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Spring Cleaning | Holding on and Letting Go | Honestly

I had the misfortune to stumble upon the show “Hoarders” while I was in Jamaica (Alex and I don’t have cable) which cured me of thinking that maybe I had the title illness, but also scared me enough to make me want to go home and throw stuff away just to prove I could.  It also just grossed the heck out of me.   But it served the purpose for which it was sent because both of us couldn’t stop talking through the whole trip about how we couldn’t wait to get home and start our pre-move spring cleaning.  See, Alex and I recently made the move back to Manhattan from Astoria, Queens.   Despite the fact that our new apartment is my dream Manhattan home (brick wall, inside a brownstone, near Central Park, huge windows) it is also Manhattan-sized and comes with only two closets.  We were moving from a place with 5 closets (some of which were enormous) and lots of kitchen cupboards to a much smaller apartment that offered nowhere to hide anything.  It forced us to give away, sell and throw away a lot of stuff in what ended up being a hard but valuable lesson for me in holding on and letting go.

Some stuff was easy, as soon as I got home from Jamaica I threw out boxes we had of lotions,  perfumes, makeup that I had been keeping forever “just in case” even though I never venture into them for “experimental make up” or a new scent.   I realized, when I buy something new in that category, I usually stick with it until I buy something else new so there is no reason keeping old stuff “just in case”.  TOSS.

Other things were a little harder, but doable.  Into my closet we go.  I realized there were several problems here.  The major one is that I keep things out of GUILT  (I’m sure you’ve NEVER done this).   I buy something, wear it once, realize  I don’t like the way it looks on me or makes me feel and then keep it for 10 YEARS almost as punishment for having bought it and trying to convince myself I will make it work somehow, someday at some point.  There was a pair of red gingham shoes with a bow (very Dorothy from Wizard of Oz…) that I had bought in Ireland almost 10 years ago and have worn maybe once.  At the time they were the most I’d ever spent on shoes and even though now that is more of a normal shoe range, I’ve still kept them out of guilt and moved them between 6 or so different apartments over the last 7 years, never wearing them once!  I was finally able to part with them and DONATE.

Other things we hold onto because they are connected to our dreams.   In Highschool I was majorly into theater and I loved being in and directing musicals and Shakespearean productions in particular.  I had been holding onto a pair of black “Character shoes” often used in shows ever since I moved to NYC 7 years ago and haven’t worn them once as well!  Finally was able to part with these.  What I was able to tell myself is 1) I have new dreams now and I’m living them and 2) if ever the opportunity to act comes up again I can always buy new character shoes!  This was a huge lesson in letting go for me.

Lastly are memories-  Alex and I are very sentimental and we used to keep every card people sent us, every letter, every article that my Dad sent to us etc, but those build up enormously over the years and you know you’ll never go look at them again!   Don’t keep cards that are just signed with no special note.  Receive the message gratefully and toss them out!  For the special ones I discovered my new best friend: EVERNOTE, an awesome app for storing and filing just about anything easily and you can access it from a cloud on your ipad, iphone or computer!  Alex gives me a specially card every valentines day and anniversary and usually writes a very personal message.  I’ve saved up a lot of these over our past 7 years together.   Now I can just snap a picture of it, put it in my EVERNOTE notebook labeled “CARDS” and write “Valentines day 2013”  Now I can access those cards any time I want for the rest of my life without cluttering my house. :)

I really had trouble giving up this pretty little fainting sofa, which we had to sell unless we wanted our apartment to feel crowded with furniture…I coped by crying, making Alex take a picture of me on it and by buying better furniture to replace it that would actually fit in our house! ;-)

This really just scratches the surface on things I had to confront while spring cleaning, but I hope this has been helpful to you!  Alex and I ended up giving away over 20 bags of stuff, selling 15 or so pieces of furniture and throwing away another 10 bags probably.  I’ll admit some weren’t easy.  There were a few things I would put in the pile, walk away, and then walk back, grab and hide in my closet.   Parting with stuff can be hard!  But we are almost all moved into our new place now and it just feels so refreshing not to be bursting at the seams or drowning in stuff you’ll never use or look at.   Everything has its place.    I honestly feel like a lighter freer person because of it!  Because our closet here is pretty small,  I’ve also resolved to now give away a pair of shoes every time I buy a new pair.  It’s the only way I’ll have enough room and it honestly makes so much sense!  I’ve also become much more careful about buying things and returning them if I don’t think they work.  Spring cleaning has forced me to think about what things are important to me.  What do I like? What do I actually use?  All these questions have helped me to create a clean, open space that reflects all those things, and that doesn’t carry with it figurative or literal baggage!


For your convenience I’ve made you a Spring Cleaning List – a few items you may not think of :)





-Extra lotions, cologne,  perfumes, make-up

Any craft projects that have been lying around for more than a few months that you haven’t worked on – I threw away a bunch of old candles I was going to re-melt and combine  in a mason jar…

– Magazines more than 6 months old – and if you haven’t read them yet, don’t think you will because you won’t!

-Cards, articles


-Jewelery, scarves, clothes and shoes you haven’t worn once in the last year

-T-shirts – do you still need your high-school Sophomore t-shirt or the camp t-shirt from 8th grade?  It’s not like you’ll forget what camp you went to!

-Purses!  Yes you loved it once when you bought it, but its been replaced by a new favorite and that’s okay.  Give it away to someone who can love it for the first time like you did! ;-)

-Extra Tupperware, plates and cups that that don’t match the set you have now,  extra mugs (we had WAY too many mugs)

-Gifts people have given you that you won’t use- this is a tough one but if your Great aunt gives you a scarf for Christmas  you know you’ll never wear or a decor item that doesn’t go with your house, don’t let it sit in your closet for a year with the tags, just donate it!  Someone out there will love it and you can still love your Aunt and appreciate her thoughtfulness without overflowing your life with things you don’t need.

-Books you’ve already read and won’t read or reference again, be honest with yourself!  I know you’re proud that you read those textbooks, but you don’t even work in that field, will you really ever look at them again ever???

– Old electronics

– Extra power cords and cables

EVERNOTE (snap a pic and then throw it away)

-meaningful letters, cards,  drawings or art projects from your kids or nieces and nephews

-articles you may want to reference

-reviews of books, restaurants or movies that you want to remember to try or visit


I’m sure this list is far from complete.  Leave a  comment if you have more ideas of things people keep that they should be giving or throwing away!

Cassi Claire - April 24, 2013 - 1:50 pm

And now I want to go clean!! Thanks for the kick in the butt Caroline!! I actually also have that bin of lotions/perfumes/make-up. Ugh, time to face the chopping block!!

Ciara - April 24, 2013 - 5:38 pm

What a great read Care! Adam and I recently went through the same thing and we agree in that it was very therapeutic. Glad to hear you and Alex are all moved in. Your place looks amazing:)

Angela Newton Roy - April 25, 2013 - 11:19 am

Love this, Caroline!! Next time I am cleaning out the closet, I will re-read this article – you’re like a little coach that will be a voice in my ear saying “toss, donate, purge”. Haha, love it!

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