Cleaning Out My Closet: Letting Go to Make Room for Better Things

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Now’s about the time of year where many people start to drop off from their new year’s resolutions. Those familiar refrains of  “I’m gonna lose this weight! I’m gonna eat better! I’m gonna actually save up for some real Louboutins & stop painting my Payless soles red!” (whoops, lost some of y’all on that last one…) have been replaced by the old but comfortable habits that are all too familiar.

While it is important to try to incorporate good things into our lives, it’s also important to look at what needs to be removed and replaced. Much like our closets need to be combed through every so often to weed out clothes that just don’t fit us anymore, we also need to weed out the things, thoughts, and habits that no longer serve a purpose in our lives.

Just before the new year began, I was at a small gathering at a family friend’s house. We did an activity where we wrote down everything we wanted to let go of in the new year on a small strip of paper. These were supposed to be things that you wanted to release to the universe so that they were no longer yours; habits, burdens, troubles, etc. 

As I sat trying to come up with a whole list of things to get rid of, the same three things kept popping into my head: stress, fear, and worry.

Though most people might not guess it because of my bold and confident demeanor, fear is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. As a recovering perfectionist, I’m constantly afraid to try anything I’m not 1000% sure I can conquer. I’m sometimes afraid that one flaw, one hiccup, one struggle will erase my “perfect” track record of immaculate work and accomplishments. 

Of course this is false, but it has taken a long time for me to realize that. There’s nothing to be afraid of in trying something new. If you could conquer everything you tried, nothing would be fun. Besides, there’s a lot to be learned from failure, much more than from “winning” all the time. Because of that, I believe there are no failures in life, only lessons, lessons that I’ve unwittingly been blocking myself from because of fear. Fear of trying (really, fear of failure) has been holding me back from becoming my best self. So it has to go.

Stress and worry, I’ve also discovered, are very tightly wound into each other and connected to fear. Not being able to plan, control, and know the outcome of everything stresses me out. When I’m not in control, I worry that things aren’t going to get done “well enough.” So, in an effort to ensure that it gets done “the right way” (i.e. to my satisfaction), I often take on too much, which of course leads to stress. It’s all a vicious cycle and one that is emotionally, physically, and psychologically draining. 

Once we wrote our items, we took the slips of paper outside to burn them. As I lit mine with these three simple words on it—stress, fear, worry—I noticed that my paper refused to stay lit. We kept relighting it and as everyone else’s strips fell to ashes on the ground, I still held most of my paper in my fingers. Finally, one of the others in the group said, “Let it go! You holdin’ onto it, girl! Let it go, whatever it is!” I chuckled out loud but inside I realized he was right.

For years I wore the stress-fear-worry security blanket wrapped tightly around me and used them all as crutches. Fear of trying new things meant I could continue doing the things I already knew I was good at and thus avoid the risk of failure. Worrying made me feel like I was actually doing something when I couldn’t be in control. In reality, it was only stressing me out. 

In an effort to clean out my “life closet,” I decided these three “outfits” –stress, fear and worry-- were taking up too much space and needed to go.

Admittedly, it has not been easy. I now find that I have to constantly remind myself that I gave up those thoughts and behaviors, and that I now have to replace them with something more productive. Some days that’s prayer, some days it’s meditating or working out, and some days it’s as simple as refusing to entertain the doubting, worrying voice in my head.

As I move forward with new aspirations and ambitious goals for the year, it’s clear to me that there is no more room in this closet for these outdated clothes. They simply do not fit me anymore. 

What would you write on your strip of paper to burn? What “clothes” in your life do you need to get rid of and replace?

Briana Gunter is a young writer searching to find her niche in the world of words, and in the world in general. She enjoys anything that allows her to express her creativity, be it music, writing, or crafting, and jumps at any opportunity to learn something new. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @DiamondCut1902 for her daily thoughts and musings; she loves interacting with her followers!

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