The Culling

In the corner of my son's bedroom is a large wooden chest.

It's pretty ugly, if I'm honest, definitely not my choice of decor. It's in a dark wood with oriental carvings on every side. The lid is heavy and locked in place by a large silver latch.

I woke up one morning in an absolute panic and the chest, of all things, loomed out at me from the back of my mind.

This baby is coming. He's due in three months and we have no space for him. Because of the damn chest.

Okay, not just the chest. Every wall of our house is taken with some form of storage. Shelving, cupboards, boxes, piles. All occupied. All containing "things" we needed to hold on to. 

It was time to make room. 
Sitting on our queen-sized bed, I looked around at my cluttered surroundings. Half bedroom, half house storage. Our drawers were all bursting. Our wardrobe was full. Every inch of the wall was taken up by boxes or piles of things that didn't have anywhere else to live.

Marie Kondo seems to know what's up. Her folding technique is NEXT LEVEL and even though I'd only watched half the first episode of her Netflix series, I was convinced. Perhaps I'd been influenced by all my fellow instamums transforming their homes the "Marie Kondo" way, or perhaps it was just those pesky pregnancy hormones, but all of a sudden I had this insane urge to clean. 

Sort. Organise. Cull. Make room.

Right. Now.

Before long I had emptied out the entire contents of my bedside drawers and a pile began to grow on my bedroom floor.

It grew and grew and seemed to swallow the room whole. My husband and I were tripping over it, climbing up it to get into bed and treading cautiously around its edges.

Quietly but quickly, all the things we'd let take up so much space in our home started to look a lot less like things and a lot more like worthless junk. The pile in the middle of the room had swallowed them whole, just like it swallowed up my spare time.

It was good, I reminded myself, to de-clutter. It was good to part ways with what you no longer needed. This was a healthy part of life.

One night, after Ashton had gone to bed, Olly and I nervously opened our wardrobe and decided to conquer it. Bit by bit we pulled everything out when my husband unearthed a fairly large, white, plastic box.

Sitting in a small corner of what little space we had left on the floor, I lifted the box's lid and rifled through my keepsakes. Here were things of a life past, things I had held on to for years because of what they represented or reminded me of.  Here was a sketch book, here a friendship book, here was a photo of me in my first school production. Emotions waved over me. Happiness, joyfulness, regret, embarrassment and sadness.

I laughed and read sentences out loud to my husband. We talked through each piece of memorabilia and I explained to him the sentimental value of a dirty music festival wristband, or a certificate, or a movie ticket snub. I shed a few tears (bloody hormones).

When I'd made it the bottom of the box, I closed the final book and began to place these things into the ginormous pile of unwanted items.

"You can't get rid of that stuff." My husband said, "I just saw you go through it all, it's precious to you."

And here my friends, is where my thoughts turned back to the chest. That fricking chest.

Let me explain.

When we wanted to move Ashton into his own room  the chest was part of the deal.
We live downstairs to my parents and are lucky enough to have completely separate living spaces. But what was the spare room (now Ashton's room) is located just outside of our little flat's door, so moving Ashton in there meant keeping the chest.

Taking. Up. Space. Gathering dust.

Why? What was the point of keeping it?

If you lift the lid (which hardly anyone does) you'll find all the things my mother has chosen to hold on to.
Not memories of her childhood, no, instead you'll  find memories of mine and my siblings. 
There are class exercise books, paintings, photos. My first published writings are in there, along with dorky looking photos of us at each school year. The chest, as heavy and unassuming as it is, is filled to the brim of what my mother cherishes most.

I had a moment. I realised. What we choose to hold on to is a representation of what matters to us the most. Our collection of things is, essentially, a collection of our heart. Its what's inside our chest. Our physical chest, not just the wooden one.

For me, my adolescent years just weren't that near and dear to my heart anymore. Since then I'd fallen in love, I'd traveled, I'd become a mother. Really, I'd eclipsed everything inside that box. So I kept aside my teenage diaries, a couple of certificates and a few photos, but the rest of it?

The rest of it wasn't me. It wasn't my heart, yet I'd been bursting at the seams trying to hold on to it all, pretending that it was.

When I thought about who I was and what I wanted, I couldn't help but picture my mum, gathering little moments of her children's lives to save away for later. I could see I wanted the space to do the same, but my past was holding me back.

I wonder what it would look like if everyone on Instagram sorted out not only their physical chests and closets, but their emotional ones too?

It wasn’t good enough to just clean out my closet and hope that would prepare me for the new chapter I was about to enter, I had do deal with a few emotional things too. Things that had hurt both my husband and I very deeply. We're lucky to have a big support network and strong prayers that helped us get through it, but still, the resentment in me lingered. I took a moment to stop, recognise the feeling for what it was, silently thank all that I'd learned from the experience and then, dismiss it.

I would not be bitter. I would not let this thing sit in my chest any longer. I needed the space for all the things my new child would be putting there.

What's in your chest? What are you holding onto that doesn't actually represent your heart or bring you joy? Is it time to let go of past hurts, disappointments, failures and dreams? Because if you're not letting go of these things, you're not allowing proper room for what will truly bring you happiness. Your chest will just sit there lifeless in the corner, taking up space and gathering dust.

Instead, own the feeling, the disappointment or the heartache. You could even choose to look at it like Marie: Thank that chapter of your life for the things it taught you, then toss it. 

For all Marie Kondo has given us, perhaps this hasn't been emphasised as much as it should: 

It's not enough just to rid ourselves of the things that don't give us joy. We should also be making room for and prioritising all the things that do.

Rachel Chen