3 Life Lessons Only My Messy Closet Could Teach Me

by Amy on August 26, 2015


I spent the summer throwing things away.

I gave away 4 bags full of clothing, jewelry and shoes.

I recycled two boxes full of flashcards I wrote in Japan to learn Kanji.

I said goodbye to hundreds of old magazines, electronic equipment, CDs, coaching notebooks, class binders…

… a drawer full of graded papers from university and grad school.

By the way, I once wrote a paper titled “Consumer Driven Health Care through the Lens of Punctuated Equilibrium.”

But now I have no idea what this means. (If you do, please explain in the comments section below.)

Every once in awhile a book comes along that changes everything.

I didn’t think a book with the phrase “tidying up” in the title would stand a chance.

But the act of “tidying up” has been a lot like standing naked in front of a full-length mirror… for hours.

If you stand there long enough, you see some things you didn’t notice before. Things you didn’t want to notice.

For instance, I’ve been holding on to my college papers for years because I wanted “credit” for writing academic papers that got good grades.

I’m not sure who the hell would be crazy enough to read these papers but, in my mind, letting them go was throwing away “proof” that I was once, a long time ago, “smart.”

I also struggled to get rid of the flash cards I wrote 20 years ago when I was learning to read Japanese. I have since forgotten almost all the characters. And I can barely speak the language any more.

I used to be very proud of my Japanese. So throwing that stuff away made me face the truth: That a long time ago I worked very hard to accomplish something that, well, I can’t do anymore.

My closet was also tricky. I’ve cleaned my closet many, many times over the years. But year after year, I leave the same pieces that I never end up wearing.

“I’ll wear them some day,” I told myself. That cute little Bohemian number I wore years ago to a friends wedding. I felt so pretty. Or that green blouse I wore to England with the ruffles shaped like a flower that shows off my shoulders.

My dressy stuff. I rarely dress up anymore. I don’t even like to dress up.

But… I want to be that person who likes to dress up. Which is why I was holding on to all those ruffles.

There were many things I’ve had since before my body was transformed by three pregnancies. Even my shoe size has changed! There will never be a day when I will go back to pre-baby proportions no matter how much weight I lose. But clearly a part of me has been thinking I *should*.

The act of tidying up reflected back at me many truths that nothing else has been able to show me:

I’ve been holding on to all that stuff because I haven’t been ok with the ME of right now.

The me who is 10 pounds heavier, with saggier boobs and bigger feet. The me who doesn’t remember how to read Kanji and only speaks so-so Spanish. The me who once got straight A’s writing about health care and women’s issues but now has no idea what “punctuated equilibrium” means.

Throwing those things away would mean:

  1. I’d have to be ok with who I am RIGHT NOW,
  2. I’d have to admit that I have everything I need in this moment and
  3. that I don’t have to do anything to deserve my own approval.

So there you have it. 3 Life Lessons from my messy office (and closet).

And here I am. Naked. Saggier. Older. Wiser. Lighter. Happier. Saying “goodbye and thank you” to the Amys of yesteryear (I love that I just used the word “yesteryear”).

Letting go of who I think I should be so that I can be who I really am.

You can “tidy up” too.

It’s worth it.

Click here to get yourself a copy of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.

Your Turn:

Got clutter? What are you afraid to let go? 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Ursin August 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm

How do you deal with clutter when you’re not the packrat in the family? I can’t throw out someone else’s possessions. I do get rid of things that are broken though.


Dena DeCastro August 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm

Great post, Amy! I got the book on kindle earlier this summer, and I find it fascinating that I have yet to make it past the first section. It’s not because it’s not good. I was nodding my head in affirmation in those first pages, and I really resonate with the idea. But I suspect I have not yet read further because I’m afraid to begin the process of uncovering deeper layers of stuff — emotional stuff underneath the “stuff stuff.” I also fear what it means to finally let go of certain clothes I’ll never look good in again (was my style 10 years ago and 15 pounds ago, not so much now.) I fear going through all those college papers, too…two master’s degrees, a lot of student debt, and my judgement that those degrees haven’t really paid off. Lots of issues! But your post has inspired me to return to the book. Thanks!


Barb August 31, 2015 at 12:14 am

Thanks, Amy, for your take on Kondo’s book. Your words resonated with me in a way that the author’s didn’t, and I’m grateful. I think that the stuff that brings us joy and our essential selves are tied together, and you articulated that.


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