Nothing that I own owns me


If people were to be ranked on a spectrum, I’d like to say I’d be pretty close to being a “Purger” rather than a “Hoarder.”

Back in high school, I took great pride in this classification, given my fascination with Russia and the Soviet Union.

It’s funny the things we believe about ourselves, right?

After watching a documentary on minimalism Friday night – not the typical thing one might do on a Friday night – I got the motivation to do something I’ve only casually thought about: getting rid of some of my clothes.

With the exception of running gear, I have consciously not bought any kind of apparel or non-essential items for quite some time. Yet, over the years, I certainly have accumulated a lot of stuff that has just been sitting in my closet and drawers. My drawers were literally stuffed and it never occurred to me until then to assess what I could/should do about it.

Out of sight, out of mind, y’know?

Except after watching this documentary, it no longer was.

I had plenty of clothes and scarves that I never or rarely wore and only really held on to them because they were given as gifts or because they represented “the essence of Rafia” (whatever that means). The thought of getting rid of these items had this subconscious hold on me — that if I got rid of them, that meant I didn’t care about the person who gave it to me or that I was letting go of an identity and losing a bit of myself.

But there’s really no point in keeping things that you do not like and/or use.

So, yesterday morning, I rounded up a bunch of scarves, sweaters, shirts, dresses, skirts, and pants and put them in a bunch of bags to donate to a local thrift store (I also got rid of a few “free” tote bags I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years!). I didn’t want to wait on it, for fear of changing my mind. I promptly went to the thrift store and was rid of the items within the hour.

Some of the items I did not care if I never saw again, but there were also quite a few items that I wrestled with. My “I love Mickey” t-shirt from the Disney Store (I had a couple of Mickey shirts, to be honest). A really cute Levi’s denim crop jacket. A purple J. Crew skirt that was sewn with a model’s height in mind. A J. Crew Painter’s tee that my parents got for my birthday (I used to be slightly in love with J. Crew – no longer!), etc, etc, etc.

To be fair, I still have quite a bit of clothes, but I wear these clothes frequently or they are shalwar khameez that I can’t just donate wherever. I have no intention of curating a kind of life where all my possessions can fit in one piece of luggage. That’s not the point. But it felt nice to get rid of so many things. They really are just stuff. They have no intrinsic worth. I like the idea of having less, of de-cluttering. It was cathartic.

Unlike the previous time I did a closet purge about seven years ago, which was done largely out of shame, this one was done because I wanted to.

In some ways, this Saturday was a bit of a spiritual exercise. There’s a beautiful hadith that I just can’t seem to recall at the moment, about not having the love of the world in your heart, but instead keeping it – the world — at an arm’s length. I don’t have gold toilets or anything, but materialism looks different for everyone. We all place our worth at some level in the things that are in our possession. I really did not need all those clothes or scarves. Some I never wore. And some, I just needed to move on from. I had to get out of this “rainy day” mindset that I had been in (at least with clothes) which had enabled me to hold onto items I never or no longer cared for.

Brother Ali encapsulates it quite beautifully in this lyric: “Nothing that I own owns me and so I’m so free.”

That’s what I had in mind, when I ruminated over an item for longer than 15 seconds. “No, Rafia. You don’t need it.”

It’s weird. Even though I specifically did not make any new year’s resolutions, I’ve done a lot of resolution-type things just this month. I got rid of a bunch of stuff this weekend. Today is Day 20 of no caffeinated beverages. I finally signed up for that 10K race even though I haven’t run one in a couple of months. Since January 15th at least, I’ve been trying to not eat sweets on weekdays (my birthday, which is in just 8 days, will be an exception, of course). These are not challenges I want to achieve in x amount of days and then go back to bad habits. But sometimes a little change is just what we need.

I had a really productive weekend, I’d say. And now the countdown to February 4th really begins! Yay! Thirty-moo!

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