If you’ve been reading my blog you probably know this article isn’t really about cleaning out a closet, but today I cleaned out a pretty large closet. This was one of those closets that hardly gets used as a closet and just becomes a repository for things nobody wants, until it gets so full that you hesitate to even open the door for fear you may be tackled by whatever might be leaning up against the other side of the door. In fact that had actually happened twice.
Well today I decided that it needed to be cleaned out, finally. I set up a staging area in the closet’s room, got a couple of heavy duty black plastic garbage bags and then approached the door. Taking a quick breath I turned the doorknob, stepped to the side and dramatically swung the door open. “Ha!” I shouted as if about to pounce on my prey. The contents of the closet stayed put. I chuckled silently to myself, stood for a moment with my arms akimbo and surveyed the tightly packed tomb I saw before me. “This should only take an hour or so” I thought to myself. What a load of crap.
Without further ado I just started grabbing boxes, bags,assorted junk and placed them around the room in an attempt to organize. In a short time I found myself running out of places to put things and my little staging area was almost immediately overrun in just a few minutes. An hour later the room looked like the closet had exploded and emptied its contents all over the place. Whatever it was I thought I was doing was far from organized, and I hadn’t even gotten to the clothes rack yet. Overwhelm, anyone?
So I took a break. I went for a short walk and grabbed some fresh air. I laughed when I saw what looked like one of my neighbors cleaning out his garage, and he’d rented a dumpster. “Now there’s an idea” I thought. He had old furniture, bags, boxes, tools and small appliances arranged around his driveway, and he would occasionally toss something without looking into the dumpster while moving things around his driveway, out of the garage, back into the garage, trying to figure out what he wanted to keep. It was eerily familiar to my room with the infamous closet, and I hadn’t even gotten as far as he had with cleaning out his garage. “Cleaning out the garage?” I shouted at him. “Yeah it’s about time.” he shouted back. “How long you been at it?” I asked. “Too fucking long!” he grinned. “Tell me about it!” We both smiled and waved, he went back to sorting through his junk in the driveway and I continued on down the sidewalk. “Well that’s encouraging.” I joked with myself. But it was encouraging. He probably would finish his project by the end of the day, at the very least because he was renting a dumpster for a couple of hundred dollars. If he could finish cleaning out his garage by the end of the day, surely I could finish cleaning out this stupid closet of mine.
When I got home I again stood, arms akimbo, in front of this nearly empty hole in the wall that is my closet. I turned to look around the room at the catastrophe I had created, a complete mess and I didn’t even know where to start. So I just started anyway. I turned back to the closet with the aim to first clean it out completely, then go through the mess in the room to figure out what I wanted to keep, throw away what I didn’t want, and then put everything else back into the closet. Sounds like a plan.
Cleaning out what was left of the closet I found clothes I hadn’t worn in years. There were old and dusty boxes of magazines, leaflets, bills and letters from years ago. There was a small box of obscure parts to some appliance I couldn’t identify – maybe the old water heater I replaced almost ten years ago? There was a small backpack I thought I had given to someone once and never got back. Several wrapping paper tubes without any wrapping paper on them were standing up in a five gallon bucket with some dried paint, a pair of work gloves and a couple of dead moths at the bottom. Cobwebs. My goodness the cobwebs stringing most of this stuff together were legion, and there was so much dust in the carpet that it was a noticeably darker shade than the carpet in the room itself, or the crushed areas of carpet where the boxes had sat. There were things in there that I had given up finding long ago, and some things I thought I had lost forever. I couldn’t believe all the old crap I had been holding onto that I’d forgotten about.
Moreover, I looked around me and began to think that I had actually made things worse by even attempting to clean out the closet. The room looked like a bomb went off in there. Things were much better when everything was jammed into the closet. At least the room was clean enough. Now it looked like a disaster area. Had I actually made things worse? Maybe I should have just let it alone; at least then I wouldn’t have to go through all this effort of sorting through what I wanted to keep or let go. Was all of this effort even worth it? Before I got myself totally stressed out I came to my senses and emptied the rest of the contents of the closet into the room, into my attempted piles of organized mess strewn across the room. I’d vacuum the carpet and knock out the cobwebs later.
And then again I sat down and surveyed the destroyed landscape of this room. Looking around at all of my assorted piles of boxes, bags, clothes and other crap, again I thought “Where do I even begin?” and I sat there for a while, then I stood up, tossed aside the garbage in my mind and set upon the garbage in the room. I decided to throw away everything except only the most sentimental or useful items. This was an opportunity to clean out a great deal of crap that I’d held onto, and something told me that some of it was silently holding me back somehow. So nearly everything went. Old textbooks went into a pile to be donated. Clothes I’d never wear again went into another pile to be donated. Any sort of paperwork I had held onto that was older than a couple of years went straight to the trash or the shredder. Stuff? Everything went. Even things I at first thought I might want to keep went right into the trash. I adopted the attitude that if it was in that accursed closet then I obviously didn’t really need it at all, so it all went. I ended up filling six large black plastic garbage bags with utter crap that I had been holding on to for years. It’s amazing what a closet can hold.
Something else I noticed through this process of cleaning out this unassumingly epic closet of forgotten garbage is that with each thing I decided to throw away I felt a tiny bit lighter. Everything I threw away carried with it memories of what it was, what it meant, when I got it, why I got it, why I stored it, what or who was connected to it and what all of that meant to me. With each item I threw away, it felt like I was also throwing away whatever I had in my mind that had anything to do with it. Garbage out, garbage out.
Everything that had to go was gone or on its way out. What was left was a couple of boxes of sentimental items and a handful of shirts. Back into the closet they went, free of dust and cobwebs and unneeded crap. The closet was clean, free and much lighter. Not only that, even though the furniture was still in a bit of disarray, the room that the closet opened into felt lighter. Actually, later in the day I noticed that the whole house felt lighter. Everything felt lighter after cleaning out that closet. I’m not sure if it was just me having finally put the task of cleaning the closet behind me that made me feel lighter in the house, but the whole living space literally felt lighter, cleaner, maybe a little happier. Actually, yes. The entire house felt happier. I guess a closet full of useless, forgotten trash really can have that effect when it’s finally thrown out.
And so the same goes with working within. We all have mental, emotional, spiritual closets full of useless trash. Some of us have several, dozens or even a couple of hundred closets full of useless trash stuck within us. Call it a part of the subconscious if you will. Call them limiting beliefs, or trapped energy or trapped emotions, or engrams or just old, dusty ideas we’re still holding onto. Getting rid of them is not always as easy as cleaning out a closet. Some of them tend to want to stick around. Some of them do their best to remain important to us. Some of them even trick us into thinking we cannot do without them. And some of them can even get us to buy into them so completely that they become a part of our personality. Some of them can completely take over our lives if we’re not mindful.
Awareness is the key. Taking the time to look within yourself, to find and discover those dusty, old, obsolete parts of you that are directing your behavior every day, and then leaving them behind you is like a daily key toward your salvation, enlightenment, growth or whatever you choose to call it. If you’re in the middle of cleaning your closets, trust me: Keep on cleaning, always and forever. You’ll be happier for it. In fact, the more you clean, the happier you become.