Be ruthless, be ruthless, be ruthless.
That's what any home organizing expert will tell you about reducing the things in your home. Haven't worn it in a year? Out. Have a box and have no idea what's in it? Out. Sentiment? Only to be doled out in minuscule bits.
I never have a problem with this. In fact, I actually feel glee when throwing things away. Clutter drives me mad, quite literally, and with fewer possessions, I think and feel and live more clearly. Unfortunately, my husband does not have this same outlook. I'm pretty sure he doesn't "see" clutter. Unchecked, he would most likely inhabit a space resembling Hoarders in a few years. However, one of the things I'm trying really hard to learn is that I only have control over myself. I can't change him. I can suggest and explain why things matter to me, but I can't force him to do anything. That's somewhere we shouldn't be ruthless.
A friend of mine once said to me, "But everyone needs to have respect for their living space, for how they live." And I agree with her, but everyone is raised with a different idea of what that means. Right now, what it means for me is that I need to maintain control over what I can so that it doesn't all feel out of control. So last week I tackled my half of our closet. It had gotten to a point where I was having a hard time finding things to wear to work because so many items didn't fit or were out of season, so I knew it was time for an overhaul.
And I was right! I took two large trash bags of clothes to the donation bin and threw two trash bags of clothes (too worn out, threadbare, etc) out. It felt GREAT. My drawers are no long bulging. I can wear a lot of what's in my closet. I can find what I want to wear.
The hard part, for me, is parting with clothes that still feel like part of who I hoped to become. It's difficult to be ruthless with your past hopes. I donated a beautiful, delicate, lacy, ivory-colored over-shirt that I will never fit into again and that I'd have a hard time fitting into my life (Nate would probably snag something on it or stain it before I got out the door). So away it went - but I clearly remembered the day I bought it and the vision I had of myself then, of who I was becoming.
So many of the clothes I got rid of are from that time-frame, when I was thinner, in my first year of grad school, not married (or even engaged), hopeful for the professional life that seemed to be unfurling before me. That road has yet to unfurl. Some days it actually feels like someone tore up all the pavement and I'm having to find my way through the undergrowth. So, yeah, who I was then is gone. There was a naive hope that has been consummately squashed since then.
As I packed those clothes away and sort of mourned the hopefulness of that time and felt foolish about my naivete, I had a funny thought: this is why Doctor Who works. Well, it's one of many, many reasons Doctor Who works. In some way, we all feel like the Doctor. We are different incarnations of ourselves, with different costumes to match, as we go through life's battles. We even have different companions at different stages (although I certainly hope they meet better ends than most of the Doctor's do).
We all have to say goodbye to dreams unfulfilled or hopes dashed, but it's like clearing the closet: it makes room for the new hopes and dreams. Rather than dwell on what didn't come to pass, why not start thinking about what can still happen.