Cleaning Means Letting Go

I blogged early last year about how the Konmari Method has swept through our house. In the early days of that phenomenon here, we gathered and donated bags upon bags of clothing, boxes of books, and recycled half a forest’s worth of paper. In the midst of that, though, I never attacked my business stash. In eleven years, I have purged containers or fragrances that I no longer use, but I hadn’t done a major cleaning up and cleaning out. This week was that week.

It happened last week. I was taking a writing course online and happened to glance back at one of my soap racks. I have two, and one had become used for storage. A lot of storage. It mostly had soaping things on it, but it also had my sewing threads and pins to keep little children and cats out of them. I decided I didn’t need it for business things and that I would gut it and use it for the “domestic arts”: Canning, sewing, and cooking. In preparation, I ordered a sewing box and gathered all the bags of soap scraps (there were SIX of them!) to send down to Orlando to Clean the World. (Click here to see the stash I sent down.) That pretty much took care of the top shelf.

Then came the colorants. Organizing them and putting them where they belong required completely gutting their assigned drawer, cleaning it out, and replacing the colorants. It’s been a long time since that drawer looked that neatly organized!

As I was happily clearing off this rack, it dawned on me that I needed a place for my temperature-sensitive additives to live. My gaze landed on the corner rack. This rack is huge and lives in (you guessed it) the corner of our dinette. It’s where soaps cure and dried herbs live. If I were going to have room for the stuff on the hallway rack, then I needed to clean off the corner rack. You can see how this quickly snowballed.

Soap rack
The corner soap rack getting cleaned off and cleaned up

I wish I had thought to take “before” pictures so you could appreciate the sheer amount of work that went into getting this rack looking this good. I have wrapped over 100 bars of soap since yesterday. I have wiped down all these shelves to get the soap remnants off of them. All the soap at the top is for family use, though I suspect a bunch of smaller soaps will, too, make their way to Orlando to meet Priscilla, the soap press at Clean the World.

All that to get to the point… I’ve thrown stuff away. I’ve thrown things away I never thought I would. I found some bottles of lotions that had been living on the rack for ten years. I normally would’ve dumped the lotion out and washed or recycled the bottles, but I didn’t bother. They went straight into the garbage. Yes, a little bit of my soul died at the idea of throwing away plastic, and I heard my younger daughter chastising me in my head for being a “fish killer.” I did it, anyway.

My heart broke a little when I found some of my old faithful melt & pour soap moulds had yellowed and cracked with time and age. I thought of all the cat-shaped soaps I’ve made in my soapmaking career–soaps I have no need to make anymore. One of those moulds is sitting in the recycle bin. I’m pretty certain more will accompany it.

And if you look on the fourth shelf up, just to the right of my Crazy Ideas inspiration, you’ll see a clear container. It’s hard to make out what’s in it, but it contains the bagillion little product portfolios I had made for my first show. Hundreds of little 2″x2″ squares, each bearing a product picture on the front, its description on the back. None of them represent products I make currently, and the business that went with them has been gone for four years. I kept them for the memories, and now I am ready to let them go.

There comes a point where letting go is part of the cleaning process. Holding on to too much weighs us down, and we have to choose to release that dead weight that’s holding us back. I was exhausted after standing and working, and God only knows (literally!) how many steps I took between the two racks, the sink, and the trashcan. But seeing the rack looking like it does is completely rewarding to me. Knowing the next steps for the hallway rack and what it’ll mean for the rest of our space excites me. If I weren’t willing to part with these bits and pieces of my past soapmaking life, I’d never be able to move forward toward what I envision next for this space.