The next step is really separating yourself from those items and giving them away in some form.
And now you feel guilty!
Don’t be surprised: this is a normal reaction! Those things may have been with you for the longest time, accompanied you through all kinds of personal drama, they have been part of your home for a long time. It does not really matter if they were actively used those last years (or for decades, even), nor if they have been visible or stored away in some dark corner of your home. Ultimately, each confrontation with any one item will open those floodgates of memories associated with them.
I have often talked and written about the fact that pretty much everything can bring out an emotional reaction, good or bad alike, and even the most insignificant item has a certain emotional load to itself. No wonder, then, that we hesitate to let go of anything and end up deliberating forever before choosing to be done with an item. And all that to and fro during the deliberations makes it abundantly clear that we somehow feel responsible for the item in question.
That sense of responsibility is the reason for any guilt you may experience after letting go of something. It’s not unlike neglecting a plant in your home and seeing it weaken more every day. There is an important difference, though: the plant is still in your home and you intend to keep it, whereas the items you have decided to remove from your life no longer are under your protection.
I believe this is also the reason why many of my clients find it much easier to let go of items if they know that their once beloved things go to someone who uses them, loves them, needs them… and ultimately takes care of them just like they had done in the past.
There is a sliding scale of uncomfortable feelings at that point. One end of the spectrum is ‘giving to someone you know (family, friends). The other end is ‘putting into the rubbish bin’ or ‘driving it to the tip’, which is the least desirable option and most of my clients shy away from the thought. In between those two extremes, there’s ‘giving to charity’ (which also gives that warm feeling of doing something good) or selling (and making a pretty penny in the process) to someone who has expressed a wish to own that item.
In the end, that sense of guilt can be alleviated by making sure those items are not just left out in the cold, making sure that it does not feel like you abandon a trusty friend. Ultimately, a certain level of guilt will remain. It is important to understand that this guilt is created by yourself, and it is based on a feeling that comes from inside of you.
Contrary to some schools of decluttering, I do not believe that the items we own have a soul beyond the one we imbue them with. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that anything you own is shipshape and useful and beautiful, but there is really no call to feel guilty for how you treat them all.
If you insist on feeling guilty about anything, you could choose to feel guilty for giving an item to one person rather than another, or for throwing it out when you could just as well have given it to someone else. But don’t feel guilty over the item itself.
Ultimately, they are just ‘things’.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My mission: help clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.