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Clean out your closet

07/20/2010

By this I mean your physical closet. We’ll talk figurative closets – and I do have a few things to say about that in a later post. What I’m talking about here is getting rid of your old life ­– no longer holding on to things that may be holding you back.

I’ve done a fair amount of moving around since I landed in Nashville 34 years ago. I’ve lived in seven different places. On top of that, I’ve moved my office five times. While it’s always a pain in the ass, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

One thing is that a move presents a chance to get rid of stuff. The stuff – who knows where it all comes from? – that fills up the closets and attic while you’re not looking. No matter how hard I try to resist it, once I’m settled into a new place, things begin to accumulate all over again. In spite of the hassle involved, I always greet moving as a time to shed things. It feels like losing weight.

This became especially important two years ago, when I came out and moved from the house my ex-wife and I shared to a condo downtown. Our house was much larger than the condo, and it had lots of closets, two attics and a garage. All full. Not only is the condo smaller,  it has almost no closet space. So, I really had to get serious about shedding stuff. And that was a good thing.

This time, I focused on leaving behind things that tied me to the past. It’s not that I regret the past, or that I want to forget it even if I could. On the contrary, I have lots of wonderful memories. What I’m talking about here are things that, by their presence, held me in the past and complicated the process of moving forward.

An example: I took none of the Christmas decorations. Remembering Christmases past was, at least in the short run, pretty painful. My first Christmas in the condo, I put a wreath on the door and that was it. Last year I went to Target, bought a bunch of already-marked-down ornaments and decorated a small tree. In the years ahead, I’ll likely expand on this, but the decorations will be part of my new life, not the past.

Another biggie: I had 300+ vinyl records, some dating back to high school and college, that I’d been dragging around behind me forever. I took them to the used record store and sold them. I hadn’t acquired any of them in the last 15 years, so there were no direct reminders of the marriage that was ending, but every record was a reminder of another life. They reminded me of years of dreaming, dating, socializing and building a life as a straight man, yet never feeling comfortable in my own skin. Out they went.

A bunch of clothes I didn’t wear very often – out.

Tons of VHS tapes and DVDs ­ – out.

Books I knew I’d never crack open again ­– out.

All were reminders in one way or another of my life as a straight man – a life that no longer existed. So, out they went. And every time I tossed something, my load got lighter.

I’m not recommending that you get rid of everything you own and start anew from scratch just because you’re coming out. Not only would that be fiscally disastrous for most of us, it would also be pretty silly. I’m just saying this: look at your stuff and ask yourself, “What will hold my mind and heart in the past? What can I live without?” And off-load as much as you possibly can.

This week I’ve been eyeing my bedroom closet with a mind to clear out some more. There are two suits and a sport coat hanging in there that I don’t think I’ve worn since I moved. I’m not sure why I brought them with me. And, I’m considering tossing my tuxedo, too. I won’t be squiring the wife to any more black tie dinner-dance events, so why am I hanging on to my tuxedo? The jury’s still out on this one. I’ll let you know what I decide.

In the mean time, if there’s somebody out there who’d like a black, 44 extra-long tuxedo in like-new condition, let me know. I might let it go on the cheap.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    07/20/2010 5:37 AM

    Good post. It made me realize that I have a lot of stuff lying around that reminds me of my previous relationship. It might be time for me to toss a few things.

    • 07/20/2010 6:30 AM

      Toss them in good health! It can be really liberating.

  2. 07/20/2010 6:13 AM

    I don’t know, David. Throwing out the tuxedo seems kinda harsh, and besides, it’s one of those things you might regret later. Saying your new life isn’t EVER going to involve black tie? No dinners at The White House? No opening night opera? No hoidy toidy benefit dinners with the beautiful people? It’s so limiting. And besides, I’ll bet you look incredibly gorgeous in it. And you’re going to toss it? Nay,nay I say, nay, nay.

    • 07/20/2010 6:34 AM

      Like I said, the jury’s still out on the tuxedo question. One reason to keep it is the incentive to keep going to the gym. What’s the use of having it hanging there if I can’t get into the pants?

      And so far, nobody’s made me an offer on it either.

  3. Joe permalink
    07/20/2010 7:45 AM

    I’m a “shedder” (I like to purge unneeded stuff) who lives with a (not quite but almost) “hoarder.” 🙂 I totally love the feeling of ditching the past sometimes. Does really feel like a lightened load, but you do have to be selective about what “goes.” Anyway– it’s just “stuff.”

    • 07/20/2010 10:16 AM

      I agree. “Just stuff” it is. And only that. It’s interesting what emotional baggage it can carry with it, though.

  4. nanci Reese permalink
    07/20/2010 5:30 PM

    Dear David,
    You must have read CLUTTER BUSTING: LETTING GO OF WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK by Brooks Palmer. My book group read it and I found it very inspirational. AND there is this new-ish idea going around if you de-clutter you lose weight.
    Keep going,
    love,
    nanci

    • 07/20/2010 6:28 PM

      Haven’t read that one, but it sounds like it bears out my experience.

  5. Mark Lee Taylor permalink
    07/21/2010 12:50 AM

    Don’t get rid of that tuxedo just yet! You may need it for a future wedding to ….a man! I wore a white dinner jacket when Steve and I got married in CA in 2008…

    • 07/21/2010 5:36 AM

      By the time that happens it will probably be a moth-eaten rag. But I’m afraid a mob with torches would storm my door if I got rid of it. So the tuxedo stays.

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