Decluttering – Demons in Your Closet

I was a hoarder of clothes. Clothes protect my skin from the cold and the sun, from other people’s judgments, from a fear of not actually owning and deserving everything I have, from concerns about losing everything I care for.

A few weeks ago, I was able to successfully downsize and moved downtown to a little 1890s loft with brick walls and pigeons sitting on the windows. The loft is absolutely lovely, but it had one downside – it’s tiny.

Why hoarding?

I found the moving process incredibly stressful, as I was losing 2 closet spaces filled with shirts that no longer fit me, pants that are out-of-style, and gifts from people I am not particularly attached. I felt guilty throwing any of these things away, but I had to, in order to downsize 500 sqft to an apartment with no wall separation between rooms.

I have always felt a strong sense of emotional attachment to my clothes. When I was in college, and when my mother lost almost all of the family cash we had, and I knew investment immigration was no longer a possibility in a country that I have lived in for the most significant years of my life; when my parents fought like cats and dogs and my mother told me my father will leave us with nothing, and when I thought I would need to drop out of college and go back to China with my abusive family; I felt like an 1800 woman, who’s only posession are her personal belongings. That’s when I started becoming deeply emotionall attached to everything I owned.

Photo by Burst from Pexels

A deeply emotional reason for letting go.

That’s when I discovered the Ann-Marie method. There are many great things about her book, but the most important takeaway for me was to find a deeply emotional reason that I wanted to declutter. I decided that I wanted to declutter because I wanted to feel free, I wanted to cherish the limited time I had in life, and I want to eliminate the sense of gulit I felt whenever I saw a piece of clothing I have not worn for years.

I wanted to be that person who can put on a black scarf and a trench coat and walk out the door, to grab some tacos with friends, to go on a jog with my dog, to read a book in Center Park. I wanted to feel like a 20-something that is relaxed, full of life, energetic, emotionally balanced, ready for an advanture, and not constantly drowning in my emotional and physical clutter.

Self-compassion and forgiveness.

So I started putting things away to donate, give to friends, throw away. I finally did it, I got rid of everything I didn’t need. I cried many times when looking at the things I had, a sense of self compassion washed over me, as I said goodbye to the past, and got myself ready for the process of forgiveness and letting go. I forgave myself for all the things I had obtained over the years to build a fortress around me, I forgave myself for not living fully, but living in a constantly dissociating state as a concept of a person. I let go of the people who tried to hurt me, whose words I carried with me in all the clutter I obtained in an attempt to protect myself. I thanked myself for being here this whole time, things came and go, and I am still alive and here for myself. And sometimes, that’s enough.

Even writing this, I feel such a sense of relief. I felt as if I was not just decluttering my clothes, I was throwing away my crutch. I am slowly acknowledging that I am safe now. Even though it felt scary, it was time to move with the few boxes I have to a place I didn’t know. Deep down, I knew I would never be fully ready, but with self-compassion, I was able to take a few key steps. Because I am safe now.

Are you a “collector” of your past demons? What do you feel ready to get rid of now? Please leave a comment and thanks for hanging out with me.



1 Comment

  1. Hi Justine, great and thoughtful post. I think it’s amazing that we might only wear about 25% of the clothes in our closet but we hang on to the rest for who knows how long! I’m guilty of letting clutter build up, then I’ll do mini purges of things. I always feel lighter and more clear-headed after letting go of things. I donate my clothes and furniture etc to my neighbors, I only give away things that are in good shape, (whatever isn’t taken, I throw away), it feels good to know that it’ll be used by someone instead of sitting in my closet. It’s wise that you connected your family’s past with the clutter and are making changes for the life that you want, (not being ruled by the past). Your new place sounds beautiful. 🌸


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