I went on a walk with my son the other day while wearing a food stain on my shirt, a matching stain on my pants, and socks with sandals. My goal was to help my son burn off energy so he would take a much needed nap, not stroll the runway at New York’s Fashion Week. Besides, I didn’t expect to see any of my neighbors in the middle of a weekday afternoon, savory clad or otherwise.
Which means, of course, I ran into seven of my neighbors. I had forgotten it was Labor Day, and apparently none of my government-employed street mates had anywhere else to be except for their front yards.
Not a single neighbor commented on my apparel, dishevelment, or possibly offensive odor — and I genuinely didn’t expect them to. The truth of the matter is I doubt they even noticed what I was wearing. If I were to call them up and ask them what I had looked like that day, I’m certain none could tell me. They might remember I seemed tired after a long day with my son or the topics we discussed, but I wouldn’t bet my money on it.
Acquaintances and casual friends tend to remember generalities about others. Small, specific details are usually only remembered by our closest of friends and family members. And, thankfully, most of our friends and family members will say they don’t remember something embarrassing even if they do remember it.
On an even less personal scale, if you don’t know someone at all, you likely won’t even notice him or her. Workers will blindly walk past Joshua Bell playing his violin on a street corner because they’re so focused on getting themselves to work. (Yet, they’ll pay hundreds of dollars to hear him play at the Kennedy Center when it’s something they want to do.)
The lesson in all of this is to stop worrying so much about what random people think about how you have chosen to live your life, and instead focus on what actually matters most to you and the ones you love. Need to leave the house with baby food on your blouse — do it. You’ll survive. As far as clutter is concerned, get rid of it in your life to make space for the important things, not to try to impress someone else or follow a societal standard. Do what is best for you and your family — you’ll be happy you did. Besides, you care more about your life than anyone else!