March 31, 2015

The Unexpected Emotions of Spring Cleaning.


I spent much of my 20s as a nomad, moving from house to house, city to city, never staying in one place longer than a year.

So the concept of packing up, cleaning, downsizing and moving is something I am quite familiar with.

Sometimes I don’t even have to be moving to go on a cleaning binge. The urge takes over me, almost as though it is uncontrollable and I am either cleaning every crevice of the house or going through my closest eliminating it of unused, unworn items.

This round of compulsive cleaning, my closet was the target. The urge took over me one afternoon and I knew I had to purge.

As I embarked on the journey, I was filled with excitement and joy. I felt alive and I was ready to cleanse myself of the old, the unworn and, yes I’ll admit it, even the never before used. I was looking forward to cleansing and downsizing and creating space for the potentially new.

A few years ago I adopted the idea that whenever I buy something new, I must then get rid of something I no longer use or wear. For example, if I buy a new sundress I will then get rid of a sundress and so on. Between this and the somewhat constant moving for the past 10 years, I really must admit that I don’t own that much stuff, relatively speaking, but I still feel as though I have more than I really need—more than any one person really needs.

My urge to purge started out on a good foot. I even had my mate on board with the project as he volunteered to assist with any tough decisions—he would be the final say if I were indecisive about an item—yay or nay. As a Libra, I am known for my indecisiveness, so having a cleaning buddy was extremely helpful for me.

I started with the items I already knew I wanted to get rid of—this made it easier as I tossed one item after another onto a small pile that was beginning to form on my bedroom floor. Things were moving along quickly, perhaps this spring-cleaning project wouldn’t take as long as I had anticipated. To my pleasant surprise, my pile was quickly becoming larger and larger.

One item, then another, I didn’t even need to consult with my assistant—I was quickly pulling items off of their hanger and flinging them onto the pile. I felt a little bit lighter with each item removed—“nope, no, never; love it but don’t recall the last time I wore it; nope, no, cant fit into that; where did that come from?”—I was on a spring clean purging binge and nothing could get in my way.

And then a weird thing happened—as I stopped for a moment to look at my newly accumulated pile on the floor, I noticed emotions such as guilt, regret and remorse beginning to bubble up inside of me.

When I began this project I was full of excitement and joy, and I was anticipating feelings of accomplishment and lightness upon finishing. What I hadn’t been expecting was the emotional rollercoaster that I ended up embarking on.

As I sat there on the floor, next to my large pile of clothes, I practically broke down into tears. All of this stuff—what a waste, I thought.

I began putting price tags on each item: the $100 Coach hat I bought when I was 18 and have still to this day have never worn, the $50 sundress times five of them, the $75 I-have-to-have-these feather sandals that I have maybe worn a handful of times. The ticket items were quickly adding up in my head. My pile had to be worth, at one point, close to $1,000. I slowly sank into a deep pit of guilt. Guilt for all of the money I had spent—not just on this pile, but all of the piles over the course of my lifetime.

Shame began to take over me, “You are a horrible being addicted to consumerism,” I could hear a voice saying. I was tempted to take my usual vow to never shop again, but knew that in reality it wouldn’t last long, potentially only driving me further into my shame hole. I began to beat myself up for the things I have purchased and the things I’ve held onto.

I noticed there were certain items I had formed attachments to—I swear I worked through my unnecessary attachment to items issue in the past—and there it was rearing its ugly head at me yet again.

Why did this pile of unused clothing bring up so many emotions? What was originally meant to be a fun and lightening activity had turned into what felt like a downward spiral of dark emotions.

Feeling caught off guard by these mixed emotions, I knew that I was going to need some support to get me through this process. Thankfully my mate and best friend were there to provide me with the empathy and encouragement that I needed to not feel so alone.

I was able to openly share my feelings and experience with them and they shared their stories of similar instances and emotions that they had encountered. With their help, I have decided to give my clothes to a friend that has taken a pledge to not buy any new clothes for one year.

I am now able to look at my pile of unused, unworn clothes and not feel overwhelmed with guilt, shame and remorse, but instead I see my beautiful friend, happy to be receiving a plentiful gift.

Tips to Help with Your Spring Closet Cleaning Project:

1. I definitely recommend having a closet cleaning buddy to help with the tough decisions.

2. Make three piles—Yes, No and Maybe. This will help things to move along quickly and you can go through the Maybe pile once you are finished (this is where the buddy comes in handy).

3. When you purchase a new item, get rid of an old item. This will help to keep the quantity of items in your closet down.

4. Remember that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure—donate your items to Goodwill, a local shelter or a friend.

5. Have a clothing swap party with your friends. Invite five to 10 friends over and have everyone put their items into a pile in the middle of the room. Take turns going around the circle, as each person takes out one item. Continue around the circle as many times as you like.


Relephant Reads:

5 Spring Cleaning Yoga Poses.

Do Some Soul Cleaning.


Author: Melinda Quesenberry

Apprentice Editor: Melissa Scavetta/Editor: Travis May

Photo: forharriet.com

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