Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Minimal-ish Living: My Fight with a Red Sweater

I’ve been decluttering.  No, that’s too tame a word.  I’ve been radically overhauling.  At last count, I’ve made six trips to Goodwill since the beginning of the year.  I’ve offloaded clothes and shoes and furniture and literal truckloads of “things” – none of which I’ve missed, so far.  I wrote the story of my initial a-ha moments of shedding for my friend Jennifer’s blog.  In that piece, I talk about the items in my home that were humming with guilt…and how realizing that they were guilt-carriers made it easier to let go of them.

Unfortunately, even after I’d rid myself of the guilt-items, I still had a lot of stuff.  Ugh, I still had way too much stuff, so I decided to repeat the exercise that provided the insight about Guilt.  I asked, aloud, “Ok, now what are you holding on to?”  This time, the answer came back a little bit more slowly…more like a gradual realization than an immediate response.  In fact, it happened in the middle of an argument with a sweater.

This particular sweater is a simple, shapely short-sleeved number in an awesome shade of red.  It’s an “I feel amazing” sweater.  It’s summer on a boat in the Hamptons, effortless and put together.  It’s hot and cool all at the same time.  And this sweater put up a very convincing argument.  It whispered to me stories about how amazing I felt in it.  It reminded me that with a little more exercise and continued attention to my diet, I could feel amazing in it again.  “Just wait til summer,” it purred.

Sweaters are surprisingly good negotiators.

The sweater survived the first two big donations with its promises of future awesomeness.  It was still in excellent shape and it didn’t make me feel guilty.  Still, I felt strongly that I needed to let it go. Why?  As I listened to all of its very good logic, I realized that I was holding on to the sweater out of Fear.  I was afraid that I might never feel as amazing and powerful and sexy and confident as I felt in that sweater.  The sweater had become a beacon of some past-me that I was trying to hold on to…that I hoped, on some subconscious level, to recapture.

When I viewed the sweater through that lens, the notion seemed ridiculous.  I don’t need a sweater to feel amazing and confident.  I can feel that way tomorrow…or right now, in fact.  I don’t need a sweater that I can’t even wear to remind me that I’m sexy.  All I really need to do is to let go of the fear that I’m not enough…and start trusting that I am – no matter what’s in my closet.

And, with that, I lovingly folded up the red sweater (despite its objections that I’d seriously regret the decision) and I put it on the donation pile…along with most of the rest of the clothes I’d been hoarding over the years.  My closets (and drawers and shelves) are breathing easier now…and so am I.

Peeling back the layers of emotions associated with my stuff has been transformative.  I’m finding it easier to accomplish the things I need to do.  I’m learning to challenge the long-held assumptions I’ve had about myself.  I’m finding ways to coach myself through the emotional landmines, big and small, that present themselves.  It’s an iterative process, but I’m on the path to something simpler…something joyful…something free.

…and I owe it all to a very convincing red sweater.

1 comment:

Labelmaker said...

This is awesome. Not because you mentioned me, though that is a plate full of awesome! But because the thought process of contrasting old values with new values is a odious chore many avoid. It's just too hard. So we hang on to it all.
But you, my friend, have done it and it is VERY liberating!