Sometimes we care about too many things that don’t really benefit us in the long run. We carry them around with us thinking they are essential to out lives without considering the possibility that we’re just doing it out of habit or fear and that maybe, just maybe, we’d progress a little faster if we didn’t carry all the extra baggage.
This all came about on my most recent “closet cleanup”. It seems my closet has been the propellant for a lot of introspection in the last 18 months and who am I to refuse life’s lessons?
“Would you die without it?” has been my default question when it comes to deciding which things to keep and which to let go of. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking that things are “essential” or following wardrobe “staples” lists and just ending up buying more crap we don’t really need (or like for that matter). If you come to think of it, all you really need is food (more so the ability to acquire food – mobility, physical capability – than “food” itself), shelter and maybe one or two sets of clothes so that you can wear one while you wash the other. Same goes for our obsessive need to have and maintain 500 friendships when the ones who really support you in the ways that you need (mostly emotionally) might just be one or two.
“Would you die without them?” might not be the most appropriate question when it comes to people so we move on to the next one: “Do they make me happy?” and you might find that more often than not, the answer is no. That goes for friends, that goes for clothes, and it goes for jobs too. Would you die without that job? Probably not. Specially if you’re an able-bodied, capable/experienced human being, you could more than likely find another form of income and if you check these categories you may want to move on to asking yourself if the job makes you happy and a lot of the times the answer too, is no.
Please don’t confuse “not hating something” for being happy with it. Please don’t confuse “I don’t mind doing it” for joy. Do you leave the job feeling fulfilled? Accomplished? Joyful? And most importantly, excited to do it again? No? You can probably find something that gives you these feelings. You could probably find a better relationship too. So why do we stay?
A lot of the times when you do something for so long that it becomes a habit, you just continue to do it and never question if it’s still valid, if it’s still helpful or if it ever was. Why do you put on your left shoe first and the right one second? Would the world stop if you did it the other way around? Did you even realize you put your left shoe on first every time? We get our degrees in one field and then work in that field for a few years and we do our hobbies on the side for the same amount of years but when we get frustrated at our jobs we complain but then keep doing them, for years and decades, complaining but still doing it, complaining and staying, complaining and being miserable and it never crosses our minds that we, most likely, in our equal years of working on our passions, could do it as a profession based on the experience acquired and not have to work that job anymore. Or maybe it’s…
Of the unknown. Of whether or not we’ll actually succeed. Of people’s opinions. Of disappointing people who expect certain things from us. Of hurting that friend’s feelings if we give away that gift they gave us that we no longer have a use for or never really liked. Or is it just fear of change? Of the process of changing? Of the inevitable pains of growing past our comfort zone? Of the possible battle wounds, of the discomfort of peeling off these skins we’ve developed and the time investment to get to know ourselves again, or getting to re-know ourselves, of moving past the masks?
The purpose of gifts is more so to be given than the actual utility of the item. Once it’s given, once it reaches it’s intended owner, it’s purpose is fulfilled. What you do with it afterwards bears no weight on the giver or the receiver’s life. It has fulfilled it’s purpose. Same goes for friendships where the two sides no longer serve the purpose of growth or support, where the interactions no longer bring joy. You might have grown into a rectangle and they might have grown into a triangle and you’re no longer equally complementing circles and that’s OK. It doesn’t make the friendship any less valid. It served it’s purpose while it lasted and should be looked at with joy and gratitude. There’s no need to carry things that no longer serve you.
Airlines usually have weight limits for how much baggage you can bring. For domestic flights you usually carry less, international flights allow you to bring a little more. Anything above the weight limit requires an added fee and even then there’s a limit to how much you can add. ‘Why?’ you might ask. Well, the airlines will tell you it’s for your safety. And not just your personal safety but for the safety of other passengers and pilots and flight crew. See, if a plane is too heavy it can’t fly. If it carries too much baggage, it can’t reach it’s destination. You’re allowed to bring a little bit more if you’re willing to pay the price but if you bring too much you put yourself at risk and you put others at risk too.
Without realizing it, we’ve been paying for the extra baggage we carry in our lives in weight problems from the emotional eating, in lack of peace or attracting drama by keeping too many friendships that no longer add to our lives, by being stressed from jobs that don’t fulfill us and by having no closet space from keeping clothes we don’t wear or even like. And we affect others too by projecting onto them our own imperfections and dissatisfaction, by being that one friend who’s always in a bad mood or complaining, by birthing unhealthy children from keeping unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking or consuming other synthetic drugs. Your baggage not only affects and slows you down but it also affects the people around you. Imagine if we charged ourselves in money for the extra baggage we carry physically and emotionally? Can you imagine the changes that would happen?
That’s the most surprising thing I noticed after I cleaned out my closet. And you’re probably asking yourselves how one would progress in regards to a wardrobe. What actually happened was that I stopped worrying about it. I found satisfaction in the things that I had and was able to invest all the added joy and energy and clarity of mind brought about by having clarity in my wardrobe into writing, into sewing, into doing the things that actually brought me joy. It was easier to go ‘from couch to 5K’ so to speak because I had less baggage holding me down.
The same thing tends to happen when you stop nurturing friendships that bring you stress and worry: you free up more time to nurture those who bring you joy, you also learn to appreciate them more because you now have the clarity of mind to see and be thankful for those who contribute positively to your life. And progress will come to all the other areas too. Athletes wear less clothes, usually tight to the skin because the extra fabric would just weigh them down. They tend to be physically lean because the extra layers of body fat are unnecessary baggage that slows them down. Monks reject most items of common convenience that tend to distract more than enhance our lives, so they can focus more intensely on spiritual fulfillment.
If you take a minute to think about the things, the people, the situations or the environments that actually help you and not hinder you, about the ones that actually bring you joy and excitement and not just a numb feeling of “non discomfort” you’d be very surprised about how little you actually need to live better and maybe, how much better you’d be and faster you’d progress if you lived and nurtured and tolerated only the important things, only the ones that truly matter, only the ones that bring you joy.