sorting through the clutter

April 30, 2013 |  Category:   life me rambling


I’ve been in between work projects for about 2 weeks now, and I’ve taken that time to sort through and clean every closet and junk drawer in the house. Yes, OCD at its finest. I’m an expert purger, unforgiving when it comes to cleaning out the clutter from our house. Toys, clothes, books, knick knacks, games – anything that we haven’t used in a year gets boxed up and put out on the street. In New York, you can put things out on the curb and 98% of the time, everything will be gone in a matter of hours. But there are 2 things that I can never give up despite thinking that one day I might let them go: my old art supplies and boxes of old letters from various friends, some of which date back 20+ years. The most recent letters, aside from a few holiday and birthday cards are about 10 years old. I guess that was around the time my friends and I stopped writing letters and started emailing instead. The art supplies? Well, the thinking is that I would use them again. I look at the old calligraphy nibs from way back to sophomore year at Cooper and realize they were last used 24 years ago, but here they still are, in the art box, stored away with other relics. It’s funny that they’ve moved with me a few times across country.


I know why I get so zealous with the purging and organizing during down times; I’m not fooling myself. It’s both a distraction and a metaphor for what’s going through my mind when I’m not working, busy and occupied – a distraction from dangerous thoughts and a metaphor for decluttering the insecurities and doubts that inevitably work its way in.
The weekend was interesting. Little did I realize that when I wrote that “don’t give up” post on Friday, I’d be repeating it to myself over and over all weekend, but that’s exactly what I did. I questioned a lot of things. I questioned whether I was holding onto something that has worked for us in the past, but may not be working for us anymore. I questioned if my motivations for holding on were based on fear and selfishness, rather than the belief that this was the right thing to do. I questioned if the path that I had taken was the right path, now that I am here and looking back. I questioned whether or not I was living up to my potential; I already knew that I wasn’t living up to my expectations. I know I raise that bar high, maybe unrealistically so, but I questioned everything.
I’m struggling. Sometimes I feel like I don’t really know who I am anymore and that is a dark and scary place to be, but I emerged from the weekend determined to give myself the time and space to try and sort it out. This is the year. I came to the realization, finally, that one part of my life that I was holding onto was not going to play a part in my future much longer, despite both my efforts and denial. I am giving that up. So don’t give up, I wrote on Friday, unless you know that there is nothing left for you and it’s time to move on.
It’s time to move on now.

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  • Michelle May 1, 2013 at 3:54 am

    Hi Jenna
    I have been following your blog ever since I chanced upon it when you spoke of being the breadwinner. Your posts are always refreshing and honest. And I like them. I don’t know what you are going through but over here on the other side of the world in singapore, I can feel your pain. I hope things work out for you eventually soon.

  • Megan May 1, 2013 at 6:55 am

    I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  • Gia May 1, 2013 at 10:24 am

    You need a relaxing time to yourself.. A massage or something? You’re in there.. 🙂

  • Lakshmi May 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Meditate. It does wonders in clearing the head, bringing in clarity and intuition. Join a class; I wouldn’t recommend learning it online or from a DVD or anything like that. Learn it from a real person.

  • Anne May 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Well, I think I know who you are; you are the one person who can put in to beautiful words the emotions that a lot of people (including myself) all around the world deal with. Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, but then when visiting your blog “on the other side of the world” (ha! – sounds like I haven’t figured out the deal with internet yet! ;)), it’s like you’ve written down all my thoughts. That’s definitely something, right?!

    • Jenna May 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Thank you Anne.

  • maja May 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I so admire your posts. Perhaps because we are so close in age, I feel that I am so often sorting through the same things as you. I am also having one of those weeks, feeling like giving up. Please continue to share this process with us. It helps the rest of us sort it out too~

  • Makimochi May 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Damn, girl. Are you in my head? (Only thing different is that I *aspire* to declutter but have the worst time letting go of things — I have to fight the hoarding tendencies that I’ve always ascribed to frugal Asian immigrant parents.) Anyway, I’ve been noodling around with thoughts along these lines but you’ve just laid them out with inciseful clarity. Thanks for that!

  • Alicia May 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Powerful words to be writing down. Somehow putting them out makes them more true, right?
    I wish you the best in moving on. I’m letting go of some things that fit who I thought I was, but I realize are no longer serving me. It’s hard.
    I heard this song yesterday for the first time in years. Maybe you need it today:

  • Renita May 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Dude, I work with a “LUMP” … In a selfish way, I need the contrast to remind myself I’m moving in the right direction (even if I leave a sloppy trail of fire behind me …) I really appreciate that you are always reaching. Cut the deadwood, you’ll heal

  • Betsy May 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I really hope you’re not letting go of your artistic side/output. Try just grabbing any supplies you see and making something. Don’t think about it, just start doing it. Like a kid. Grab a crayon, and start making. It’s been lifting me up recently (with music)….ooohhh you’re a composer, I forgot! You should go sit at a piano all alone and start improvising! It’s beautifully powerful!

    • Jenna May 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      No, actually. It isn’t that. And funny you should mention the piano. It’s so strange – when we did get the piano over a year ago I did play it, but then a whole year went by without even touching it. I need to go back to it.

  • TC May 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    This rings so true for me. I think it is very hard to let go of the things that we feel at one time defined us and to accept that certain hobbies, friends, and interests no longer play a leading role in our life. It’s all part of change, which is never-ending, and that is a hard, hard thing to deal with. I don’t really like quotes, but this one from Joseph Conrad is very comforting to me: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

    • Jenna May 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Thank you for that quote.

  • plum May 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    please don’t let it be the blog that has to go….

  • Karen May 3, 2013 at 1:51 am

    I too am ferocious about clearing out clutter! Definitely reflective of my thinking! With me, things that were satisfying (clothes/objects and god, sometimes even people!!!!) become mundane, I find especially with work….I just struggle to make massive changes as I have a 2 year old, and am responsible for her and her schooling (£1000 a month!!!!!) While I would love to jack in the 9-5 not everyone can follow their dreams? Or can they? Can you always find a way to do it? I just don’t know….that I am brave enough to give up the pension/security/monthly income…and so it goes on…trying to find inspiration in the day to day and not put the pressure on myself to be brilliant and satisified 100% of the time