I’m a little bit obsessed with my closet. It’s not because my closet is particularly nice or neat. I think the reason that my closet fascinates me so much is that it is such a challenge. It seems like every full moon I dive into my closet determined to fix it once and for all. Of course, that doesn’t work because any fixing gets unfixed within a matter of a few days.

So, instead, I’ve decided to learn from my closet – to listen to its wisdom. I want to hear what it whispers about how I live and how I might live more freely. I never considered that so much truth could live within those 4×6 walls. Here is what my closet tells me:

1) Know thyself – I am not a neat nick. Never have been. Never will be. My closet is not color-coded. Tee shirts pile up on a shelf unfolded. Socks are thrown in a basket unmatched, one basket for white, another for everything else. When I go into my closet determined to finally put everything in its perfect place, and begin to fold and match, my closet laughs at me, knowing that I will return to my old ways all too soon. When I think about it, I am okay with my tension between messiness and orderliness. I need order but can’t bear wasting time with detailed perfection. My closet knows me better than I know myself. My closet teaches me about myself.

2) Relax – Perfection is an illusion that interferes with progress – When I grit my teeth and jump into the fray, working to attain a level of perfection that goes beyond clean, I waste energy that could go toward work that matters. Progress is measured in improvement, not arrival. Perfection implies we have arrived, which we never do. Perfection is an illusion.

3) Enjoy – Replace “Fix it” with “Enjoy it” – Constant fix-it mode creates inevitable frustration and failure. I can work on my closet when the mess gets out of control, or I can spend a few minutes keeping it clean, enjoying it as I go. Daily attentiveness is more effective, whether we are talking about a closet or a relationship. In relationships, daily kindness and consideration enhance love more than inconsistent spurts of attention.

4) Be content – My closet reflects my struggle with “too much” – I need to declutter, giving away what I no longer wear. I have more than I need, but that doesn’t stop me from buying the latest shiny new object. Because I also have a hard time giving perfectly good items away, my closet suffers overload. The compulsion for the best quality and new and improved ways creates a spirit of perpetual discontentment. Contentment is satisfied with enough.

I live my life the way I manage my closet. Instead of enjoying the process of growth, I strive and drive toward perfection, rarely content unless everything is just right. I accumulate more than I need, not necessarily because I buy too much, but because I am so resistant to letting go of something that I think I may one day want or need. My closet, wise as it is, pushes back against my striving, encouraging me to relax, enjoy, and be content. There are a few other areas of my life that could learn from my closet.