After almost two years of being in a kind of fug due to the many lockdowns and restrictions, I became obsessed with the idea of renewal. Like a lizard shaking off its old skin, I felt the need to do the same myself, not so much by going to a spa and getting a scrub-down, but by ridding myself of ‘stuff’ that had accumulated for years long before the lockdown. Somehow, it became more imperative to clear them during those stay-in months.
I think the sense of being physically and mentally closed in during the lockdown made my mind turn this way. Even though things are almost ‘normal’ these days, I still cannot shake off that feeling of unease, of carrying burdens that will follow me into the New Year.
Sparking joy in 2022
As luck would have it, scrolling through Instagram found me a possible solution. I came across a young woman who has made a career out of unburdening — perhaps the correct word is unshackling — people from their stuff. Rebecca Jo-Rushdy is a qualified KonMari consultant. She helps people sort out their things, keeping only those that spark joy and discarding those that don’t. After a brief consultation, we got to work. My goal was to get our family room — where we work, read, eat sometimes, and watch TV — cleared before my husband returned from overseas. But we began with an easy target, my clothes.
If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 lockdown has taught me, it’s that I don’t need a lot of clothes. With nowhere to go, there was no point in dressing up except for Zoom meetings, where you literally had to look half (that is, the upper half) decent. With Rebecca prompting me, it was easy to throw a lot of clothes, especially those that don’t fit anymore and never will again, into a bin bag to give away. My chaotic shoe and handbag closets suddenly looked like the sort you see in The Home Edit. I knew I wanted them to stay that way too.
When we finally got to my family room, with its haphazard shelves of books, CDs, papers, and thingamajigs, I became slightly panicky. It looked like a formidable task, and our deadline was nearing. But Rebecca taught me to focus. I had to admit to myself that except for a few beloved books, there weren’t many novels I would re-read. Nor should I worry too much about donating books given to me that I was unlikely to ever read. Someone else may find them interesting and maybe intrigued by the dedication written to me inside.
Eventually, we did it. My bookshelves looked neat. I suddenly found lots of space on my desk to write when previously I was cramped into a few square inches. I gave away boxes of CDs and DVDs, reasoning that with Spotify and Netflix, all of these were redundant. I did keep only the ones I was sentimental about.
It’s amazing what this de-cluttering does to your mind. I must have felt this urge to rid myself of stuff for a long time because in clearing out my shelves, I found no less than five books about de-cluttering and storage that took up space instead of clearing them. But when I finally did it, the lightness I felt was palpable. I’ve realised that impulse buying eventually weighs you down, so being more mindful about shopping is good for your mental health. I now dash in and out of malls as quickly as I can, getting only what I need and not allowing myself to even look at shop windows.
Some of the things that accumulate are not what you buy, but what you are gifted. Today, I did something I’d never done before: I regifted something I got and told the recipient honestly what I was doing. I’m sharing my blessings, I said. To my relief, she accepted them with a smile.
Mindfulness for the new year
It is this same mindset that I hope to take into the new year. I want to leave the old behind and take nothing but a new attitude into 2022. It’s important, I think, after these long hard years, to feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and even re-born. The world has changed during the pandemic, and to adapt to that change, we must shake off old attitudes, including the acquisitiveness that has led to so many of the problems we have today — including inequalities, waste, and possibly even climate change.
To be perfectly honest, I’m quite sure I won’t stop buying things. But at the very least, I will think before I buy and check whether I really need it or not. I’m going to wear clothes I made and bought at the start of the lockdown last year that obviously few people have seen. They’re all going to look new to them, even if I know the truth.
I’m sure I’m not the only person rethinking their lives as we come to the end of 2021. The pandemic has been a time of great reflection. We now have to gear up for this much-changed world we now find ourselves in.
Have a joyful, peaceful, and safe 2022!
All images courtesy of Marina Mahathir