50 Thoughts: 5 Things to Purge Before You Turn 50

Originally published September 1, 2018

One of the best parts of a milestone birthday is that you can make it the perfect excuse to get your shit together.

And while I was hoping I’d be able to focus on having a “Best Body at 50” cover model look like the ones on Self or Shape, taunting me every time I’m on line at the grocery store, I’m finding things like planking every day and eating like someone on a fast is not as easily attainable as I hoped. (Stupid Andy’s Frozen Custard.)

But one thing I do like to do, no matter how temporary it is, is organize. So much so, my mom will tell you I was cracking the whip on my brother when we were in elementary school, helping him get his drawers in shape. And so much so, that years later watching my kids as toddlers pull their clothes out of their dresser and toss them around their room would give me hives. So, yeah — maybe a little OCD.

I have yet to start this little project, with just a few weeks to go, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s gonna happen. I love to clean up and out.

Thinking about making a clean break at mid-life? Here are 5 things to purge:

Your closet. It’s a no brainer. And all the rules you’ve ever read apply, just take your pick when it comes to one that makes it easier for you to take the plunge. I know I’ve got a metric shit ton of stuff in mine I’ll never need or wear again. Storage bins full of stamps from my crafty card making days, yarn from a brief stint knitting scarves, all sorts of kitsch from our vacations … and a pile of clothes from the 80s I’ve held on to thinking my kids will need them for high school 80s dress up days (the J Crew rugby has come in handy more than once). I think the biggest obstacle I need to overcome is the “But I might pick it up again” promise I make to myself every time I choose to hang on to a hobby I’ve left behind.  I just need to have faith the act of letting go is going to be as liberating as I anticipate it will be.

Your kitchen spice rack. Because you want to avoid discovering you have bouillon cubes in your cabinets that are the same age as one of your teenaged kids. (I also recently learned that sundried tomatoes aren’t meant to be kept around for years, or honestly, even months. Oops.)

Your desk. For a world that’s going digital, I have got a whole lot of paper going on. I seriously doubt I need to keep copies of my kids’ AYSO soccer registrations from 2008, printed copies of my resume from four years ago, or community resource guides. That’s what Google is for.

Your social network. 50 is a good time to take a look at the friend list and see if you really care about all of your connections. Our digital footprint seems to grow exponentially year over year, and practicing good digital hygiene is one way to beat back the bots from crawling into your personal space.

Your guilt. Easy to say, so, so hard to do. You are turning 50, though — do you really need to carry around all that emotional baggage anymore? Guilt, whether it’s from not living up to expectations as a teen to not living up to expectations as a spouse or parent, can pull you under at just the time you should be enjoying some time on the beach. Guilt can be a valid emotion — yes, it’s your fault you forgot to pick up Johnny after school one afternoon when he was in the fourth grade. But it’s also toxic. What’s the expiration date on feeling guilty about what you fed your kids for dinner when they were toddlers? Or for lying about time commitments to get out of a volunteer gig? Or for only pretending to read the book club pick? It’s time to let that crap go so you can move forward.

But listen, Marie Kondo, you are NOT TOUCHING MY BOOKS. Everyone has one thing, and my books are mine. Damn the dust bunnies, I am keeping them all.

Today’s recommendation: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Of course.

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