Recently, I read Marie Kondo’s book on de-cluttering. She said keep only things that give you “joy.” I started to think beyond desk drawers.

Much in life is optional. Some things don’t give me joy (like cleaning the cat box) but I must do them. Those are non-optional. So, why do I clutter my life with optional things that don’t give pleasure? I may have enjoyed them in the past but that is no longer the case; or they never made me happy yet I still keep doing or keeping it. Why? I get one life. Why fill it with optional things that don’t give me happiness?

Let’s use an example. Quilting once gave you joy. It was fun, a challenge. Now, you have 45 quilts, a ton of fabric, and instead of a happy rush, facing the sewing machine is a chore, but you’ve been doing it for so long, you can’t imagine life without making quilts. Quit, with no guilt. Put the sewing machine in a closet and take up a new hobby. Don’t keep quilting because you’re used to it, or people will ask why you gave it up. Only quilt as long as it makes you happy.

Are you attending a group, committee, or class that no longer inspires you? Leave.

Are you reading a book that isn’t a joyful experience? Put it down.

Are you sticking with a television show long past its prime, where all you can do is complain about how good it “used” to be? Turn it off. Find a better show. Or read a book. Play Clue. Take the dog for a walk. Learn how to wood carve.

Is there something in your home, your life, that makes you angry, frustrated, or upset, whenever you look at it? Maybe it’s a 100-year-old piece of rusting farm equipment collecting weeds in the yard. Or the couch you hate. Or a porch rail falling apart. Or the old shed your grandfather installed that you think is hideous. No amount of paint can make that sow’s ear into a silk purse.

What is it and what can you do about it? Can you get rid of it? Give it away? Haul it off? Find someone to take it for scrap metal?

I keep “junk” in my life for two reasons:

1) I paid money for it so I feel I should “use” it;

2) I’m afraid to let it go.

If I spent too much on something, having it around is a reminder of that mistake. Once I give it away, I can move on because it’s no longer taunting me with my foolishness. It’s not a daily reminder that I splurged. If I have a ton of crafting stuff and no desire to craft, giving it away means it’s no longer there to make me feel guilty for not being interested in crafting anymore. It frees up shelf space.

I may hold on to an object, relationship, or hobby because I don’t know what life is like without it. What will Tuesdays be like without that group? What if this hobby is all I’m good at? Maybe it’s been there so long I can’t imagine the room devoid of it, even if I dislike it. I’m afraid if I let go, I’ll never find something better to replace it with.

I must give myself the freedom to explore and try new things or I’ll be bored and unhappy. Often, removing an object, routine, habit, or item from my life relieves me. The human psyche is complex. Things bother me without my awareness. I may not know that’s what was bothering me until it’s gone. After six years of hating a closet in my guest room, I had it torn out. Then I realized the reason I hated that room was because the floor to ceiling closet, with heavy finger-mashing doors, gave me claustrophobia. I turned the guest room into a TV room and use it every day. What made me miserable now gives me joy.

What are you holding onto that doesn’t give you joy? Is it clutter? An old tractor? A book club that is habit rather than pleasure? The unfinished novel whose presence says you’re a failure? An expensive item that keeps guilt alive? A hobby no longer fun? A relationship that makes you feel more dread than happiness whenever you meet for lunch?

What are the things that drag you down, and what can you do about them?