I made the decision to tidy my clothes after reading the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. She’s a Japanese master of tidying. Her goal for us all is to live in an uncluttered environment where we are surrounded by objects that spark joy in our hearts. Her theory is that when we become accustomed to living only around beautiful, joyful things, we can’t help but change our lives to match this high vibration. This means leaving the crappy job or the painful relationship or finally losing those 10 extra pounds. She says she’s often seen clients completely change their lives and that no one defaults back into clutter after a complete tidying. The identity shifts is too strong to ever go back.
If you want to achieve this state, Marie advises that you lay all of your items from a certain category (clothes, books, papers, mementos, etc) in one room. Once they’ve been assembled you hold each one in your hands and ask yourself if it brings you true joy. If it does it can stay, if it doesn’t you have to let it go. When you are letting something go, you can thank it for doing it’s job--sometimes the job is just teaching you more about what you do really want--and honor all the associated memories. Then you let go, again and again and again.
Obviously I was intrigued after reading about the magical results from this method. I am doing a light spring cleanse (no dairy, caffeine, booze, sugar with lots of plants and cooked grains) and I always enjoy a deep clean of the house when I’m doing the same thing in my body. Falling asleep on Friday night, I was excited to begin and see where the results would lead. As you all know, I love the practice of transformation and this method felt really different than anything I’d heard.
On Saturday I woke up nervous. I was nervous as I took all the clothes out of my closet and laid them out on the bed and the floor and even on Poncho’s bed. At this point Poncho got nervous too and hid out in the kitchen. I sat down to begin the sorting process and promptly burst into tears. A huge wave of fear washed over me. I was afraid of making the wrong choice and that I would have to give away something that I cared about or would keep something that didn’t really make me happy. I was afraid I would offend someone by giving away a gift. Mostly, I was afraid that I wouldn’t feel anything as I clutched my clothes to my chest.
Within the emotion, I knew I was experiencing resistance. From the work I’ve done transforming and helping other people to transform, I now know how to recognize resistance as fear. Resistance comes from the part of ourselves that would rather stay stuck and safe than to grow into awesome but unknown territory. Resistance looks like anger sometimes, excuses others, and definitely houses our compulsive, self-destructive habits. The greater the resistance, the more potential is present to launch you into real change. Now when I experience strong resistance, I get excited because I know there is something really good waiting for me on the other side of the emotion. This gives me the energy I need to push forward when most of me wants to turn back.
So through my tears, I began clutching my shirts to my chest. Right away, I felt things, something different with each item. My newly thrifted white sweater made me light up from the inside. I smiled huge as I held a plaid button-down with shiny snaps from my friend Justin. I sighed relief as I realized I still loved a long knit sweater from Anthropologie that I bought with my mom.
When I held other items, it felt like different. Sometimes ok but nothing close to joy. This difference in emotion told me that it was time to let go. Some things were easy to let go of, like the red flannel shirt from the North Carolina outlet mall that always felt too short. I thanked it for being part of my fun beach weekend with my best girlfriends and tossed it into the bag. There was also a navy sweater from my grandmother that I hadn’t worn once in two years. I felt her spirit say ok, no problem and I added it to the pile as I smiled to her memory.
I held the one of the two pairs of my dad’s flannel pajamas that I took from his hospital room on the night he died. I cried like a baby yet still felt joy in my heart. I held the other pair and felt nothing. Keeping one of them felt like a joyful choice within a sad memory. Discarding the other felt right too.
So it went like that. Through my resistance, I piled up five trash bags of clothes, shoes and accessories. The amount of emotion I felt as I did this really surprised me. After a while realized that I was not just letting go of objects, but I was letting go of a network of memories that held big pieces of my identity. All of those pieces were at one time important but only some of them held the energy I needed to move forward into my most powerful self. Holding onto the others was only holding me back.
It occurs to me that this process is so familiar because it’s my job. Instead of objects, I help people clear away outdated habits in a group coaching setting. We take 10 weeks and work through 10 habits to promote better digestion, better sleep, better care of our bodies. Along the way, a lot of resistance comes up. We look at resistance as a group and together find the strength we need to let go of what no longer serves us. Although the process is physical, it’s quickly becomes clear that it’s much more spiritual than anything. By letting go of our destructive habits on the physical level, we heal the deeply-rooted emotions that cause us to self-sabotage. Once we look down into the roots, it’s honestly not that hard to change and emerge as our most joyful and centered selves. It’s such a cool, effective process and I love it more than I can express in words.
By lunchtime on Saturday, the bags of clothes were all properly thanked and stored in my car. My closet now feels like a sanctuary filled with objects of beauty unique to my own soul. I keep peeking inside my drawers to admire my neat lines of folded t-shirts and leggings. I do feel more joyful and lighter from the inside, like a new level of some goodness has opened up for me. It feels great.
On Sunday I spent a nice day with someone I had been dating. It was good connection in many ways but something in my heart didn’t feel quite settled. In the past, I would have ignored this and hoped that time would make things better. Then it occurred to me that I could see for myself whether it was time to let go. Again the resistance came up and again I knew it would be powerful to take a good look from the inside. As we were saying goodbye, I hugged him, felt into my heart and realized the truth that our time together was not bringing me true joy. So I let go. It wasn’t graceful but it was right. As I drove home, I felt a such a confidence in life itself. Everything comes, stays and eventually serves its purpose. Understanding this brings me such a confidence in myself. It’s not that I can spare myself from the pain of letting go, but I now know that I have a solid system for deciding what to keep and what to release. More than that I know now that I can really trust the wisdom of my heart, the true wisdom of joy to guide me where I need to go.