Fall Cleaning

I have been possessed this past week by the urge to purge. I don't know if it's because of the energy I get from the cooler weather or because I'm feeling restless or because I'm no longer trying to juggle four work projects simultaneously or because of some other reason or because of a combination of all of the above. Whatever the cause, I have been clearing out cabinets and closets and bagging and boxing and reorganizing. Goodwill has become my best friend. Or is it the other way around?

Anyway, it's been years since I've sorted through my possessions, and I have realized that I have way more stuff than I need. Some of this stuff was used and useful at one time. The three suits in my closet, for example, were well-used six years ago when I was job-searching and interviewing. But I haven't worn them since and see no need for them in my near future. That is why they are now at Goodwill awaiting their new homes.  In my kitchen cabinets, I found a box of tea from 2010. It had been opened and used, but then got pushed to the back of the shelf and forgotten. That box is not at Goodwill. It's in the bag for trash pick up tomorrow.

I'm not done, either. I still have more cabinets, closets, and bookshelves (gasp!) to go through. But I've learned a couple of things about myself in this process so far:

1) I have changed. It's been four years since I hung out my shingle as a full-time freelancer, and I knew from the start that my lifestyle would change. What I didn't expect is how I would change. Granted, this is a superficial example but it demonstrates my point: I found some butt-ugly clothes in my closet. At the time I bought them, I'm sure I thought they were cute or stylish or looked good on me. But now, I don't see it. At. All. I don't even like the feel of the material. My taste in clothing is vastly different now from what it was whenever I bought those clothes. That tells me that I am a very different person from who I was when I bought them. (Needless to say, I hope, is that those clothes are also at Goodwill looking for loving homes.)

2) I use stuff the way I use food. That is, I shop for the same reason I eat: not out of need, but out of a million other emotions. I am an emotional eater, a habit I am trying oh, so hard to break. Basically, that means I eat to celebrate when I feel happy and I eat to numb myself when I feel sad or angry or frustrated or any other emotion I don't want to feel. In short, I gained my weight by eating my feelings. Apparently, I also shop my feelings. When I feel "less than," I buy "more than." When I feel less than happy or less than satisfied, I buy more than I need. This, too, is a habit I'm trying to break. When I feel empty or lonely, I try to fill myself with food or with shopping. When I want to avoid something (like writing this paragraph of the blog post), my instinct is to eat or shop.

Part of my journey to health is breaking these habits and replacing them with new, healthier ones. Did I mention this was hard? Amputating a limb with a dull serrated knife might be easier. I have tried and failed many times (the breaking-the-habits part, not the amputating-a-limb part). I am now trying again. I wish I could say this is like riding a bicycle or that practice makes perfect or that it gets easier with time. IT DOESN'T. Each time is just as hard as the time before, maybe even harder, because the old habit has become that much more ingrained.

I'm hoping, though, that purging and cleaning out and rearranging my environment will help me purge and clean out and rearrange my habits, too. Only time will tell.