9 Things I’m Leaving Behind for 39

This month, I’m taking a break from my home equipment series to reflect on my next trip around the sun. Next week, I turn 39, and with my goal of becoming fully self-employed when I’m 40, I have a great deal to think about in terms of how I focus my attention over the next 52 weeks of my life. In this post, I’m talking about what I want to let go of. In two weeks, I’ll talk about what I want to cultivate. (And then I’ll return to the home equipment series!)

1. Other people’s beliefs about the best way to eat. As someone who spent many years in the dance world, I developed a complicated relationship with food. I first became conscious of this when I was 12 years old. While I never developed a full-blown eating disorder, I fell prey to diet culture. When I tried to reverse that, and follow nutritionists and dietitians, things didn’t really improve. While it’s good that I’m not trying to eat as little as possible, custom macro calculations and rules about always eating breakfast at a certain time (or even always eating breakfast) ultimately didn’t help me eat intuitively or develop a better relationship with food. It just took the neuroticism in a new direction. No more eating breakfast at 7:00 am (before I’m even hungry) because I “should.” I’m an adult who knows how to recognize her hunger signals. (I get hangry. I can’t ignore them.) Nutrition is complex and everyone’s needs are different. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. I don’t have any medical conditions that would require a special diet. So this is the year I give up relying on advice I don’t need.

2. Ostensibly good habits that make me miserable. I’m not talking about life maintenance things that need to be done no matter what (like paying taxes, flossing your teeth, or cleaning the toilet). I’m talking about things that productivity or lifestyle experts say that you should do in order to be your best self. Examples include making your bed every morning, meal prep, or journaling. If you do any of these things and they make your life better, rock on! Keep doing them! But if a supposedly good habit doesn’t actually bring value to your life, then let it go. Back in January, I wrote about how I didn’t like doing meal prep, but kept with the habit because it made mornings easier. Well, as it turns out, it was making my Sundays miserable. It wasn’t really adding value to my life in a meaningful way. So I’m letting that go. (Expect a more detailed post about that after I finish the home equipment series.)

3. Clothes that no longer work for me. Whether it’s because they no longer fit or they’re just not my style, keeping clothes that don’t work is a waste of space. What can be donated will get donated. The rest? It doesn’t have to go in the trash. Sturdy fabric will become scraps for future quilts. The rest will become rags for cleaning or for oiling wood furniture. Maybe it’s no longer wearable, but it can still be useful.

4. Inactive internet accounts. Last month, I kept getting notifications that someone was trying to access a stale account of mine. While going through them (and remembering ancient passwords) will be a challenge, I think it will be worth going through and decluttering that area of my life. After all, stale accounts are especially vulnerable to hackers.

5. Avoidance as a coping strategy. This one is going to take work. A lot of work. After all, I’ve been using this tactic for at least 20 of my 39 years on this planet. Undoing it will take time. As I’ve taken steps to build my business, I see over and over again how I avoid what is stressful, scary, or confusing . . . and how that’s holding me back. If I really want to be self-employed by 40, I need to practice facing things head-on.

6. Overcommitting myself. This one is also going to require a lot of work on my part. So much work. Getting too busy is probably my worst character trait. And though I have made some progress with this issue over the years, I’m not where I want to be. Time to double down.

7. Making professional commitments on Sundays. Building a business while working full time means it’s tempting to work through the weekend. After all, during the standard workweek, my time to focus on the business is limited. However, I know I need at least one full day off a week. Sunday is a day when John and I like to go out to breakfast and, if the weather is good, go for a hike. It’s been our quality time day for much of our relationship. In this next year of my life, I need to take care to protect that.

8. Clipped recipes I’m clearly never going to make. I’m taking things ripped out of pre-pandemic Bon Appetit issues. If they’ve been sitting in my “To Make” folder for more than a year, it’s time to let them go.

9. Unhealthy interpersonal dynamics. This doesn’t mean cutting people out of my life. Yes, sometimes, we end up in a situation where that’s the best option. But I don’t love the oversimplified advice to “cut toxic people out of your life,” because it overlooks the nuance of relationships with challenging dynamics. I find that most people aren’t inherently toxic; they have unhelpful habits, which can be unlearned. So my goal is to work on my own tendencies, and address how to improve relationships that are worth saving.

Learning to let go of things is always a process, so I don’t expect to have these wrapped up overnight. But as a person who loves decluttering, I look forward to the process. What is something you’re working to let go of? Let me know?

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