Making Room for Change

This weekend, I cleaned out my closet, something long overdue. I took everything out, weighed its value – to me in usefulness, not it’s monetary value – and sorted it into piles. One pile for fabric recycling. One pile for the thrift store I support. One pile for the organization that helps battered women in shelters secure jobs. One pile for my nieces. When I finished, I had removed three Fresh Direct bags of clothes. (For those of you outside the NYC area, one Fresh Direct bag = three reusable grocery bags from other stores.)

Some of the decisions I made were easy – getting rid of stained t-shirts or black clothing that I had bought because it was “practical” although it made me feel dowdy. Some decisions were harder – getting rid of the beautiful, patterned tights that are so hard to find now but don’t fit anymore. In some cases, I told myself, “I’m not ready to get rid of this yet” and put it back in the closet where it will sit until the next culling. A couple of times, I asked myself why I didn’t wear, for example, a sequined tank-top more often and moved it to the front of the closet, to be rotated into daily wear.

When we are taking on something new, we have to make room for the change by letting go of things that don’t support that change.

These things can be objects, like clothes. When my father-in-law retired, he took all the slacks and short-sleeved dress-shirts he had worn in his role at the UN, and handed them off to my husband. He was making room for being a retiree in Florida.

They can be behaviors. When people are promoted, for example, they often have to give up the things that made them so successful in their previous role, so that they can take on new behaviors. The writer has to give up writing to manage a team of writers, for example. Or, when I wanted to lose weight, I had to give up watching TV to make time for exercise.

Or they can be people. I love to read advice columnists, like Dear Abby. And I have been noticing recently the number of people who write in about “friends” that they made, who they now realize are not reciprocating the friendship in productive ways. The friends demand the writer’s attention when they need help, but refuse to provide support when the writer needs help. I’ve had to do this a couple of times; it was hard – I liked these people or they wouldn’t have been my friends in the first place – but my life became much less stressful without the unnecessary drama.

Sometimes the things we have to give up are beliefs: beliefs that an organization depends on us. Beliefs that we can only do a certain kind of work. Or that we are the only one who can perform a certain task. Beliefs that we can eat anything and not gain weight. Fears that we will never succeed in a role we want to pursue. Hopes that someone – a spouse, a child, a parent, an employee, a boss – will magically transform into someone we want them to be. Beliefs that the reason we are not succeeding is because the world is unbalanced against us. I remember, in drama school, whining about how the system was rigged against young actors, when the truth was, I was afraid to audition. I stopped whining when I looked up one day and saw how another student looked at me – she was successful not because she was a “great actor” but because went on a lot of auditions, and got roles. It was a numbers game and she knew it.

When you give up the things that are taking up space in your life, you create space for new things. You create space for a new job, a new home, new friends, new behaviors, new beliefs.

Giving things up invites change into your life.

And then change comes into your life.

What do you need to clean out of your closet?

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