Cawley: Crawling out from underneath the clutter

This past weekend, I became hyper-aware of how crowded I was feeling, like there was all this excess that I needed to get rid of and move on from.

I decided to focus my energy on what I could immediately declutter and spent a day deciding to finally organize my living space, including my closet, dressers, and wherever else I keep my vast amount of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.

I decided to start small, just intending to get one of those hanging closet organizers, because my apartment’s bedroom closet is sadly too narrow to use as it should be intended, to hang clothes.

But well, one closet organizer turned into buying two to replace the one I already had so that they would match, as they would be hanging side by side.

So, I made my way back and threw all of the existing closet organizer’s clothes onto the bed and set to work.

I had simply intended to spread out the clothes between the two organizers and maybe transfer some of the ones squeezed into the dresser to the closet, but then I got to thinking: do I really need all of this stuff?

Seeing them all splayed out like that was a little ridiculous. There were the contents of one closet, but there were also a dresser, nightstand and armoire bursting with clothes.

A quote from Carrie Bradshaw, from Sex and the City came to mind: “I like my money right where I can see it, hanging in my closet.” Cute, but not exactly something to strive for.

So, it quickly became clear that my quick re-organizing was going to be taken to the next level. My efforts started to resemble a scene from the series’ movie, where Carrie comes to the same conclusion.

She has too many clothes and has to downsize, so with her three best friends, two bottles of wine and some music playing, she proceeds to try on all of her old, many outdated and ridiculous outfits, so she can decide what to toss or keep.

My efforts were similar, except unfortunately without the wine and a Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda of my own on hand to give their input.

I had a mirror and music though and it became evident quickly that I was holding onto things that I don’t even wear, things that I don’t like very much, may no longer fit well or look flattering, or in some instances may even look ridiculous.

I could make another shirt out of the fluttery sleeves on one top I tossed and a short, black skirt I bought but never wore out of understandable modesty caused me to question my own judgment.

Surrounded by clothes I don’t wear and having difficulty throwing them in the donation bag I was compiling, things became clear. It’s hard to let go of things and move on, but sometimes it’s necessary.

What good was it doing to have things I don’t use taking up space?

In reality, I usually wear the same clothes every week. I like routine and can be a little predictable — just ask the people who take my coffee order in the morning. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to prefer simplicity, fewer options and less excess, which makes things a lot less overwhelming.

So, as I threw more and more things out, or into the donation bag, I felt a lot better. All the stuff I had wasn’t making me happy, it was taking up space and making it more difficult to focus on or find the things I actually liked.

When I embarked on the decluttering, I didn’t realize it had become a mainstream phenomenon. Colleagues told me this week about Marie Kondo and her Netflix series, “Tidying Up,” which teaches people to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”

I may not take that tack — I wouldn’t really be left with much of anything if I followed that philosophy, but it’s an interesting concept.

In fact, I did try to “spark joy” after decluttering … by contributing to future clutter, as ironically while writing this column, I got an email saying my online order was on its way. I have to admit, I did have a spark of excitement.


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