Cleaning up Our Closet: the mirror of joy

If it hasn't already hit you, the Marie Kondo craze had just about everyone I know cleaning up their closets (and lives) over the last few months. From clothing to furniture and books to toys, cleaning up has become the thing to do.

As someone who lives a relatively mindful and minimalist life, I find this sudden shared consciousness around our possessions really inspiring. Not only because it calls into question our constant need for new material things, but because it demonstrates that it's okay to have things. It raises the thought of rather than having all of the things, have only the things you love. I imagine what my life would be like, and how clean my apartment would be, if I only surrounded myself with the things I love. Maybe it's wishful thinking, however, I reckon I'd feel pretty energized and motivated in my personal space. I imagine the lightness I would feel; which begs the question, does all of this stuff I have currently make me feel heavy? Even more challenging, do I have too much stuff?

I never really thought I had too much stuff. I donate my clothes and housewares on a regular basis. I shop as mindfully as possible and generally speaking, we don't have a lot. Well, to my complete and utter shock, the "mirror of joy," as I like to call it, reflected back a pretty stark reality that much of what Matt I have in our home simply no longer brings us joy. We do a seriously clean up at least once or twice a year, yet somehow, we have copious amounts of clothing and home decor that serves no other purpose than to collect dust. It makes me wonder if much of the stuff we've collected over the past several years ever did bring joy and why we still have it. Better yet, do we need it?

The answer to that last question was, no. We don't need the things we don't love. Naturally, it made sense for us to jump on board this movement of humans tidying up their lives and find home for all of our things that no longer bring us joy.

Well, I quickly learned two things...

1) Cleaning up is hard. Even if you know that a jacket or basket doesn't bring you joy, your mind has a way of convincing you that you'll need it at some point so keep it just in case. A little bit of reflection made me realize that this desire to hold onto these items wasn't because I needed or wanted them, it's because in many ways, I treasure all of the things I bring into my home. So while I thought that it was silly to show gratitude for the socks I was getting rid of, or the pair of pants that I never wore and still had the tags on, this simple act of appreciation quickly quieted my need to hold on to them. Sad to see them all go, I gracefully loaded them into boxes and bags knowing that they weren't mine to keep any longer.

Altogether, Matt and I donated 11 pairs of shoes, 3 massive garbage bags filled with clothes, 3 lightly worn suits, and 4 boxes of outerwear that included winter coats, snow pants, hats gloves and scarves. We donated a box filled with kitchen wares that included plates, coffee mugs, cutlery and other kitchen utensils we don't use. I'm sure many of you have a basket in your homes filled with electronics you no longer use, so we donated a box of electronics that were still in great shape and posted some items, like laptops, for free on Craigslist, What couldn't be salvaged, we're bringing with us to the electronic recycling booth at the Trout Lake Farmer's Market.

And PSA... When cleaning out your stuff, be sure to check the pockets. You never know what you're going to find and it's definitely common courtesy to clean up the the garbage in your pockets before you donate. Although, I've heard that people have found some pretty amazing stuff in the pockets of their thrifted finds. I didn't, but instead I found $8.10 worth of change, a rock, 2 band-aids, candy wrappers and garbage.

2) What the heck do you do with all of this "stuff" once you've cleaned it up? This piece was the biggest challenge, and perhaps the most exciting part for our Sustainability Specialist, Nikki. Nikki is a master of textile waste recycling so she prepared us with a ton of ethical and sustainable recycling and donation options for all of the goods we had collected. Based on all of the goods we had, and when we could move all of the stuff, we donated to the Diabetes Canada foundation and they came right to our door to pick everything up.

The good news, we're sharing this list with you too! Whether you're in Toronto or Vancouver, there are lots of options available! The caveat, a personal "mirror of joy" challenge bestowed upon you... what things do you own, that no longer bring you joy? What possibility does it open up for you and for others, if you to tidy this stuff up?

As I've now learned, there's no time like the present to face the mirror of joy. In cleaning up the things that no longer serve you, there's a mighty good chance that they just might light up some one else. Happy tidying!

Vancouver - Options for Clothing & Household Items in Vancouver

Downtown East Side Women’s Centre

The DTES Women's Centre works with marginalized and at risk-women in Vancouver’s downtown east side.

What they accept: Women’s clothing in good condition, towels, rain gear, luggage, blankets, footwear, purses, books, magazines, DVDs, new/gently used toiletries (travel-sized).

How/where to donate: Items can be dropped off at 302 Columbia St, Vancouver. Drop off hours are:

  • Mon-Tues, Thurs-Fri: 10am-12pm & 2pm-4:30pm

  • Wed, Sat-Sun: 2pm -4:30pm

Note: this is a women’s only space, men wanting to donate should ring the doorbell and let staff know.

Wildlife Thrift Store

Proceeds from sales support Coast Mental Health, The Gathering Place, Positive Living B.C, and Covenant House.

What they accept: Clothes, furniture, books, and housewares in clean and good condition

How/where to donate: Items can be dropped off at 1295 Granville Street, Vancouver between 10am to 8pm. They also offer a drive-by drop-off on Drake Street, right off Granville at the foot of the Granville Bridge

Contact: 604-682-0381