How cleaning my closet led to self discovery

A few weeks ago, I decided to tackle the task of cleaning my closets.  I was stuck at home during the spring blizzard of ’18 and it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going anywhere.  What started out as a simple, mundane task turned into a self-discovery process that helped me learn some important things about myself.

First, my closets (yes, I have more than one) were a bit of a mess.  I started to organize the shoes in the closet and as I began digging around into the various pairs of shoes that I owned, I discovered some long-lost boots at the bottom of the pile that I had completely forgotten. Once I got everything decluttered and organized – I realized I had four pairs of black suede boots –all of which looked pretty similar. (Hey, at least I’m consistent!)  I shook my head and laughed. What am I going to do with four pairs of black suede boots? I wear yoga pants most of the time nowadays….and seriously Kristine, do you really need four pairs of the same boot? I tossed a pair in the donation pile and continued.

Next, I hit my clothes.  I have a lot of different clothes. I need suits for work, dresses for events, casual clothes, workout clothes – you get the picture.  But as I started going through them piece-by-piece, I found clothes that still had tags on them that had been in my closets for years. I had suits and dresses that I wore before I had my youngest son, Harry, and he is going to be 14 in June. It was crazy. I had a lot of stuff, most of which I didn’t wear.

I looked at the garbage bags full of clothes and shoes and sat down next to them.  I thought to myself, “Wow, what a waste of money. I could have used this money for the studio! What was I thinking?” I sat there for a minute and slowly it dawned on me. I wasn’t thinking. I bought those clothes to make me feel better about myself. To fill an empty hole inside of me.  After my divorce, my self-esteem hit rock bottom. I was 42 and divorced for a second time and I didn’t believe that I had anything to offer anyone. I thought I was broken and didn’t believe that I was worthy of love. To ease the pain of the loneliness and sadness, I would go shopping and buy clothes to make myself feel better about who I was. I thought if I looked good then people (primarily men) would approve and accept me . Or maybe it was just a great way to hide all of the shame, self-loathing and sadness that I was feeling on the inside.

It turns out that all of those great clothes (and four pairs of suede boots) didn’t help people like me.  It just racked up my credit card debt. The key lesson that I needed to learn was that I had to love myself first. If I didn’t love who I was, how was anyone else going to?  It was that realization, among many other things, that got me started on my journey of self-love and personal transformation. The journey hasn’t been easy- far from it. It has taken time, forgiveness, and a LOT of patience. Some days are better than others.

I gave several of my nicer clothes away to friends. I got an immense sense of joy and happiness from seeing how grateful and excited they were to pick out the clothes. The feeling than I got from giving my clothes away far surpassed any feelings I had when I bought the clothes or wore them myself.  It gave me a sense of purpose and joy to know that I brought someone else happiness. It reminded me that is far better to give than receive.

The rest of the bags went to Goodwill.  I shed an important layer of my past and let it go. I removed the daily reminders of my past mistakes which brought up feelings of guilt and shame. Things felt lighter and brighter in the house.

Springtime is about renewal and rebirth. New beginnings. We often talk in yoga that in order to begin again, we need to let go of those things, habits, people, or relationships that no longer serve us to create space for the new.  Surrender isn’t easy. It isn’t a passive exercise of powerlessness and resigning to defeat. Surrender is an intentional practice of letting go and trusting what comes next. It takes trust and patience. It is a practice. But I have found that if you work the practice, the practice works.

I encourage you to do some spring cleaning this month. Start small. Maybe clean out the closet and give away things that don’t fit or you don’t like.  Starting with the small stuff will help with the surrender of the larger things in life like job changes, relationships, and kids leaving home to go to college. And besides, you never know what you might discover in the closet- maybe a little piece of yourself.

In light and love,

Kristine

Erin Vale