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More joy for less

LAST WEEK I cleaned to avoid doing work. It’s one of my favourite moves.

by ANNE T. DONAHUE

Last week I cleaned to avoid doing work. It’s one of my favourite moves.

More than I care to admit, I find myself opening my laptop, looking at my planner, and then choosing to avoid any and all deadlines until I have only a few hours to panic-write. But this time, I found myself with a longer grace period: a due date moved, and I had a few hours to kill before meeting friends for dinner. Instead of getting a jump start on the avalanche of work due the next day, I channeled Marie Kondo by purging my life of all that did not spark joy.

Not that Marie Kondo started it. Growing up, our house was small, so my Mom and Dad taught me to donate and/or get rid of all the toys I didn’t play with and books I didn’t read. Then, when I finally graduated to hoarding clothes, shoes, and everything related, I adhered to the same mandate. If I didn’t love something, it made its way to Value Village or Goodwill. Nothing was meant to be shoved into the far regions of my closet or dresser, especially when somebody else might see it and fall in love.

So, you’d think I would have learned to shop less; that after weeks and months and years of hauling bags of once-prized possessions into donation bins, I’d be choosier about what I bought going forward. But that isn’t the case. Without fail I invest in pieces and trends I don’t necessarily feel anything for in hopes that I’ll build a life made up of everything I am supposed to want. This sparked a cycle: buy what I felt nothing for, shove all of the aforementioned into the back of my closet after wearing it once, and then donate it all within a year, while vowing to learn from my mistakes.

I mean, I am learning, but slowly. I am beginning to understand that my favourite clothes are the ones I feel powerful in, but I have slowly replaced my commitment to shopping for brand new clothes with afternoons at antique markets and vintage stores, picking up décor and dishes I don’t necessarily need. And it gets even worse when springtime hits.

Because after all, spring is a season of rebirth and new beginnings. So, year after year I take it as a cue to reinvent myself (or my space). Each year, this is the year, I think to myself. And then I go overboard, building a wardrobe and backdrop for a mindset and personality that consists entirely of the history of someone else.

But the thing is, there’s something exciting about that. And there’s something especially exciting about adopting a “new season, new me” persona that insists you make space for pieces that are bold and eccentric by purging your closet of anything stuck in the past. Namely, your past (particularly from the summer of 2016 when I deeply committed to wearing belly tops almost every day, despite not liking them all that much). Because ultimately, rebuilding one’s self through somebody else’s jettisoned goods feels like two acts of power. The first? Taking aesthetic risks that you believe in and are psyched about. The second? Making the choice to buy something that’s been previously loved instead of subscribing to fast fashion for the sake of staying trendy.

Which is something to think about, particularly since thrift stores have reported being buried under donations in the wake of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up. And I’ll admit it: in my countless afternoons of getting rid of as much as I possibly could, I’ve certainly not been mindful to make sure I’m thoughtfully donating or even thinking about where something might work best. Instead, I’ve thrown what I used to love in the general direction of a container and treated the process of donation like a challenge to see how much I could squish into a small bag. I don’t take time to “honour” what I’ve accumulated and am giving away and I certainly don’t think about whether anybody else would want it. My process has morphed into one that’s inherently one-sided; an activity in seeing how quickly I can vacate my belongings and create new spaces to refill. Last week, after my fourth trip to the car with bags full of my old dresses, shoes, and everything else that needed to move on, I reminded myself to look at what I was giving away and pause to appreciate that at one point, these things mattered to me and held significance and weren’t being discarded carelessly or without intention. Then, I thought about the future: about the person I’m going to be as the weather warms up and I dive into vintage stores and antique sales and select the pieces that may last me a lifetime, or merely a season. Which, admittedly, is a thought that also sparked joy.

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