Tis the season for suddenly wanting to get rid of stuff, and that is what I have been doing. Last night I went through our closet, not with the “Only keep what BRINGS YOU JOY” policy (please), but more with the “If there is dust visibly accumulated on the top edge of this garment, perhaps we no longer wear it.” Paul still had ’90s-era rugby shirts. I had shirts I was keeping in order to bitterly resent what disappointments they’d been. I went through my bras and got rid of the ones I never, ever wear. I got rid of a pair of pants I had been keeping just in case I ever had a need for a pair of pants I hated.
I went through my stationery. That was hard to do, but I had SO MUCH of it, I would literally not be able to use it in my lifetime. It was at the point where I no longer enjoyed choosing a note card to send, because of how difficult it was to go through the crammed boxes of them. I filled TWO plastic grocery bags with stationery to get rid of, and I STILL have lots left. I didn’t want to WASTE it by getting rid of it—but I WAS wasting it, by keeping it and not using it. Now someone on Freecycle has it, and SHE will use it.
I got rid of a shelf’s worth of books. I wanted to own each of them at the time I acquired them, and got satisfaction out of those acquisitions and the subsequent possessions—but either I haven’t re-read them or I’m done re-reading them. Time to stop keeping them just in case there is an apocalyptic situation where I would be glad of every page.
I tossed a handful of lipsticks that I never wear. They were fun to try, and educational; and they will, I hope, keep me from buying anything orangey or light pink in the future—and so they have served their purpose full-well.
In fact, that was a helpful line of thought for me: that even if I hadn’t gotten my money’s worth in the sense of using up the whole lipstick or using up all the cards, I’d gotten my money’s worth ANYWAY: the fun of considering the purchase, the fun of making the purchase and bringing it home, the fun of using several of the cards / trying the lipstick / wearing the shirt to a party. I got rid of a shirt I’d worn literally once, to a lunch date with an ex-boyfriend. I’ve had that shirt for 10-12 years, and it was exactly the right shirt for the lunch date and has not been right for anything else, and it cost $13 on clearance and it is time for Goodwill to have it. I got my FULL $13 out of that shirt the only time I wore it: it wasn’t “$13 per wearing,” it was “$13 to have the Right Shirt for that occasion and feel perfectly dressed for it and relieve some of the what-on-earth-should-I-WEAR stress leading up to such an event.” And what additional value am I getting out of an item by STORING and NOT-USING it? More value will be extracted by giving it to someone who WILL use it—or, at minimum, in the case of things that must be thrown away, by freeing up space to put something else.
It also helped to remember something I read in a book about hoarding, which is that the peak stress is felt in the moment before getting rid of an item; afterward, there is usually relief, and no regret, and in fact usually the item and accompanying stress are forgotten entirely. This is for items that actually OUGHT to be gotten rid of, of course: don’t try this with, say, all the shirts you usually wear, or the saucepans you use multiple times per week. But I have found it to be true for things such as a blush that’s too orange for me, or a book of essays about pregnancy I haven’t read in eight years and am no longer interested in reading, or the mugs that always get pushed to the back of the shelf.