For more than two years I’ve glanced at an armoire in my office and thought to myself, I have got to clean that thing out. It’s a tall, three-door cabinet from France that I bought as a gift to myself when I decided to convert my traditional office into a sitting room more than ten years ago. In the armoire, I placed all my work-related items – office supplies, file boxes, computer, etc., so the room would be a cozy, elegant space for both myself and guests.
Over time I stashed more and more stuff in this cabinet to the point where it became nearly impossible to fit anything else in. Although the clutter was out of sight, it still felt like a needy child pulling at me for attention each time I walked into the room. But for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to clean it out.
This week I discovered why.
On Monday, when a friend mentioned she was going to do a juice cleanse, I surprised myself by asking to join her. We juiced enough cucumbers, beets, spinach, kale, apples, and celery to sink a small ship, and started our purification adventure on Tuesday morning. That afternoon I decided to make it a bigger cleanse by tackling one shelf of the armoire.
I picked the one with larger items first because they were easy to sort through and organize. Inspired by my progress, I tackled the second shelf that evening. That’s when things got a little tricky. This shelf had boxes with mementos that were dear to me. Things like photos of me and my dad, a note from a nun who read my book on grace, and a handwritten quote given to me by my first crush – the kind of items that evoke memories and feelings that deserve presence and attention.
As I held each treasure I realized that I’d been avoiding the armoire because I knew it would evoke grief, wistfulness, or the inevitable sadness that comes from saying goodbye to what once was and will never be again. So, I took my time savoring each piece before deciding whether to keep the memory in a digital photo album or bless it and let it go.
The next day, feeling less overwhelmed, I arrived at the bottom two shelves that held stacks of notes from workshops I had both taken and taught, and file boxes stuffed with book ideas, outlines, and potential projects. As I sifted through the paper, I felt a storm of resistance. What if I need these notes from the Enneagram course I took five years ago to teach a future workshop? Shouldn’t I keep my angel investment class summaries? What about all these book ideas and outlines? Won’t I need them for a new book? Will I ever write another book?
I stepped away from the armoire, pulled out my journal, and wrote about what I was feeling. An hour later, I realized several things.
First, I’ve metabolized all I’ve learned over the last three decades of my life and I don’t need to rely on paper. I can trust myself to reach inside and find what I need when I need it.
Second, knowledge and experience have given me a wealth of wisdom and I’m ready to lean on that wisdom moving forward.
And third, the experience of sorting through all the paper showed me that in order to age consciously, I must be courageous enough to say goodbye to the identity that no longer fits. I can’t put a new dress over an old one and expect it to feel right. I needed to clear out my career closet and make space for a new wardrobe that reflects the woman I’ve become and the one I’m growing into.
So I shredded everything.
Life is a grand adventure my friends. A big question mark that evokes excitement or fear. We can either hold on tight and hope for comfort and control. Or we can let go, leap, and trust ourselves to handle the ride.
I’m choosing door number two :D.