In the corner of my son’s bedroom is a large wooden chest. If I’m honest, it’s ugly, and not my choice of decor. It’s in a dark wood and the lid is heavy, locked in place by a large silver latch.
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I woke up one morning in an absolute panic and the chest, of all things, loomed out of the back of my mind. This baby is coming. He’s due in three months and we have no space for him because of the chest.
Okay, not just the chest, I thought as I looked around my half-bedroom, half-storage room. Our drawers were all bursting. Our wardrobe was full. Every inch of the wall was taken up by boxes or piles of things that didn’t have anywhere else to live. It was time to make room for our incoming arrival.
Marie Kondo seems to know what’s up. Her folding technique is next level and even though I’d only watched half of the first episode of her Netflix series, I was convinced. Perhaps I’d been influenced by all my fellow insta-mums transforming their homes the ‘Marie Kondo’ way, or perhaps I was just nesting, but I had this insane urge to clean.
Before long I had emptied out the entire contents of my bedside drawers. A pile began to grow on my bedroom floor. Quietly but quickly, all of our things started to look a lot less like things and a lot more like worthless junk. But it was good, I reminded myself, to part ways with what you no longer needed. Decluttering is a healthy part of life.
One night we nervously opened the wardrobe. Bit by bit we pulled everything out, when my husband unearthed a large white plastic box.
Sitting in what little space we had left on the floor, I lifted the box’s lid and rifled through my keepsakes. Here was a sketchbook, a friendship book, a photo of me in my first school production.
I laughed and read sentences out loud to my husband. We talked through each piece of memorabilia and I explained to him the sentimental value of a dirty music festival wristband, a certificate, and a movie ticket stub. I shed a few tears.
When I’d made it the bottom of the box, I closed the final book and began to place these things into the ginormous pile of unwanted items. “You can’t get rid of that stuff.” My husband said, “I just saw you go through it all, it’s precious to you.”
Here my friends, is where my thoughts turned back to the chest. Yes, the chest. Let me explain.
When we wanted to move Ashton into his own room, the chest was part of the deal. We live downstairs to my parents in separate living spaces. What was their spare room (now Ashton’s room) is located just outside of our little flat’s door, so moving Ashton in there meant keeping the chest on behalf of my parents.
Why? What was the point of keeping it?
If you lift the lid (which hardly anyone does), you’ll find all the things my mother has chosen to hold on to. Not memories of her childhood, instead you’ll find memories of mine and my sibling’s. There are exercise books, paintings, poems, along with dorky looking school photos. The chest, as heavy and unassuming as it is, is filled to the brim of what my mother cherishes most.
I had a moment, and I realised it’s what we choose to hold on to that matters to us the most. Our collection of things is, essentially, a collection of your heart. It’s what’s inside your chest. Your physical chest, not just the wooden one.
When I thought about who I was and what I wanted, I couldn’t help but picture my mum, gathering little moments to save for later. I could see that I wanted the space to do the same for my children, yet I’d been bursting at the seams trying to hold on to things that didn’t actually matter. My past was holding me back.
I began to wonder what it would look like if everyone on Instagram sorted out not only their physical chests and closets, but their emotional ones too?
Preparing for the next chapter
It wasn’t good enough to just clean out my closet and hope that would prepare me for the new chapter I was about to enter. It meant dealing with a few emotional things too, things in my past that had hurt. I took a moment to stop, recognise the feeling for what it was, silently thank all that I’d learned from the experience, and then dismiss it.
This thing would not sit in my chest any longer, I would not be bitter. I needed the space for all the things my new child would be putting there.
What’s in your chest? What are you holding onto that doesn’t actually represent your heart or bring you joy? Is it time to let go of past hurts, disappointments, failures and dreams?
If you’re not letting go of these things, you’re not allowing proper room for what will truly bring you happiness. Your chest will just sit there lifeless in the corner, taking up space and gathering dust.
Own that feeling, the disappointment or heartache. Choose to look at it like Marie — thank that chapter of your life for the things it taught you, then toss it.
For all Marie Kondo has given us, perhaps this hasn’t been emphasised as much as it should. It’s not enough just to rid ourselves of the things that don’t give us joy. We should also be making room for and prioritising all the things that do.
Written by Rachel Chen. Rachel is fairly new mum who is trying her best to navigate parenthood, marriage, relationships and work life. Aside from being a full-time mum, Rachel works part-time and has a passion for writing about life’s experiences on her blog Think Mama Think. She has a wonderful husband, a (mostly) gorgeous toddler and another baby arriving soon.