Cleaning Up

In grad school, I wrote a thesis on hoarding. One thing I learned in my research is that cleaning is an emotional process. For people who hoard, letting go of an item isn’t just letting go of an item. It means letting go of possibilities, trading low anxiety for high anxiety, and that feeling of known comfort versus the scary unknown.

A lot of people are cleaning up right now during this pandemic. Overall, everyone wants to be more clean with a pandemic going on. It’s been hard finding soap and other cleaning items on the shelves here on the island. People are spending lots of time at home and tackling projects that have been neglected for a while – tidying up, painting, gardening, etc.

woman folding clothes
Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Here at our own house, I am enjoying the process of letting go of not just things, but what they represented. I can’t help but smile at the thought of what I learned from my college research as I too faced my own struggles of letting go. Like most houses on the island, space is limited and we don’t have a garage. As a foster parent, I had this idea that I should keep as many clothes as I can for future foster kids. However, my last foster child turned up her nose at all used clothes, clung passionately to her way-too-small-for-her and stained clothes rather than wear clothes that were comfortable, albeit gently used.

I think in many ways, we are all like her in different areas of our lives. How many of us want to cling to what we know, even if it doesn’t fit us anymore? In the book, Business Boutique, Christy Wright quotes Suzy Kassem, “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.” We are afraid to try new things, or invest in ourselves or our dreams because there is always the possibility of failure. No matter how well you do, or how many mountains you climb, failure is always available and we can’t always predict when or how it will show up. So many people stick with what is known, even if it doesn’t work or feels uncomfortable. It somehow feels safer. The truth is that failure is very painful, but it is worth the risk.

What dreams have you held back on because you worried that you might fail?

What have you always wished that you could do?

What are some obstacles that keep happening again and again in your life?

I realized in the end, that I was not just hanging onto clothes for their own sake, but holding on to the hope of having more kids. I was able to gladly pile up bags of clothes for the thrift store when I told myself that my ability to have more children was not dependent on the amount or type of clothes I had available for them. Besides they might be like my last foster child, and insist on dirty and too small clothes. And given everything that foster children go through, I can understand and respect that they might have their reasons for clinging to what is known until they want something better. When that time happens, we can explore options together.