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Giving It Away

2015 April 13



Maybe you’ve heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese lifestyle guru who’s changing the way we think about our stuff. Or, maybe you haven’t. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is a global best-seller and is gaining renown everywhere you look. Even if you haven’t heard of her yet, if you start listening to conversations around you or looking at lifestyle blogs, you’ll see her influence. I haven’t read her book (yet), but from having read several articles and reviews, I know the main tenant of her philosophy is that you should only keep items that bring you joy.

It makes sense. Why would you keep anything that doesn’t make you happy? But when you stop and look at your possessions and really see them for what they are, you realize just how much junk we hold on to for the sake of just HAVING it.

Because I haven’t read the book, I haven’t embarked on any kind of involved purging project. However, I did host a clothing swap (my fourth!) at my apartment yesterday, which led me to go through my closet (and bookshelves) with a critical eye. In the past, I’ve often held on to items of clothing for sentimental value or because I’d paid a lot of money for them or I would probably fit into it again someday. This time, I did my best to ask myself if I was holding on to things for the wrong reasons and if that item of clothing really brought me joy.

So, into the bag went the green dress I’d worn to my rehearsal dinner. The pretty pink dress I’d bought in Brooklyn the morning of my wedding shower (and then worn again for dinner on the beach on my honeymoon) had to go too. And, perhaps most upsettingly, one of my favorite skirts of all time (immortalized in my blog header). Truthfully, a few of these items don’t fit me as well as they once did, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of Joe every time I wore them (in fact, I haven’t worn the green dress or pink dress since the break up) also. So, much as I loved the items of clothing themselves, they didn’t make me happy anymore, and so it was undeniably time to let them go. Thankfully, the swap was the perfect venue to make sure these well-loved items went to a good home–not just left in a garbage bag in a Goodwill bin.

I wish I could get rid of everything that reminds me of him, but, annoyingly, he gave some really good gifts, and I can’t see giving up my Frye boots or DVF scarf any time soon…though I’m sure their time will come (probably when I’ve worn them threadbare).

Has anyone else struggled with what to do with gifts from an ex, or items that are tainted by painful memories? Have any of you read Marie Kondo’s book?


5 Responses Post a comment
  1. April 13, 2015

    i haven’t read the book but i do believe too much stuff weighs you down. i always feel better in a clean, organized space. i’m not very sentimental so that helps :)

  2. April 14, 2015

    It is crazy the memories that can be associated with certain things, isn’t it? Particularly for clothes loving people such as ourselves. I can relate to what you’re saying in this post so much. When an ex and I broke up I let a green top (that had been his favorite) hang in my closet for almost two years before I finally parted with it. I never wore it post break-up of course, because it reminded me of him…but I couldn’t part with it either. Something about letting that shirt go felt like it would be the final nail in our relationship coffin. Finally one night when I was digging through shirts I realized I needed to let it go. I honestly don’t think I was ready to remove it from my closet a moment sooner than I actually did…but I eventually came to peace with letting that shirt (just a shirt! and yet so much more!) go. It wasn’t the poor shirt’s fault I realized. So I gave it to a friend, happy that she could wear it and start associating it with good NEW memories. Clearly I still think about/remember the shirt – but I’m really happy it’s not hanging in my closet anymore either.

    As hard as it was to part with your items on Sunday I’m proud of you for doing it. Your clothes will be well loved by those of us who are their new owners. I can promise you I’m going to take very good care of that yellow skirt!

  3. April 17, 2015

    I really love what Kelli says in her comment. I think we let go of things when we are ready to do so, and it can be so freeing, but also it’s okay if we’re not ready to at a certain point in time. I’m really glad letting go of those dresses was cathartic for you; clothes really do carry so much meaning.

    As for those Frye boots? I vote that you just make a million new, better memories, because they really are the world’s best boots (and maybe play a little Nancy Sinatra each morning that you wear them).

  4. April 22, 2015

    Oh man. I recently did this, inspired in part by the Kondo-fever that’s going around (although I also still have not actually read the book)–but my purge was of books, not clothes. However, I had some very similar serious emotional moments because what I was weeding through were the physical remnants of my time in graduate school, which did not end the way I wanted it to–call it a very bad breakup. I was holding on to a lot of emotional and psychic weight in the piles and piles of books that represented years of intellectual and personal work. They stood for a time that I was and am pretty proud of, but also which I have TONS of angst and anger and resentment and frustration saved up from. I still have to make the last trip to the donation bins but it really was very liberating to free myself from some of that burden while also acknowledging that they had been valuable and important in their time. Ooof. Next stop, the closet! Speaking of which, how does one get an invitation to one of these famous clothing swaps?!

  5. Vivian permalink
    April 23, 2015

    I definitely struggled with this after a soul crushing break up of my own. I kept so many things – I think I still had at least a drawers worth of clothing/accessories/random trinkets that reminded me of him that I couldn’t part with even though every time I saw them it brought me back to that horrible feeling of loss (or anger, resentment, emotion du jour…). It was weird how I would seemingly randomly look at one of these things and suddenly be able to put it in the trash/in the donation pile/in a fire without feeling anything anymore. So freeing! Buuut its been 6 years and I still have some things…. I like to think I’ve peeled away all the emotion from the things I have left though – some material items really do turn out to be worth more than the people who bought them. (ZING – too bitter?)

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