Thank you so much for joining me again for part two of lessons learned from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Last week I shared a bit about my own experience facing off with a loved one’s belongings; though this week’s topic isn’t nearly as heavy, it is something I talk a lot about when working alongside clients in their homes. Let’s dive in to passing on your guilty clutter.
In her book, Marie Kondo suggests to readers that we need to be more mindful of passing off our unwanted items onto others. She makes the point that we often pass along our own clutter in order to make ourselves feel better about letting go.
You know when you read something and it just speaks right to your soul? This was one of those moments for me. How many times had I taken my would-be clutter and made it someone else’s problem? How many times had a re-homed an item because it was too special, too expensive, too new to simply get rid of?
A perfect example of this was when I decided I no longer needed this quirky candelabra I bought that looked like it was from the set of a Tim Burton film. There was something about it that spoke to me while browsing in an antique shop, so I bought it without knowing exactly what I would do with it. (A topic for another day: shopping without a purpose!)
After trying to fit it in with my decor several different ways, I finally accepted it just didn’t work. And unless I wanted to try a belated post-adolescent goth phase, it probably wouldn’t. So what did I do?
I went through a mental checklist of my friends and family until I thought of someone who just might like it: my friend Elise. And, no, Elise does not have a gothic style home, but she adores Halloween and I thought with some red candles the candelabra could make a pretty good Halloween centerpiece. I offered it to her and she graciously accepted.
Three years later I was helping her clear out one of her closets, and there was the candelabra, shoved into the back corner. Talk about an awkward moment!
Thankfully, I had already read Kondo’s bestseller and recognized the fact that I had passed my guilty clutter onto her. In fact, she may have even felt more guilt about letting go than I had since I, a good friend, had given this item to her rather than an unknown sales clerk.
I immediately addressed what I had done and told her firmly: this is going in the donation bin! We were both able to laugh about it and hopefully a Tim Burton fan somewhere in the world is enjoying a romantic, albeit creepy, candlelight dinner.
Now, whenever I am thinking about giving an item I no longer need to a friend or family member, I check myself. What are my motives? Why am I trying to pass this along? Is it because they could truly use it it or is it because I am trying to alleviate my own guilty conscience? Most of the time, it’s the latter ringing true. This process has also helped me to think twice before buying things I don’t really need.
On the rare occasion I do pass something along to another person, I make it very clear they 1) can say no and not hurt my feelings and 2) can take it with no strings attached, meaning if they decide they don’t actually want it, that is a-ok. And I actually tell them that. I don’t assume they will know it. Just like we have to give ourselves permission to let go, sometimes we have to give others permission as well. I’ll illustrate why with another story:
Recently my mom came for a visit and, as often happens, while packing to leave realized she couldn’t fit everything she bought in her suitcase. To make room, she cleared out all of her travel size beauty products, leaving me a drawerful of partially used tiny shampoos, conditioners and lotions (Thanks, Mom!)
After she left, I was cleaning up the bathroom and discovered all of the precious gems she had bequeathed to me. And here’s the kicker: I actually had a hard time throwing them out! They were perfectly usable, so it felt wasteful to toss them. (How many of you reading this right now know exactly what I’m talking about!?) My mom’s guilty clutter had now become mine.
Once I was able to recognize and name what I was feeling when I looked at the bottles, it made it easier for me to let them go (To make myself feel a bit better, I did take the time to empty and rinse every. single. bottle. so I could recycle them!).
It’s the little things like a quirky candelabra from a friend and useable yet unused beauty products that build up over time, and before you know it, you have closets and drawers full of stuff you didn’t even buy or particularly want, for that matter. Marie Kondo’s wisdom helped me to rethink both what I give and what I receive.
So the next time a good friend offers you an item he or she no longer needs, don’t be afraid to kindly decline. And if you find yourself going through your mental Rolodex of friends and family to find a good match for that quirky piece you just couldn’t pass up, check yourself and ask: am I passing on my own guilty clutter?
Next week we’ll touch on my third and final lesson for this series: holding onto visual representations of who we once were (or hoped to be).
Until next time, keep on enjoying this one & wonderful life,