Preface: I’ve been saying I need a wardrobe overhaul for a while now. My attentive partner, knowing my love for creative and thoughtful experiences, hired a fashion consultant as a gift for my 30th birthday. She came over this past weekend to help me clean out my closet. This blog is dedicated to him for all the many ways he has inspired me to let go.

“Let’s start with the dresses,” she said, pulling them out of the closet and sorting them into two distinct piles labeled, “casual” and “formal”.

There it was.

A small piece of my pain in the form of a BCBGMaxazria dress in taupe that was purchased in attempt to cover up what I wasn’t ready to deal with at the time.

“This color doesn’t do you any favors.”

Yeah, I know. Taupe, a dark tan, the french word for mole. That’s about right. I suddenly found myself plowing down memory lane to a time in my life I felt every bit deserving of the haute taupe dress that didn’t do me any favors.

Then there were the lavender ruffles, a desperate cry for my femininity to return as I felt through the fatigue of doing it all on my own. Those damn creativity-stifling responsibilities. Lavender ruffles.

We came across a green and teal and black satin number that I’ve had longer than I can remember, circa 2002, around the time of my high school graduation. As if that doesn’t say it all, the kaleidoscopic pattern exploding from the seams held captive my bright and shiny anticipation of a promising future, reminding me of my present-day clinging to youthfulness and all of its naive optimism, though I haven’t worn it for years.

“What do you think of this one?” Silence. What do I think of this one. The one I remember buying specifically because it was expensive, it had sex appeal, it promised fulfillment in the empty well I carried of feeling noticed and valuable and attractive. The one that adorned some of my lowest moments after I’d reduced my self-worth to nothing more than nylon, spandex, and polyester. It was definitely worn. “Well I think you are better than this.”

One by one we inspected each dress, every skirt, and shirt, and shoe, and jacket. We tossed out the larges–and extra larges–that were purchased from the dysmorphic lens of my bruised self-consciousness. We piled on items that have had their time, that have traveled the world and clothed my curiosity on the streets of Dubai and Mexico and Ecuador and Turkey. We let go of the pieces that were kept strictly for their materialistic value, those whose closet real estate had been preserved to mask the guilt felt for how much money was wasted on the attempted purchase of class and significance.

Funny how all of that was still hanging in my closet.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “When we give ourselves the chance to let go of all our tension, the body’s natural capacity to heal itself can begin to work.”

I anticipated getting rid of some things. What I grossly under-anticipated was how much insight I would gain through the process, and how healing it would be. It’s amazing how much our stuff embodies our stuff. We created an impressive pile of physical materials to surrender, yet the metaphysical pile that was there was immeasurably more impactful.

My closet now holds empty space, the kind that is full. It no longer feels dingy and difficult to navigate. Inner spaces that were once warehousing tension I didn’t even realize I still had have also been liberated.

What kind of stuff is lingering in your stuff?

How can you let go of unnecessary weight and tension?

May every door be opened. May surrender remain one of our greatest strengths. May you too discover the fullness in emptying.