Ultimately we hang on to things because we are attached to them. We cannot throw anything out because we believe there is something left for that things to give us. That may sound selfish, but it really is a healthy way of looking at your stuff: it is – after all – just an object that serves a purpose in your life.
When we examine that purpose, we find the underlying issue: in the end it’s always about emotions rather than anything else. Marie Kondo writes “touch it and if it does not spark joy, let it go”. That is her overriding rule for everything. I have been known to question that rule by stating “my toothbrush doesn’t exactly make me feel ecstatic, but it’s something I need in my life”.
All this said, there is a middle path to that and I believe that our lives are much better off if we start with the essentials we need to survive on a physical level, and I’m totally with Marie Kondo when it comes down to choosing the more pleasing one of two options! It’s only on a secondary level, when it comes to deciding what we need for emotional safety and happiness that I fully subscribe to her philosophy of “spark joy”.
This is where things get really interesting on the decluttering front!
Once we have set aside all the bare necessities, you would hopefully agree that anything that is left is non-essential for physical health. However, we all own a great many items that we still hang on to. I would state that all those items are either emotionally supportive or they hold us back through negative emotional attachment. This is where we humans are extremely successful at making ourselves believe that objects (and beliefs!) are supportive, where really they are a negative influence in our lives.
I’m sure we all have some items in our household that we only hang on to ‘because they were given to me by my mother’ (implying that mom is on the lookout for all those items whenever she visits) or ‘because it used to belong to my ex’ (still pining, are we?). There are many more reasons related to obligation, but let us stick with those two for now.
There is a simple way out of the first one: tell your mom you want to let it go and give her a chance to take it back. If she does not want it you are absolutely in your right to give it away or sell it. You may even invite her for a nice dinner with the proceeds! It takes a bit of courage to take that step, but in the end it’s your home, not your mom’s.
As for the items your ex left behind: if there is any other reason than ‘they belonged to my ex’, keep them, by all means. If all they do is remind your of the ex, please let them go and move on! They only remind you of the heartache, the good times will stay with you anyway.
You may have stuff that you keep ‘because it’s worth a lot of money’. The fact alone that you mention this tells me that this might not be the only reason for you to keep it. Clearly, the emotional side might be that you are aware that you bought something you are not keen on, but you cannot admit you paid too much for it. Otherwise you would likely have stated that ‘it looks wonderful’ or something along those lines. Maybe it’s time to admit a mistake or simply let go of something you don’t fully commit to wanting to keep in the first place?
If I had a penny for every time I hear ‘it’ll be back in fashion’, ‘I’ll lose those 6 kilos sometime soon’ or ‘it’s too good to give away’, I’d be a rich man by now. If there is one type of item that serves to kid yourself with, it’s clothes.
Let’s face it: it will never be back in fashion (let alone fit you when the time comes), those 6 kilos are here to stay and if it’s too good to give away you would have found a buyer by now. LET IT GO! This is a “just in case” scenario, and those are never any good. Just in case comes from a place of fear: if it gets back in fashion and you want to wear this, you could simply get a new one rather than clog up your wardrobe for 20 years waiting for a day that probably will never come!
The sad reality is simple: we make up reasons to hang on to stuff because we are used to having it around and it is easier to be inactive than to take initiative. Maybe it’s time to sit down and figure out why exactly an item is hard to let go. You’ll find that some are harder than others. Take care of the easy ones and – if necessary – take just one item to the charity shop.
Every little bit helps. One less item to weigh on your mind.
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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.