You can outgrow people as well as clothes. And ideas. We go through life acquiring things, relationships, and assumptions. Our phones tell us to buy more crap, for ourselves and our friends.
But getting rid of stuff feels good, too.
Sometimes, it feels even better.
You don’t always know when to purge. I’ve learned to spot the signs. My mind starts to feel slow, heavy. It wants to dance and play, but there’s not enough room. Thoughts trip over clutter.
Inspiration steps in last week’s takeout.
One of my relatives is a landlord. He gets to see inside lots of people’s homes. A while back, he told us about a graduate student who lived in squalor. Dishes everywhere. Clothes everywhere.
Basically, everything everywhere.
No surprise, she had a bug problem. Repairmen couldn’t get work done. So my landlord friend had to show her own to clean and organize.
I’ve tended to have the opposite problem. People see my blank walls shelves and think they need to buy me photographs and Knick knacks. I’ve got a closet full of unhung art.
One of my friends asked me, “How do you live like this?” She went through my apartment and assessed my happiness based on how much furniture I had. She concluded I was depressed.
“And you only have one bowl.” She showed me the bowl, as if I didn’t already know. “How does that work?”
“Well,” I said. “When I’m done eating, I wash it.”
My friend stood in my empty kitchen, where a dining room table might’ve gone. “But what if you have people over?”
Like me, she was in grad school. Neither one of us had time to have people over. And yet, her apartment look like a real adult’s place. She had all the furniture you’d expect. Plus, a fully furnished guest room.
Why? Because that’s how a home should look. My friend couldn’t tolerate the truth of an unfurnished apartment rented by someone like me, bound to move out in two years. To her, it looked sad. It didn’t matter if we’d both come here solely to get our doctorates, that we’d be gone soon. She’d have the illusion of a furnished home, dammit.
She wasn’t so different from lots of other people who cling to things they don’t need. Not just furniture and knick knacks.
My friend clung to people to, too. In real life, and social media. She spent half her time on superficial social ties. Weak connections.
At some point, you reach a threshold. Too many people can clutter up your life even worse than old clothes.
Some people seem to want permanence at any cost. They amass stuff as comfort, and want a souvenir for every day.
It reminds them of who they are, or used to be.
As if that’s always a good thing.
That used to be me. Halfway through college, I changed. Not only that, but I realized it was going to keep happening.
I was going to keep changing.
Something even bigger occurred to me — I liked changing. When I changed, the new me didn’t want a bunch of reminders of a past self.
We aren’t a photograph on our grandma’s wall, or that last picture we got tagged in. Too much of that ties us to expectations. It tricks us into thinking we’re static objects.
You’re not static. You’re a brain and a body that moves. Plus, those objects are playing a trick on you.
They’re also changing. You just can’t see it without a microscope.
You’re allowed to change, like everything else. You can surprise people, and yourself. If you let it happen.
So maybe you should unfriend your first boyfriend from middle school. He has two kids now, and a full life. You don’t have to keep liking his vacation photos. Not everyone you’ve ever kissed means what society tells you it should. I lost my virginity to someone who spent less than a month in my life, and I’ve never seen them since.
Change scares people. Another one of my friends keeps an old piano in her house, which used to belong to her parents. She hasn’t played it since she was a kid. “But I might come back to it some day,” she says.
Like all of us, she feels comforted by old reminders of what she used to do. But the piano also guilt trips her.
Every time she looks at it, my friend feels bad for not practicing. The truth is, she doesn’t want to play piano anymore. She just doesn’t want to admit she’s changed. New interests. She talks about taking up violin sometime, but she’s afraid because, well, she lost interest in piano.
So what? I think she should donate the piano. Or chop it up into firewood. If she wants to try the violin, who’s the piano to stop her?
Facebook will just keep making those creepy videos with your photos if you let it. Letting go of things and people and mindsets doesn’t hurt. Sometimes, you have to trash the past to move forward.