This is the third article I’ve written for Jeff Moore’s fantastic website EveryDayPowerBlog. It was fun writing, but the best part is the video that Jeff found for the end. I’m reprinting the article with Jeff’s permission, but PLEASE go online for the film. It’s fascinating.
What do you have to let go of? Stuff, maybe? A harmful relationship? An ironclad belief in something even though there’s absolute proof that what you believe isn’t true? Anything else?
Are they all tangled in each other? The old jacket is something the ex-significant-other left behind. You insist leaving it behind is a symbol and a promise your partner will come back. Even though the ex is now married? And lives in Mongolia?
We all have things to let go of. One of the best books I know, the first one that as a Professional Organizer I recommend to my clients is Making Peace with the Things in your Life by Cindy Glovinsky. The title says it all.
Why Do We Keep STUFF?
Fear. Fear of making a mistake (“I might need that”). Fear of discomfort (“I like my stuff”). Fear of loss (“I won’t remember without the stuff, it won’t be ‘real’ without the stuff”). Fear of looking “weak” or “poor” or “stupid” (if I don’t have the stuff to prove I’m not fill-in-your-blank).
We don’t always even feel the fear: we just desperately hold on to the stuff, getting more and more anxious thinking about it all. Sometimes, keeping stuff is a symptom of something systemic like deep-seated perfectionism, maybe even of ADD/ADHD, PTSD illness. If you have any reason to think something profound is getting in your way – PLEASE, GET HELP! We all deserve it.
Guilt is a powerful magpie too (e.g. “Oh, my fifth-cousin-twice-removed gave that to me. I can’t let it go, I’d hurt her feelings”). Doesn’t matter that the sweater is ugly, three sizes too small, and you’re allergic to wool. A sympathetic person will not want to burden you with a gift. You’ve moved it three times without using it – that says A LOT.
Let Stuff Go!
Letting go of stuff is not always easy. Start by asking yourself questions. Be as objective as possible about the Thing – or stuff – that you need to get rid of.
- When was the last time you used it?
- When did the ex get married?
- How hard is it to replace the Thing?
- How often did the ex break a promise?
- Does the jacket fit you?
- Do you like it, or you’ve got it crumpled in a corner of the closet and you step on it all the time?
Write the memory down in a journal; make a copy for a file in a cabinet AND on a computer if you want to be sure. Take a photo, keep a part of a set instead of the whole set, keep two or three of something instead of all almost-identical 15. Give it to someone; make sure it goes to the right charity, if that helps.
I moved from Maryland to Washington State. I had to give up a snow blower. That was hard – I loved working with a snow blower (OK, I’m odd, but it’s true). I donated that deafening, fume-belching, back-breaking monster to a nature center only minutes away from my house.
My son had a wonderful summer camp there and we shared walks. The center’s driveway was huge: it needed the contraption urgently. That made letting go much easier. If you can sell your stuff, even better!
But letting go of stuff is NOT going to happen if you don’t make it a priority. Put the tasks on a calendar, ask for help, and make yourself accountable to deadlines. Make everybody else who’s promising to FINALLY reclaim THEIR things in YOUR basement CLEAR IT OUT (yeah, I mean give them a deadline too!).
Oh, and keeping someone else’s things for them might be more of that guilt going on.
There Are 5 Reasons Why Letting Go of Stuff Is Important
1.) You give yourself physical space.
You might take that space for a new chair and lamp for a reading corner. You might keep that space simply clear, to look cleaner, neater, and fresh. You might now have play space for the kids, the puppy, or both. Give yourself the refuge of less clutter.
Julie Morgenstern, one of the most inspired members of the Professional Organizing community, stresses that letting go of stuff ALWAYS creates an opportunity for something new. Her book, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, is her best for explaining the concept. All of her books are a great read. In fact, she’s the inspiration for this article.
2.) We give ourselves time.
We’re not spending who-knows-how-long looking for the one shirt we want to wear, buried in the 10 other shirts with moth holes.
3.) We give ourselves mental space.
Worry is a drain on our mental energy. When we worry about “where’d I put that Thing?” or “why am I keeping that THING?!?!?!?” we’re keeping our poor brains on overdrive.
4.) Clearing the clutter often lets us regain items we overlook, or truly lost, in the crowd.
We get the reward of “gosh, I’ve been looking for that!” and “wow, I forgot I had that!”
5.) Clearing the clutter is a chance for introspection.
Letting go of stuff helps you answer WHY you kept something, if it’s a good idea to continue holding on to it, or what might happen if you it let go. It gets you thinking in a whole bunch of directions, which can be profoundly productive.
This is another Julie Morgenstern principle and it’s very accurate.
Done right, letting go of stuff can be enlightening. It’s also a form of self-care. It’s a tremendous source of creative, emotional, and mental energy that anyone can reach for. Give it a try.
Another book I like is, Throw Out Fifty Things – Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke.
Getting any ideas?
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