Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to Let Go of Stuff

As I travel this journey of gradually reducing my possessions down to only the things I use and love, I have found that the physical act of sorting, packing up, and hauling away is the easy part.  The hard part is the Letting Go.  So I thought I would share what I have been learning as I let go of my stuff.
The first step is to realize that it is all just STUFF.  Stuff is not not people.  It does not have feelings.  I do not have any obligation to any of this Stuff.  Letting go hurts nobody.  In fact, selling it or giving it away to someone who can use it is a good thing.  Each item that goes out of our home is something we no longer have to maintain, clean around, and shuffle here or there; plus it is put in the hands of someone else who really wants or needs it.  It's a win-win situation!

The next emotional stumbling block is the sentimental attachments we put on things.  Try to look at that item objectively.  Do you actually like that lamp shaped like a shepherdess, or are you just keeping it because it belonged to Great Grandma' Esther?  Remember, the thing is NOT the person.  Getting rid of the thing does not negate your fond memories and the love you have for that person it represents. Don't keep something just because it was loved by someone else!  The question is:  Do YOU love it?

Which brings us to tough one--the family heirlooms.  I have several things in my home I consider beloved family heirlooms.  Some of these things will be very hard for me to part with, and I know would break my mother's heart if I sold or gave to Goodwill.  While I may be ready to let go, I can't change my mom's attachment to these items.  However, since she now lives in a retirement facility, returning them to her is not an option.  On the other hand, I can not allow myself to be emotionally blackmailed into keeping a larger home (or renting storage) just to hold on to furniture I no longer need because I don't want to hurt my mother's feelings.  Here is my solution:  when I find I need to let go of an item I consider an heirloom, I will offer it to anyone else in the family.  If no one in the family wants it, I will have to dispose of it in a proper manner, which may mean giving it to someone else who will treasure it or selling it to an antiques dealer.  And then I will hope and pray that Mom does not ask me about it.  But to be honest, if it gets down to that, I may consider telling her a "white lie" to spare her feelings.  I do not believe in lying and I am quite bad at it, but honestly, there is no need to make a sick old lady sad.

Another big psychological hurdle to be jumped is the I-might-need-this-someday justification for keeping stuff.  To help me over this obstacle, these are the questions I ask myself: 

--Have I used this recently?

--Will I need this in the near future?

--Is this a specialty item which only does one job, and do I own another multitasking item that can do the same job?

--If I were to get rid of this item, but then found I needed it in the future, could I purchase or borrow another to replace it?

--What am I afraid of?  Will something bad happen or will my life be less happy if I get rid of this thing?

If you are still reticent to toss something because you "might need it," then pack it away for a designated time.  If, after that predetermined period (week, month, quarter, or year,) you have not unpacked it, then obviously you don't need it!  So let it go!

If you need more motivation, play a few mind games or thought experiments with yourself.  Ask yourself, "What if we had to move next week into a home that is less than half the size of what we have now?  What would I take?"  Then walk around your house and truly pretend you have to move.  This helped clarify what is really important to me.

Another mental image I use is imagining all my stuff on chains attached to my ankles.  If I am sitting in one spot these shackles may not be a big deal, but if I want to get up and move, all that dead weight is dragging behind.  The more I let go, the lighter my burden and the freer I will be to easily pick up and go wherever life takes us!

Remember, the less you own, the less you have to care for and worry about.  Think of all the extra time and space you will have to breathe.  Think about how much easier it will be to keep your home clean.  Look forward to the freedom and joy that will be yours when your home contains only the things that you love and find useful. I know that's what I'm doing, and even though it is hard to let go, each step closer to that final goal feels great!

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