Personal interactions are not quite the subject of this blog, nor should they be, but it is surprising how much emotion and human traits we assign to the things we own. Just think of all those people (well: men) who give a name to their cars, boats, planes, or power tools. Or how many people find an enticing name for their homes and nail a wooden sign next to the entrance (“Honeysuckle Cottage” or “Dunmanifestin”, anyone?).
Clearly, we imbue those things with a soul by naming them properly. And that is not limited to the large, expensive items: my bike’s name is Mike, one of my female friends has names for all of her plants (she clearly is not alone in this) and every kid in the world gives a name to their toy animals.
Interestingly, naming something makes those things more personal, and thereby more difficult to let go. Just like we are finding it hard to let go of friends – even if they are toxic friends –, we tend to be more attached to things that have names.
Maybe this idea of giving names to things has its root in our bid for safety: something with a name is not a stranger, and thereby creates a sense of security. Surrounding yourself with things that make you feel safe seems like a good idea to start with, especially if you are intrinsically afraid of the world outside.
The trouble is: you’ll hunker down for the long haul, and then you fall deep when things go wrong.
It’s as if part of the responsibility for our own security and safety is outsourced to those things around us, and makes it difficult if not impossible to let go of those things for fear of … well: fear!
It could also be fear of … change, though. Hanging on to things will ensure that everything remains the same. Immutability ensures that we don’t have to adapt to the new, unknown things that might replace them. Hanging on to ideas keeps other, maybe even better ideas at bay. The thing we know always feels safer than the thing we don’t know.
But then, hanging on could mean you are missing out on unknown pleasures, joys and positive excitement for the sake of the boring, uninspiring ‘same old, same old’. Sometimes, change is thrust upon us, though, and we are forced to adjust to new things, new ideas, new developments. While this is often challenging, it is also a chance to make things better!
When it comes to decluttering, your home may be full of things that no longer serve, but that you hang on to for all the wrong reasons. And a very similar, but inverse image emerges: when you manage to let go of what no longer serves you, not only do you make space for the new and potentially wonderful, but you allow yourself the chance to experience change for the better.
The old image of the reed in a storm comes to mind: during a storm all the sturdy, but rigid trees are blown over, but the reed stays upright because it bends in the wind and bounces back. It could be argued that embracing change is just another form of being flexible. Hanging on to the old stuff, even if it does no longer serve is a sign of unnecessary rigidity. It’s better to practice flexibility to be ready for any storm that may come in the future.
My advice for best practice
Don’t ever believe things will remain unchanged, but be aware that things and people can disappear at any time. It makes perfect sense to prepare yourself for such times, without being overly worried about them. It all comes down to finding a balance between the expectation to keep things, and a realistic view that some of those things could be lost in the future, or might even be detrimental for your mental health right now.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.