If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown
Last week after Pilates class I asked my friend Snigdha if she had read my recent blog post “Company Eggs”. She usually sends me a text with a kind comment or general feedback, but I hadn’t received a smiley or heart emoji from her.
“No, when I read some of them, I feel guilty” she replied.
“Guilty? Why?” I asked.
She went on to tell me that while she enjoys reading them but the posts about cleaning out and minimalism make her feel guilty.
“Dresses. I buy dresses. I buy three a month” she told me.
I couldn’t help but smile. I totally understood what she was talking about: shoes used to be my thing.
“Oh! I’m not trying to make anybody feel guilty. I’m just excited to share my story of getting rid of things. It’s very cathartic” I said.
On the way home I thought about our conversation. I too used to feel guilty about the amount of money I spent and my obsession with shoes, handbags, and coats. Buying something always made me feel good but then once I made the purchase, the thrill and excitement would be gone, and remorse would settle in.
I would push the feelings of regret aside and avoid them by cleaning and organizing but cleaning and organizing wasn’t the answer, it was just busy work, a way to avoid the feelings of shame and guilt, turning a blind eye to the fact that I used consumerism to make me happy, the “high of the buy” followed by extreme lows and regret.
Two years ago, I faced the reality of my habit as I stared at the pile of clothes I had pulled out of my closet. I had just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (for the third time) and I wanted a more minimal wardrobe. After pulling everything out of my closet I had a mountain of clothes that took over the bed and covered half the floor of my bedroom. By the time I finished cleaning out my closet, I had 18 bags of clothes to donate to the local shelter.
I overcame the negative feelings by choosing gratitude. As I folded each article of clothing and placed it into the bag, I thanked each item for the joy and delight it had brought me when I purchased it or when I wore it. I was grateful that I had clothes on my back and in my closet; many do not. I was grateful that I was able to pass along these items to a local shelter. It was through gratitude that I was finally able to release the guilt.
Now I find happiness in passing things along. I love the feeling of giving to others; this is my new “high” rather than the route of consumerism; the best part is that I can still remember the gratitude and appreciation from others: The smile on my neighbor, Claire’s face when I brought over a flower arrangement (in a lovely glass vase I no longer needed) to thank her for watching our home while we were on vacation. The appreciation of a bag of coloring books and Crayons from a friend whose daughter was collecting school supplies for children in need. Donating my wedding gown to Angel Gowns.
Giving and gratitude are now the foundation of my life.
And just like the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, feelings of guilt can transform into happiness and fulfillment – as long as one is open to change.