Today I want to talk about tips on how to let that sh*t go and declutter the hard stuff. If you are reading this, you have most likely tried to declutter parts or all of your home and hopefully accomplished something. But when you reached certain items like heirlooms, gifts from your MIL (mother in law), or something you spent a lot of money on, you came to a screeching halt like the roadrunner to the edge of a cliff.
- Getting rid of that top with grease stains on it that I haven’t worn in years.
- Getting rid of 4 out of 6 spatulas from my kitchen.
- Getting rid of my wedding dress.
Ugh, don’t even go there, Glenda.
- Getting rid of the heirloom plate from your Grandfather’s funeral that everyone else in the family has hanging in their house.
Let’s just put that one right back into the storage box.
It’s tough and there are so many different items that have significant meaning for every individual. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have a lot of experience with downsizing and downsizing substantial stuff. I have downsized a 1,000 sq ft house worth of items to fit into our current home of 300 square foot motorhome. I have also sold and donated everything in my parent’s 30-year-old 2,200 sq ft home after they passed away. I did both of these in 4 months. What a f*cking whirlwind that time in my life was if you wanted to know.
So here are a few lessons I have learned along the way. I’ll be using the two examples – the wedding dress and a family heirloom, but let’s start with an important story.
There was once a man who found himself at the bank of a vast tumultuous river. To get to his destination, he needed to cross the river. So, the man decided he needed to build a raft. He spent all of his money on tools and several days of back-breaking work under the intense sun to create this raft to float across safely. Once he was finished, building the raft he was so proud of his raft and was able to get himself securely to the other side. Though once he safely got across, the man didn’t want just to leave the raft. There wasn’t another river in sight, but he spent all of his money and lost days of travel to create this raft. So he thought, I am taking the raft with me – just in case. Days pass, and the man carries the raft on his back, dragging it through the sand. The raft was incredibly heavy and slowed down the pace of the traveler. Finally, to move forward with his journey, he had to leave the raft behind.
This story is my interpretation of a Buddhist parable, but I like to spice it up with “Glenda flare”. If you want to listen to the actual parable, you may do so here. What I love about this story is the lesson of practicing detachment of clinging to things, experiences, or relationships. There are things in our lives that served a purpose, an old costume, cake molds during your baking spree, or the bicycle that needs to be fixed. Like the raft, we end up carrying the item around even though it doesn’t have any use or purpose in our current situation. We cling because we pumped a bunch of money into it, we used blood, sweat, and tears building it, or it reminds of us a significant time from our past. The item might be heavy in a physical or mental sense, yet we still hold on as we drag it through our lives.
The thing is, most of us are too frightened to give up things and beliefs that no longer serve us. The fear of the new and change prevents us from growth, just like carrying the raft prevented the man from moving forward in his journey. When we hold on to something that doesn’t serve a purpose, we are preventing ourselves from making space for the new.
How to Let that Sh*t Go
If we want to grow, the material things and beliefs that used to served us must be evaluated and discarded if they hinder our evolution. In other words, if you want to make a massive change in your life, whatever your goals are, you have to let go of what is holding you down. Sometimes we don’t know that something is holding us down; this is where mindfulness or awareness will change your life.
What helps me to let go is acknowledging that things, places or people played a significant part in my life, be grateful for it, and then let it go. It’s like borrowing a good book from the library and having to return it. You still have the story or lesson of the book inside you, but you don’t have the physical book anymore. Instead of focusing on that thing missing from your life, cherish the lesson or the memory it brought you. When you do this, no one can take the lessons away from you since the fear of losing something is a huge cause people to hold on to stuff. When you change your mindset to flip the meaning of things to a lesson, they become part of your growth and who you are instead of just sitting in the garage in storage boxes.
Declutter the Hard Stuff – The Wedding Dress
Let’s look at the wedding dress example. So, your dress sits in your closet, taking up about ¼ of the closet space. You pull it out every few years during spring cleaning to admire it, but you just can’t let it go. What are you admiring – How beautiful it is? How extraordinary was that day? How exhausted or skinny you were? Ha. Eating a cube of cheese a day was not sustainable, Karen! The thing is that dress served its purpose, and your cleavage looked fabulous. Accept that the dress did its job, and your heart is filled with fabulous or not so fabulous (corsets suck) memories of that day. You have memories, pictures, and videos of that special day, including those of Uncle Fred’s questionable dance moves.
