark evening and night for me. Why did this feel so bad? I was crystal clear about letting these items go. I would never wear them again. Giving them up was supposed to be a liberation. What was happening and where did this Gollum inside me suddenly come from?

Then I remembered something that I heard JFM from the Minimalists say somewhere, probably on their podcast (which I highly recommend btw). It went something like: “The hardest thing I had to let go was who I thought I was.”

I resonated strongly when I had heard these words back then, because on my list, that was the toughest thing as well. During my recurring decluttering sessions, I realized how much I actually identified with the things I owned and how much decluttering actually was about letting go of identities. At least for me it was that way. Giving the clothes away showed me how much meaning I still gave to the things I own. Maybe clothes are a particular one for me there, who knows. 

Today, a few days later, I feel good about it and calm inside again. I don’t miss any of the things and the feeling of liberation has set in in the meantime. Their time had come.

The turmoil inside had shown me something, now that the storm has ebbed away: I want to learn to detach myself from my possessions better and give the things that I have less meaning and more purpose. I am not my things. On an intellectual level, I have known this for long, but there appear to be many other levels and factors involved, which I want to pay better attention to.

Also, I am delighted that she took so much of it off my hands, I don’t have to sell /donate or deal with it in any other way – it’s all gone, almost at once.

As for the pain of letting go, perhaps this is a normal reaction to parting with something that we considered to be a “part of us”. How silly it is, that we do that, as if any object could ever be a part of us.

It is time to move on, breathe in the new found space and freedom in my life. Breathe in, breathe out. Doing this, something else comes to mind which I heard Louise Hay say:
“Relax, it’s only change.”

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