Do you have any rooms or spots in your home that are too cluttered to really use them? Or how about rooms or closets that you would just rather no one ever see? Maybe you are like me, and have a hard time with the art of letting go.
My whole life, that has been the norm. There is always at least some portion of my home that is so overwhelmingly messy that it is like a weight hanging over me. I want to address some of these reasons we hold on to stuff, and hopefully help you find ways to let go if you are having a difficult time. Sometimes recognizing the reasons is the first step to dealing with this.
Some of you may be like me, with an artist or entrepreneur personality, always trying new things, experimenting, and looking for new activities and endeavors. I have always overcommitted myself, and wanted to try a number of different things at once. I used to constantly purchase new materials and supplies, start projects, and often fail, either because it just wasn’t my forte, or just because I didn’t have the time and dedication to see it through with everything else on my plate.
Finances have also been tight in our ten-year marriage, with it being much worse several years ago than it is now. This is another reason I hold on to things. It’s been hard for me to imagine getting rid of something we may need again, or we may be able to use in some way down the road.
We all have our stories. We all have our reasons for not wanting to let go of things, even when the things are causing us stress and overwhelm.
As Marie Kondo says inThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too.”
Here are some things to consider if you are having a hard time getting through the decluttering process.
A Real Look at Where We’re At
First, we need to take a real assessment of where we are at. You may be perfectly content and living the life you always dreamed of, and the amount of stuff you have is just fine. But, I know some of you may be like me. We ask ourselves if the way we are living is really a problem, and at first glance, we tell ourselves it’s not. There are a few things we want to change, but we tell ourselves it’s normal to hold on to things, to live in a state of mess. We are parents, and life is busy, and that’s how it is.
Or maybe you are completely aware of how big of a mess you are living in, but you feel overwhelmed and just don’t know where to begin.
The important question is, how is the way you are living holding you back?
It’s hard for me to admit exactly how full of junk our garage and basement have been since we downsized and moved three years ago. Until last week, we had boxes that had not been opened, and loads of stuff we unpacked and just never found a place for.
There was so much stuff in our garage that we could barely walk in there, and we certainly couldn’t park a car in it! Since we rarely went in the garage, it literally became overrun with animals this past year. Seriously.
Mice and even RATS have been spotted around our garage this summer, and most recently, a cat decided our garage was a cozy place to have her kittens!
Your Mind has to Change
While we have been working hard to declutter inside the house for a couple of year now, my husband and I have both changed our mindsets. We have grown and overcome some of the things that were keeping us attached to our stuff. When we cleaned out the garage this past week, I was amazed how easy it was for me to let go. This was really the key to getting through most of it in ONE DAY. I realized I am not the same person I used to be. I may still have had a garage full of junk, and a disorganized basement up until this week, but that wasn’t me any more.
The thing you will find once you start diving into minimalism is that it is not really about having a certain number of belongings. Minimalism is about changing to a mindset of being intentional about your possessions, your time, and your life.
I absolutely love this quote by Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists: “Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. Rather, we focus on making room for more, more, more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment— and more freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.”
Take time to focus on what you really want in life, and think of how the decluttering process could help you achieve it.
If you are Holding on because of Loss
If you are having a really hard time with letting go, you may need to slow down and ask yourself why it is so hard. Are there sentimental things that you hold onto because of some loss in your life (loss of a person, loss of some part of you, or just a longing for some other time)? Can you pick a couple of things that are strong reminders of the memories, and let the rest go?
I am not at all minimizing how difficult this may be. It’s okay to take whatever time you need. I hope you can find reassurance that the memory of that person or loss does not have to be attached to stuff, especially if the stuff is causing you stress. Sometimes passing things like this on to someone else in need can help, so we know that our precious things are bringing joy and relief to another person.
If you are dealing with serious grief, I hope that you have support around you and a counselor to talk to. Working through your grief comes first, and as you do this, it may be easier to let go of some of the things.
If You Worry You May Need Something Again
If you have been through financial difficulties, or are just a very frugal person, it may be difficult to give things away, especially if there is even a glimmer that you might need them again. One way we have dealt with this, is we have become VERY frugal in the way we purchase.
We buy almost everything used (and have gotten many things free through Craigslist or Freecycle as well). We will spend a little more for the things we know are high quality and hold their resale value well. So when we go to get rid of something, I can often sell it for what I paid and occasionally more.
Often we decide just to give things away, both because it can save time, and it will hopefully bless someone else. If I paid $10 for something, how amazing is it that I got to use it for a few years, and then it blessed someone else too? It is not really “wasted” if someone else is now getting use out of it. We have also been blessed too many times to count, and have been helped when we were in need, and I love being able to pass that on to others.
When it comes down to it, it is very rare that I actually decide I don’t need something and then end up needing it later. But if it does happen, I know there will be more deals, and we can find a way to buy it used (or borrow it) later on.
If The Process is too Difficult
I know the feeling of overwhelm that comes when you start plugging away at this, and get stuck. You get to a point where it is just too tough to make a decision on each and every thing, and it can be mentally and physically exhausting.
What I suggest at those points is to take a break, get caught up on the rest of your life, and take some time to focus on your motivation. Think again about what it really is you want out of life. Work on your life, work on your relationships, and change your spending habits (in other words, don’t keep bringing new clutter in).
If you do these things, you may find it much easier when you come back to it to just let go. If you can decide just to let go of whole boxes or categories of things that really are bringing you more stress than joy, you can accomplish the task much more quickly.
Also, take a minute to read through some of the other posts on this series if there is a specific category that is giving you trouble. There are lots of tips on keeping what is necessary and letting go of the rest. My whole goal with this series is to try to make things easier for you.
I hope this has helped you consider some of things that might be keeping you from letting go of your stuff. I always enjoy hearing where you are at, your challenges, your successes, and your progress. Feel free to comment below, or send me an email: email@example.com