Learning to Discard

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2015-06-01) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

Funny how once you become focused on a thing, you start to notice occurrences of it everywhere. This week, a bit of serendipity came in the form of this letter from Nick Disabato, talking about how he's been learning to discard things, and being more intentional about the things he chooses to be part of his life. If you've been struggling with how to get rid of things, like I have, I highly encourage you to give that a read.

I’ve been trying really hard to make strides in discarding lately, so that letter gave me another boost of confidence that I’m heading in the right direction. We got rid of a ton of stuff two years ago when I moved my family from Maryland to Seattle (and I’m talking rent-a-dumpster levels of stuff), but as we unpacked, and ever since, I’ve been thinking that I still didn’t get rid of enough. As I recently wrote, that thinking has extended to my email as well. I have started to realize that the root of the problem is that I’m letting too many things into my life that serve no real purpose.

Just this weekend, I finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. While it is — like many self-help books — about a page
and a half of decent tips expanded to book form, there were three big takeaways for me:

  1. Everything that we have trouble getting rid of has a reason that’s based in either attachment to the past or fear of the future. How will I remember this great event/person in my life? What if I need this weird adapter cable or book sometime in the future? Chances are you'll be just fine without it, and if you do need it… maybe asking a friend to borrow one is the answer.
  2. Take the perspective of determining what you love, and keeping those things, instead of focusing on what to get rid of. It’s a lot easier to tell whether or not you love something, or as Marie Kondo puts it, whether it “sparks joy.”
  3. Take each item in your hands, actually touching it, to decide if you really love it. There are a number of “out there” ideas in Kondo’s book — anthropomorphizing your belongings and talking to them, for example — but I found that touching the objects really did give me a more immediate and visceral feeling as to whether I loved them or not.

Using those methods, I cleaned my bedroom and sorted through all of my clothes this weekend, and it made a big difference. I got rid of nearly half of my clothes — mostly things that I had just been hanging onto because I was afraid that I might need them again someday. Now, all of my clothes fit inside my tiny Ikea wardrobe, with room to breathe. I feel much better about looking inside it, able to find something and pull it out without having to pry it away from all of the other things jammed in there.

That good feeling gives me confidence that expanding these techniques to other parts of the house will be just as successful. Fingers crossed. 🙂