Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cleaning out your closet

I am writing this post because I was going to say this to a friend on Facebook but it's really too long and complicated for Facebook. If I've talked about this before on my blog, I apologize in advance for boring people.

Once upon a time, I had no idea how to dress myself, shop for clothing, put on make-up, wear my hair and all those 'girly things.' So I took a class in it. The class was excellent and I learned many things, including something that turned out to be a life lesson even though I'm not sure it as meant that way. This particular class was on shopping and managing your closet.

In the class they told us that if an entire year had passed so that we had experienced all the seasons and all the annual events in our lives and there were items in our closet that we hadn't worn, that we needed to remove them from our closets. If you haven't worn it in a year, they said, you aren't going to. Now, you can make an exception for specialty items like those ski pants or that formal attire because maybe you don't do those things ever year. But for your street clothes, if you don't wear it, remove it.

That's right. Get rid of that outfit that you are determined to lose 40 pounds to fit into (except you've been saying that for years now) and those gray dress slacks that fit but you never wear because they have no pockets (but I need a pair of gray slacks for work) and that weird top your Aunt gave you for your birthday a few years ago that you wouldn't be caught dead in (but she's my favorite Aunt!) and the little black dress that you are always tripping over the hem because it's a little too long (but everyone needs a little black dress and I'm going to hem it, really I am!) and so forth and so on.

Stop with the rationalizing and pull them out of your closet. Throw them out, give them away, sell them or, if they have sentimental value, pack them up and put them away somewhere inaccessible.

The reason to get them out of the closet is that your wardrobe has certain "slots" in it. And, if you have clothing already in that slot, the slot is taken and most people won't fill the slot back up with something that they'll actually wear. So if the slot is taken with something you won't wear because it doesn't fit or isn't right for you, then you are one of those people with a closet full of clothes and "nothing" to wear. In order to get the clothing that does fit, that does work, you have to empty the slot first.

And this isn't just true of the clothing in your closet. It's true of a lot of other things in your life. (This is where the life lesson comes in.)

This is why you don't date some random person who doesn't really excite you until the "right" person comes along. Why you don't stay in a job that isn't the job you want, but at least it supplies a paycheck. Why you don't keep signing up for conferences or buying supplies for that hobby you used to love but haven't actually pursued in years.

It's also about how you spend your free time. There are only so many hours in the day and if you pitter them away doing unimportant stuff that doesn't get you to your goals, there won't be any time to do the stuff you say you want to do.

And, finally, it's about all the people in your life, especially your friends.

Friends are harder though. They aren't exactly like clothes because you can't just toss them out when they stop fitting. Well, you could, I guess, but if you did that all the time without a second thought, you wouldn't be a very nice person.

However, our friends and family are kind of like our clothes in that they do fill certain slots in our life. There's the buddies we have a beer with after work but have never been to our home. The ones we train with but have almost never seen us in street clothes. The ones we always have a good time with when we run into them but we never actively try to get together with. And of course our close friends that we talk about important stuff with and are there for us when we're down and we are there for them in return.

But what happens when a friend who used to be a certain kind of friend changes (or maybe it's you who changes)? That can be really hard. Because, while sometimes it's tough to throw out that darling outfit that isn't so darling any more or that you paid a lot for but only got to wear a few times, that's nothing like the pain of a friendship that has changed from once being close and fulfilling to now being distant and/or frustrating.

But the nice thing about people, unlike clothes, is that when they don't fit one place in our lives any more, they can move into a different spot. My favorite blue skirt may get worn out and not wearable any more and have to go into the garbage bin, but a friend who used to be a favorite confident that we talked to every day can still be fun to go to the movies with a few times a year.

Very few friendships have to actually be thrown out to make way for new ones. So it's just a matter of being willing to let go of our idea how things should be and accept the new reality. Or, in the closet metaphor, move them from one slot to a new one so you have room for a new friendship in the old slot.
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