Get rid of the things that no longer serve you: past regrets, leftover anger, old plans. Clutter doesn’t just occupy the house in which you live, it occupies your mind.
When I was a wee lass, I went to Japan to study. One of the first thing I bought was a bandana that said 一番 (ichiban – “number one”). I was an all-or-nothing type of person back then; to become worthy of wearing the bandana, I’d have to become the best foreign student in my course.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
I flunked the course and flew home in disgrace. The bandana flew home with me. A year later, I started a new course, this time in my native tongue. The old ambition came back again: this time, I’d really become ichiban, and then I’ll be worthy-
I barely finished the course (to this day, I’m not sure how, but I’m not one to question miracles). A short while later, I applied for a job abroad and landed an interview. They flew me out, put me in a hotel and asked me what my salary expectations were. In my mind, I’d already got the job by the time I flew back. I knew the bandana was there, waiting for me, and I also knew that I’d competed against applicants from the continent over and finally won the right…
I didn’t get the job.
Eventually, I managed to find other work abroad and flee for good. This time, the bandana stayed home. Two years passed, I got fired from that job and found another, and things finally settled into a semblance of calm. I’d put the bandana out of my mind completely when my husband had to fly back for business and ended up at my old place. When he returned, he’d brought the damn thing with him. “Your mother gave this to me,” he said. In fairness, mam didn’t know what it said or the history behind it. I put it up for display, an aging reminder of failures past, and that’s where it stayed until it was time to move home.
By then, I’d already found minimalism and read about ridding yourself of sentimental clutter. The bandana was one of the last three items I’d brought back with me that I hadn’t thrown away yet. Part of me still held on to the regret that I’d never made it through that course all those years ago, and every time I looked at it, some of that regret came back. Still – up to that point, I hadn’t been ready to give up the memory of that young, healthy girl who’d thought she could take on the world and win, odds be damned. Before I could do away with the thing, I had to confront the thoughts tied to the thing.
When I got down to it, it wasn’t even hard. Am I still that person? No. Is any part of this relevant to the person I am today? Nope, don’t think so. Does it do me any good to dwell on it? Hell no.
I dropped the thing at a Pieta House charity bank, along with a few other usable pieces from my closet and a bunch of books. I like to think it ended up in the hands of someone worthy of calling themselves ichiban. I wasn’t, and that’s okay.
Photo sources: Galen Crout & myself.