Last week at a baby shower I saw some women I hadn't seen in nearly a decade. While talking about organizing the baby's new clothes, someone brought up my organization skills. One girl exclaimed, "I only went to your house once, but I still think about your closet all the time! All your clothes arranged by color!" and another chimed in, "Oh my god! Yes! I remember you opening your make-up drawer and seeing all of your eyeshadows organized in perfect rows!" I beamed with pride, picturing my still-organized closet, my current make-up drawer with shadows still in a row.
I've been an organized person for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I was always sorting and re-organizing and decluttering in my room (perhaps as a result of the excessive amount of stuff I continuously accumulated!), and to this day I'm still one of the most organized people I know. Everything has a proper place, and everything is put in that place.
But, despite everything having a proper place, I still don't feel quite right about my possessions. While recently revisiting Marie Kondō's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it occurred to me why this is. I might have a proper place for everything, but everything's proper place isn't necessarily with me. So many of the things I own have served me well, and so I keep them. I'm starting to realize, though, that organized possessions are not the same as purposeful possessions. As Kondō's wrote:
“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure. To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”
It's that, right there, that I'm finally realizing. There are a great many things in my organized little apartment that no longer serve a purpose for me. And, silly as this sounds, I have a sense of guilt that comes from hanging on to them, and it leaves me feeling uneasy and unsettled. Unlike most people, who feel guilty about giving things of value away, I'm the opposite: I feel guilty for hanging onto things (especially beautiful, valuable things) that I no longer use.
Because some of my things have brought me such joy or beauty in the past, I keep them. But, aside from a few extra special things, I know I would feel better if I set these things free, giving someone else to enjoy and experience them. I've thought about this many times, but followed those thoughts with excuses ("ugh, it'll take so much time to sort through!" or "I don't even know how I would sell these things!"). This time, I'm listening to what my heart is telling me -- let these things go -- and taking action.
This is definitely a work in progress, but here's what I've done over the past week or so to simplify, sort, and sell!
First, I decided I needed to simplify this process. If I were to just look at my whole apartment and try to sort and sell it all, I would be so overwhelmed that I would give up. I decided to try a bit of an odd approach: I sat down on the couch and thought, "Where should I begin?" The first thought that came to my mind was the one I would tackle. It happened to be jewelry. I have a lot of beautiful, meaningful jewelry. But here's the thing: I rarely wear jewelry. I'm not quite sure why, but that's the way it is. So it makes sense to start there, to simplify the overwhelming task of reflecting and sorting all of my possessions by homing in on the one thing that has a lot of value, just not to me.
No one who doesn't wear jewelry should have a drawer full of it. Just thinking about the pieces I have loved, the meaningful moments behind them, and imagining someone else getting a similar kind of joy makes it easy to let these beauties go. In this first stage, the simplifying part, I spent a lot of time thinking about Kondō's well-known question, "Does it spark joy?" but also adding, "Will this spark joy in someone else?"
Simplifying your life isn't just about getting rid of the things that no longer have a purpose for you; it's also about considering how these things might be useful to someone else.
After choosing the area on which to focus first -- jewelry -- I moved onto the sorting part. I pulled it all out, Kondō-style, and went through, piece by piece. When it comes to jewelry, I could probably let it all go and be just fine, but I decided to hang on to a few pieces that were especially meaningful to me, or that I do, on rare occasions, actually wear. Those went into the KEEP pile. The next pile -- DONATE -- I filled with pieces that were either too well-loved to sell or that had little to no value (I'm looking at you, Forever 21 necklaces!). And, finally, the most beloved and beautiful pieces that were no longer serving a purpose with me went into the SELL pile. Everything in this pile was something I'd still love and wear, if I were the kind of person that wore jewelry. Everything in this pile was something I could look at and answer "yes!" to the question, "Would this spark joy in someone else's life?"
(I'm not going to lie: this sorting business wasn't easy, particularly when determining what to KEEP and what to SELL. All of the pieces I decided to sell are valuable, not only in a monetary sense, but also in an emotional sense. But I determined that, if something had once brought me such joy, it would be a wonderful thing to put that joy back out into the world and allow someone else to experience it, rather than trapping it in a drawer for years. With that thought it mind, it made me actually feel good to list these items for sale.)
In her book, Kondō writes: “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest." After going through all of my jewelry and the sorting process, I was left not only with a few meaningful items that spoke to my heart (however cheesy that sounds...), but also a whole bunch of pieces I really believe will speak to someone else's heart. I don't believe that items can actually take on emotions -- joy, pain, etc. -- but I do feel like there's something interesting about purchasing an item that you know brought someone else joy.
To me, it's the added bonus that comes with buying a used thing. It was discarded by someone else because it had fulfilled its purpose with that person, but it arrived where you are so it could be purposeful for you. You get the tangible thing, of course, but also the knowledge that someone else loved this thing, too. It's a bit out there, maybe, but I think there's something to it. It's why we love antiques, why we consider something a relative owned to be of more value than it really is, etc. There's a meaning, a history, behind a used item that you just don't get with something brand new from a store.
So, last week, I photographed, researched, and posted the joy-sparking jewelry on my Etsy shop. Every time I sell a piece, I feel a bit of excitement for the person who is about to receive it. Packing it up and shipping it off to a new home is an oddly comforting act, a kind of gift-giving feeling. It feels good for me, and I'm hoping it feels just as good for those opening their new-to-them items. If you want to see what's still for sale, check it out here.
This whole process has been an eye-opening and revitalizing experience. Many of these items I thought I would never part with, but knowing that they are going to a new home, to a place where they will hopefully be loved and worn, rather than sitting idly in a drawer, sparks a joy in me that is much different (and better!) from the joy I get from the items I possess. If you're thinking of doing some spring cleaning or organizing, I highly recommend it!
PS - I'm also still running a MAJOR sale in my Etsy shop to make way for some new things. Pins, stickers, and e-books are up to 50% off! Check it out here.