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Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

What If You Accidentally Spilled Bleach on Half Your Wardrobe?

What if you spilled bleach on half your wardrobe? What would you do?

Some hypothetical questions are so ridiculous we dismiss them as absurd, laughable queries. Sadly, though, the above question is not purely hypothetical.

After returning from the final leg of our recent tour, fatigued and murky-headed from cross-country traversing, I separated my dirty laundry into appropriate piles, prepping each color-coded assemblage for its usual rinse and spin cycles. Then, unknowingly and stupidly, I spilled a bottle of liquid bleach on literally half the clothes, staining the floor-strewn heaps, instantly ruining the majority of my wardrobe.

I was shocked by two things.

First, I was shocked by my brainlessness. How could I make such a ridiculous mistake? Truth be told, I simply wasn’t paying attention. There’s no other explanation. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that attention must be paid, even during the most mundane tasks.

Second, I was shocked I wasn’t more horrified by my idiotic mistake. I should be outraged, right? Two years ago I would’ve been pissed; I would have fumed angrily and cursed the ceiling and hurled various breakable objects at one or more of my apartment’s walls. But last week, as sodium hypochlorite soaked through my threads, I didn’t react obnoxiously. Instead, I realized I couldn’t control everything. I took a few deep breaths, snatched a mop from my closet, and started cleaning the mess I’d made. The sooner we clean up our mess, the sooner we can move on with life.

Sure, half my attire is ruined, but everything’s fine. I’ll replace some of the clothes if I need to, but my closet isn’t upset, and nor should I be. Those clothes were just clothes—replaceable things that don’t have any more meaning than the meaning I give to them. There’s no case in crying over spilt milk—or, in this case—spilt bleach.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.