Two years ago a friend introduced me to Clutter Chronicles, a podcast that features a woman named Mary and her “unusual relationship with stuff.” Ever since, I’ve been working hard to rid myself of my clutter, as well as all sorts of other stuff I no longer need or use.
I’ve made good progress. I’ve tossed reams and reams of client files from a four-drawer, 48-inch-wide file cabinet. I’ve donated hundreds of books, a dozen bags of clothes, several sets of linens and my favorite china.
Parting with most of that stuff turned out to be easier than I thought thanks to another friend who encouraged me to stop dragging my anchor behind me and instead toss it out in front of me.
But I’ve since come to realize that there’s a category of clutter I’m still having trouble letting go of: aspirational clutter.
I’d never even heard of aspirational clutter until a third friend introduced me to Apartment Therapy, a home and décor site that defines aspirational clutter as “anything you’re keeping for a future version of yourself.”
As a lifelong goal-setter with all sorts of imagined future selves and plenty of storage space, I’ve accumulated a great deal of aspirational clutter, most of which revolves around hopes and dreams related to creative pursuits such as writing, drawing, painting, sewing and knitting, all things I used to love doing as a kid but gave up decades ago.
Some of my aspirational clutter is electronic, like the list of words I keep on my computer, words I aspire to one day not only remember the meaning of but also use in a short story. The list includes noctilucent, opsimath, sere and wheedle.
There’s also a list of clever headlines, as well as lists of books to read, movies to watch and podcasts to listen to, all in line with my aspirations to develop compelling creative content in a variety of forms.
But what about the things that do take up physical space? A shoebox filled with recipes. A plastic bin of yarn. An untouched set of oil paints I received for my 40th birthday. A six-inch high pile of pages I’ve torn out of magazines in preparation for making collages.
Despite the fact that some of these things have sat dormant for decades, tossing or giving them away is harder than I would have imagined. And that’s exactly how my more creative future self would want it to be.