Keep, Donate, Trash: 3 Life Lessons From Cleaning Out the Closet

Written by Dani Marie Robinson

I’ve moved a significant number of times, during very crucial phases in my life. I’m currently looking to move again, this time to a different apartment, not a different state or country. Until just a few days ago I’ve been living in a modest Chicago two bedroom with one man who is family by choice, my life partner, and the other who is family by chance, my brother. I can’t begin to tell you how fun and cohesive this nontraditional household has been. And I really can’t adequately express the challenge in saying goodbye to my brother, the sheer juxtaposition of emotions that swirled through me as I was so sad to see him go but also very happy and excited for his future.

Because of our impending move, we decided to rummage through our closets, our old boxes, examining with a fine-toothed comb what was really worth saving and what we could now let go. Not only does it feel like a tremendous release, a major shedding of layers to organize and clean up our homes, it’s also an excellent opportunity to walk down memory lane, have a few laughs, and more importantly, shine a light on what we’re clinging to and what we’d be better off releasing. We kept items that were still fulfilling its functions in our lives, we threw away old, damaged pieces no person would benefit from any longer, and we donated hoards of clothing, electronics and furniture we felt deserved another good home.

When we were finished cleaning out the clutter, relinquishing those items elsewhere, I felt so much lighter, clearer, calmer. Immediately following this clear out, I taught one of my favorite classes, a Restorative on Sunday evening. It felt the perfect subject to contemplate in class: Keep, Donate, Trash. I recognized that as often as we clean out our closets, organize our offices, and defragment our computers, we spend very little time applying the same principles to our psyche. I can personally attest to carrying around a cloud of clutter in my mind for years; my mistakes, my heart aches, my could have beens, and my what ifs. Never had I turned my awareness inward to truly acknowledge the patterns that were no longer serving me, the lessons I could bestow upon another, and the important memories and knowledge that could stay.

I made a little list, inspired by my oddball brain, perhaps it will help you decipher through your own, shed some light on what no longer serves you and which important pieces will help you along your path to bliss.


  • Relationships that are kind, encouraging, generous and equal (All others are demoted way down the priority list, if not released entirely. Only your unique intelligence can make that call.)
  • Gratitude, love, respect, and trust in You first, all else second.


  • Lessons from past mistakes can benefit another in a time of need but no longer serves you unless you’re repeating the pattern. It could be a major life decision surrounding a relationship, a career path, an investment option, a big move or any number of choices where advice and wisdom would be helpful.
  • Generosity of spirit. We spend a lot of time proving ourselves, projecting our confidence and positive attributes to the world, and when we relax and let go of our need to impress anyone but ourselves, we become compassionate toward those who are in need of the same boost we were not long ago. Show others, with words and actions, what beauty they bring into the world and give them permission to show it to you, and provide encouragement in them being authentic everywhere. Paying it forward has a reverberating effect, it ricochets positivity right back to you.


  • Need to please. You are one of a kind, whether you feel it or not. It’s a simple truth you’ll realize soon. Expend your energy impressing yourself, stoking your passion, and following your bliss, no one else’s.
  • All who wronged you up until this moment. Carrying grudges only serves to poison you twice. Living well is the best response to any haters and wrong doers. This includes any misplaced values or controls from supposed loved ones, who may be criticizing because they’re not equipped to provide genuine emotional support. You choose the effect their past actions has on your present and future. Let it go, for You.
  • All internal and external rhetoric that diminishes your being in any way. I know this seems a daunting and perhaps impossible task, sifting through all the intangible airwaves that float in and out of our very busy minds on a day to day basis, but let me tell you, not only are you capable, you are beyond worth it. When you’re getting ready in the morning, resist the urge to see what needs improvement, and instead make a short list of what’s working for you, what you dig about yourself today, inside and out.
  • Could have beens. This may seem obvious but the amount of time we spend reliving a memory, rehashing the details of a story and carrying even crumb sized regret is a monumental waste of your energy and your life. All you thought, felt and acted upon led you here, now, and all that you’ll think, feel and act on from now will affect your future. Stay present.
  • What-ifs. Same game as the previous. I’ve talked myself out of so many choices because of fear and the anticipation game. When the mind fixates long enough, it creates a problem and stress where nothing existed before. Give those anxious thoughts very little clout. Turn up the volume of your heart, lengthen your breath, and respond with keene awareness to the moment at hand.

This list could be much longer, but notice the length of trash versus the others. That’s because the less you hold onto, the more luminous and free you will become. Your list may vary greatly, only you can decide. It is certainly worth our energy to devote some alert presence to cleaning out the clutter, inside and out. A key to authentic happiness Now is accepting and being grateful for all that was, and open, fully, to whatever will be. Live light so you can soar. You deserve nothing less.

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