Is ‘letting go’ a load of rubbish?

We’re not yet 1/12th of the way into the year, but it still has the “fresh” feel — certainly fresher than a glass of bubbly left by the pool for too long.

The new year is notoriously the time when people make resolutions that will possibly never be kept. There are two reasons for that:

  • change is hard — so you revert to your old, easier ways, even if they are self destructive, and
  • the resolutions really don’t mean that much to you — otherwise you’d do them, right? No matter how hard they are…

While I’ve variously done the very familiar, very common “get fitter, drink less, learn a language (properly), re-learn the piano, etc.”, this year I took all the pressure off myself. Sure, those thoughts are in there — locked away for safekeeping — but I don’t need a new year to prompt me. (Otherwise I would have done them years ago, right?… R-i-g-h-t….. )

Aside from the standard culprits above (which I would have to add are very boring to trot out unless you actually do them…), the other familiar new-year thing for me is the new energy to make everything “beautiful” around me. I usually feel all revved up to have all my spaces look fab. To make all my spaces look fab.

Unfortunately, that usually means cleaning stuff out. I say “unfortunately” because I really would rather drink the rest of that warm bubbly than actually chuck stuff out.

I’m just not that good at it.

Probably worse than I am at the piano now. And French. And Indonesian.

And because I’m not good at it, I don’t like it.

However, what I do love is the feeling of having cleaned up my space. Looking at clean, clear surfaces. Carpets. Desktops. Tables. Printers. Photocopiers. They look so pretty without being gunked up by what can really only be described as crap. They look pretty and functional. Or even just pretty functional. It’s a feeling of exhilaration. Satisfaction. Achievement. And it’s damn good.

But this year I took that one step further. You see over the past year I’ve acquired some boxes of stuff — stuff previously squirreled away from my childhood, teens and early motherhood. Lots of boxes. As in lots of boxes. Adding them to the boxes from the office that I still haven’t unpacked after we moved four years ago meant a lot of lots of boxes. So I picked a 40-plus degree day (it really brought out the aroma of the mouse poo wedged under the early boxes), filled up a huge bottle with water and ventured out there. And then ventured away again. One spousal question of “want me to do it?” pushed me back there. I can do this. If I can write sensible, cohesive well-received articles about subjects not initially within my knowledge base, cook a quiche, inject an animal, lift heavy things and say “thankyou” in four languages, then I can chuck stuff out. Seriously.

So I did.

One thing I surprised myself with was tossing a whole lot of early work. I’ve been a PR writer and editor for more than 25 years, so that’s a lot of work. And a lot of boxes. I remember when I was a young starry eyed thing and going to the work of someone I quite admired. They had a library of their work. But it wasn’t just a series some dreadful flat-pack “things” sequestering their stuff in a corner — it was a full-on library, with all their output carefully nestled on solid, dark-timber shelves, interspersed with beautiful, hand-drawn botanic artwork. I was in heaven. I wanted a library too.

Clearly though, the thing with a library is actually putting your work on shelves. Boxes don’t cut it. I’m pretty sure even the stunning, hand-drawn botanic artwork wouldn’t make the boxes look good. (Probably why I don’t have the artwork…)

So having kept pretty much everything I’d ever written, I decided it was time to let it go. Yep — even that first brief I wrote for my very first police rounds as a cadet journo: the red-beaked concrete swan planter that was stolen from someone’s front veranda. In fact, once I started, it was almost fun. After the box with the stolen-swan article, out went magazines with my first cover lines. Then magazines with my second cover lines, first multi-page feature … and on I went. I was nearly in a frenzy (which could have been the mouse poo; that stuff is vile and emetic), so next out was marketing notes from my science degree (I did a comms major in a science qual — which made perfect sense at the time in using my rather bisected skills and interests). Anyway, you get the drift: I had a lot of boxes and I chucked a lot of boxes.

I used two criteria:

  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Do I ever use it?

These may be familiar to many who are very good at doing the toss so to speak. I’ve never read Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo’s bible on de-cluttering, but I do know one of her theories is that nostalgia is not your friend. Really.

Sometimes in using my two-question metric the answer was “no”, but I still felt like keeping it… so then I applied the “funeral test”. Sounds morbid, but really it’s just about “is it worth keeping so much that my offspring would have to go through it only to chuck it?”. This is not a Marie Kondo-ism to my knowledge, but something I came up with myself after listening to a relative say, arms widespread: “What do I do with all this stuff? It was so precious to Mum, but I really don’t want it…”

So several hours later the garage was almost bereft of boxes filled with stuff that don’t bring me joy, I’ve not used in ages and that aren’t worth making the next generation go through in 50 years time. I say “almost” because after washing out the emptied garage (thank goodness for bloody big sheds with huge roofs that catch megalitres of rainwater), which disembowelled the mouse poo flavour, all I really wanted to do partake in a nice glass of (cold) bubbly — whether it was an amber ale or a sparkling pinot noir, I didn’t care.

So there are still a few boxes there. But on the whole, letting go of stuff I’d “treasured” for a long time was such a relief. At the time, those things were good. Now? I’m not quite sure they’re a load of rubbish, but they have been dealt with properly. Even better the achievement of cleaning them out was not rubbish.

Here’s to a great year!

(PS: I know it wasn’t a new year resolution, I’m sure I was fitter after doing that in 40-plus degree heat, too…)

Image credit: FreePics/ Nick Pringle

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