Why I held onto my things.


People hold onto their things for a myriad of reasons…

Some through fear, just in case, or it feels too hard today and so they they wait until tomorrow. For me, the reason was clear and it was staring me in the face, every single day. Because every time that I looked in the mirror, I really didn’t like the person staring back at me. It’s what kept me awake at night and what played in my head like a constant record. It was muffled on the better days but always there, a melody in my ear, so soft that others couldn’t hear the tune but I could. For I knew it off by heart yet couldn’t find the volume to turn it down, let alone turn it off.

One day however, I found a way to drown out the noise and it just so happened to coincide with my very first pay packet. Suddenly I had disposable income at my fingertips and as I stood turning those notes over in my hand, I thought of all the possibilities that this money could bring. But instead of using it for good as I should have done, I thought of something much better. I would use it to change myself. I started spending my weekends in shops, filling baskets full of clothes, shoes and unfortunate hair dye. I brought make up and used it like war paint, an every day mask to cover up who I really was. My drawers became fuller and I walked a little taller (the high heels helped). It felt like a whole new world where I could be anyone and everyone, after all, anyone was better than being me.

And it didn’t feel wrong because everyone was doing it, we were all transforming into newer versions of ourselves almost daily. Even the ‘most wanted’ models, on the covers of magazine’s were being airbrushed and changed to fit onto the page. It felt perfectly normal to do the same. But after a while nothing felt different. Beneath the new skirt and the painted face I was still me, the record kept on playing and deep down I knew that it wouldn’t stop. I got angry with myself and with the world. I was longing to find that thing, that one thing that would make me feel okay and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat, no matter how many times I tried.

If I close my eyes now, I can still feel that high before a purchase. The want, so desperate that I could almost taste it on my tongue. A hope that this item could finally be the one to change everything and that feeling of elation, when I held that object in my hands. For those few seconds, minutes or hours it would finally feel okay. Yet I can remember all too well the crushing lows, that came when I realised it hadn’t worked. I still felt like me, no matter what I bought. Those moments were tough because the elation came and went but the disappointment stayed. I guess its like that extra bar of chocolate. We all know that it’s bad for us but we eat it anyway because in those few moments of oblivion, are where we find our peace.

As time went on, things stayed the same. Years of bad decisions accumulated into my space, like bees around a honey pot. And as I tried to avoid being stung the buzzing followed me constantly, no matter where I went. They say that clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions but my clutter was more than that. It was broken hopes and promises, with a hold so tight that I couldn’t let go. I was sure that if I did, I would never become that better version on myself, I would forever be me. It was better to hold it all close than give it away and feel like my dreams were over.

But those things haunted me daily and mocked me at every turn, I couldn’t even get shopping right - I couldn’t find that one thing and I was tired, so tired. I knew that I had to start simplifying, I knew that this couldn’t carry on but there was always an excuse as to why I couldn’t declutter. I was too busy or too overwhelmed. If only I’d realised sooner, that these very things were the cause of both my busyness and my overwhelm.

It was a hard pill to swallow when I finally found the courage to simplify, to admit my mistakes, all 80% of them. To let go of everything that I had once believed in so strongly. It wasn’t easy to admit that I had got it so wrong, not only to those around me but to myself. When I first started minimising, I could never have imagined letting go of so much but what I began to discover was this: I had never really owned these things in the first place, they had owned me. I had brought these belongings into my life to fill a hole, a hole so big, that I later learnt, could never be filled by stuff.

I was frustrated with myself for wasting so much money, money that I could never get back and so for a while, I tightened my grip. But slowly, I realised that the money wasn’t being wasted by getting rid of the things that I no longer used. The money had been wasted long ago, when I had brought the thing that I didn’t need in the first place, things to try and change who I was. I found out through minimalism that to be content I didn’t need to be anyone else, all I needed was to allow myself to be me. Eventually I knew that there was something so much more precious than money. It was the freedom and lightness that I felt when those items were out of sight and therefore, out of mind.

Recently, I got rid of something that I hadn’t had the strength to declutter until now, proving that simplifying is never instant but always evolving. It takes time, patience and dedication but we get there. And as we peel away the layers, we discover who we really are, right now, in this very moment.

I want to tell you a story about the pair of orange jeans that I had bought in my twenties. At that time they slid on like a glove and made me feel amazing, like a brighter, happier version of myself. Since then they have sat waiting restlessly in my drawer for 15 years, only seeing the light of day when I gathered them up to try on - an exercise that was both painful and ridiculous. My nearly 40 year old body had birthed babies and kept them warm, it had housed illness and a lifetime of doing. How on earth then, could I expect it to fit into my whatever sized, pre- pregnancy, younger self jeans. A self that at the time, I hadn’t even liked.

Yet every day, as I got dressed in the morning I saw these jeans and I would feel that kick to the gut, every singe day. Imagine the amount of sadness that those few seconds can carry, day after day, year after year. I think it could fill up a lifetime of never quite feeling enough. And all because I was no longer the right size to wear the orange jeans, jeans that I wouldn’t wear now, even if I could, which obviously I couldn’t. I knew this because every time I had tried them on, they fit a little less and even though I knew it, my shoulders still sagged and my stomach dropped, just the same. I wonder how many of us are standing in front of mirrors feeling this way and how many of our belongings we are holding onto, without realising just how much they are weighing us down.

Finally I decided that I had come too far and done too much work to let these jeans define me. And so after 15 years, I let them go and do you know what? It was so much easier than I thought. Because now I know that I am not my things. I am not defined by a pair of jeans that I would never have worn again anyway. I am not defined by the person that I once was, or by the person that I am yet to be. I am defined by the very person that I am now, right before my eyes. And as I force myself to look in the mirror, looking deeper than the clothes on my back and the make up on my skin, I know that I am enough, Just as I am. And so are you.

Throwing away my jeans doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my youth, or that I will never be that size again. I may well be or I may not but I want to love and honour the person that I am now. The woman who stands barefoot in front of me, a little taller, for no reason other than that is how I feel. I look at her and a well known saying whispers in my mind. And for the first time ever, it quietens the song that was once stuck in my head on repeat. It whispers at first and then it shouts, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” And for the first time in forever, I’m not.