Give it a New Purpose
Now, what purpose is it sitting in your closet? To marvel at, Glenda! But let’s say you are on a roll to downsize > so you can move into a smaller house with a lower mortgage > so you can go on more vacations > because your ultimate goal is to travel more with your family. There is no way you can logically fit this dress in your new home, so embrace that it has served its purpose for your wedding and give it a new purpose. Send it to one of those companies who make baby burial garments. Donate it to a women’s shelter where someone who can’t afford a dress like that can feel amazing on their wedding day. Or you can sell it and put it towards that vacation you want to take with your hubby to make new memories. Pass on that pure intention and positive energy! Giving it a new purpose, especially one that comes from love, will help with letting go of meaningful things.
Challenge: So every time you declutter and get stuck, remember to go back to your end goals – this is sooo important. Will holding onto this item help you move forward towards your goals? Does this thing serve a purpose for the new life you are trying to create? What lessons can I learn from this item and keep with me instead of holding on to the object? What new purpose can I give this item from a loving place?
Declutter the Hard Stuff – The Heirloom Plate
The Heirloom plate is an actual item I struggled with getting rid of. I mean, all of my siblings had this little plate hanging in their kitchen with their cute little wooden signs of “Kiss the Cook”. I felt obligated that I needed to have it in my kitchen next to my wooden sign of “Get your Own Dang Food.” j/k I actually love to cook!
Guilt and obligation are the words that come to mind when I remember that plate. What’s funny is those feelings had nothing to do with the actual ceramic plate; it was the external pressures and stories I was putting on myself. The plate is just a plate, but because everyone else was doing something special with it, it had this new identity. I felt like if I didn’t keep it I wasn’t considerate or family-oriented. This is so far from the truth because I am confident, I am attentive and family-oriented in my behaviors, not what heirlooms I own. Remember, our words and behaviors are what determine our character, not what we own, hold on to, live in, wear, drive, or have in our bank accounts.
How to Get Rid of Stuff you Feel Obligated to Keep
Remind yourself as an adult that you get to decide what fills your physical and mental space and what takes up your time and energy. If an item doesn’t add value to your life, then it doesn’t need to be in your life. Yes, it’s that simple, I mean, why make it so hard? You may love the stained handkerchief from your deceased father’s collection because you have the funny memory of saying “eeewww” every time he would blow his nose and put it back in his pocket (yes, this is a true story). That is a memory that only my Dad and I share, so I cherish it and his handkerchief. Different things have different meanings for everyone. Find what brings those beautiful memories back to you (even if it’s odd) and let go of the things that you feel guilty or obligated to keep.
So what did I end up doing with the heirloom plate? I talked openly with one of my sisters about how I am simplifying, and downsizing my life and if she would like the dish, she could have it. She took it, and that was that. Let me be clear this wasn’t an easy conversation – my pits were sweating, and I was afraid of being excommunicated (so dramatic) from the family. But it felt so good to be honest because 1. I was true to myself even if I was scared. 2. I gained a little more confidence for the next time I needed to set a boundary. Every time you speak your truth or practice setting a boundary in your life, it gets a little easier. I promise.
Challenge: What are you holding onto out of obligation or guilt? Who is putting that pressure on you – you or outside forces? Can you let go of that pressure either way and be truer to yourself?
Side Note: Don’t be all judgy with what others decide to keep and not keep. Judgment comes from a lack of self-love insecurity. I spent too much of my life being judgy and now that I have let that go I am waaay more calm and peaceful on the inside. Be a role model for your family and friends to accept if they want to keep something or not. Hopefully, they will give you the same respect back and if they don’t you are still living your truth and that is worth every bit of effort.
If I had one more important tip – acknowledge it is hard to get rid of the emotionally attached, guilt-ridden, or obligated things. What you are doing is the work most people avoid, and you can see this with their stuffed garages and dependency on keeping things. Indecision is still a decision, so if you put off the hard stuff, it’s only going to sit and rot until you deal with it. Mentally prepare yourself that strong emotions may come up, but acknowledging they are a part of the journey will help set you free from them.
You aren’t alone in this, reach out to me and tell me what item you are struggling with letting go of.
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