Perfect Self vs Real Self: A Study in Disconnects

Let’s talk for a moment about something I’m sure we’ve all faced at one time or another.

You’re walking through a store and you see a book/vintage hat/knick-knack/kitchen gadget/craft supply/dice block/nerdy coffee cup/whatever.

You look at it. You want it. You think, “Wow, if I only had that awesome whatsit, I would use it all the time, and I would be the most optimal and amazing reader/vintage clothing wearer/quirky decorator/kitchen maven/craftster/gamer/nerd who drinks coffee I can possibly be.”

And what do you do then? Maybe you buy it and take it home, because it’s awesome, and because it lends credence to this image of yourself that you have in your head.

And then maybe it promptly sits untouched, unused, and unloved on a shelf or in a drawer for months or even years because that image of you in your head is not necessarily the person who lives your life for you.

This is a clutter/organization post, if you hadn’t guessed, but rather than focus on the clutter itself, I’d like to winkle out a potential root cause of initial clutter collection: a fundamental disconnect between the person you are, and the person you WISH you were.

For example: I have a recipe box. It has lovely tabs, lovingly hand-written recipe cards, and contains all of the most interesting and tasty looking recipes that I’ve collected from books and magazines over the years. The idea is that when the time comes, I will be able to fish out the perfect little recipe from my perfect little recipe box and prepare the perfect little meal for the most perfect occasion.

So why is it that my first stop when thinking up dinner ideas is not my cute little recipe box, but a Google search of “food you make with X and Y in under 30 minutes”?

Because in my heart of hearts, I am a skilled kitchen goddess, possessed of all the verve, knack, and ability to whip up the tastiest of meals with the most minimal of ingredients and in the absolute smallest amount of time.

But in reality? I throw money at Trader Joe’s freezer food. I can go for WEEKS (and I’m currently in the process of going weeks) without going to the grocery store because of my glut of frozen and shelf stable pantry food. I make rice ALL THE TIME because I can buy a 20lb bag of it at a time and my $10 rice cooker will have it ready for me in about half an hour with no effort on my part. I want tasty food, but I’m SO HELLA LAZY when it comes to actually preparing and cooking it.

So if that’s the case, then why do I even need this recipe box? The simple answer is: I don’t. And the long answer is: I don’t, and I’m getting rid of it to make space for the things I will use. Like garlic salt. And sesame seeds.

But I’ve kept it this long because it supports this vision I have of myself, even though that vision is not rooted in my personal reality. Everyone has these blind spots: the busy workaholic who buys books by the pallet because she’ll definitely “read them someday”; the person who buys athleisure wear so they can wear it to the gym…or just at home; the crafter who buys surplus yarn for all of those projects that she’s TOTALLY going to start on right after she finishes that half-done scarf that’s sat untouched for six months.

The hardest part of decluttering items like this is that you have to admit to yourself, “This isn’t me. I am NOT a kitchen goddess/super athlete/prolific knitter/avid gamer/whatever. I don’t need this.” And you have to say this to yourself before you can really relinquish the (probably mostly untouched) trappings of this person that you are not, but who you kind of want to be.

And that is a REALLY hard thing to say to yourself sometimes. Sometimes this idea you have of yourself is so integral to how you feel about yourself that to admit that maybe this isn’t quite working out for you can feel like a type of failure. Like, “Why ISN’T this me? Why COULDN’T it be me? All I have to do is start doing X and Y and Z and I’ll be there in no time!”

But change is hard. And sometimes it’s so hard it’ll never happen. And that’s when you need to let go.

I’m not saying “give up on your dreams and never try new things ever!”, but it is sometimes necessary to take stock of the items in your home and see what is actually supporting and nurturing the you that you want to be and are working on becoming, and separating out the stuff that is just a guilt-inducing reminder of the things that you’re not.

And hell, if you’re reading this and you’re like, “Jenn, you’re ridiculous, and you have provided me just the motivation I needed to actually learn to play that ukulele I got on sale at the music shop two years ago just to spite you,” then cool! Keep that uke! Play it! Love it!

But I think there’s something to be said for being able to let go of the you’s that are not you and to not feel bad about it when you do.¬†Give your time, your energy, and your shelf space to things that make you happy, and don’t be afraid to let the rest of it just fall away.