A Guide to Letting Go of Sentimental Things
Have you been asking yourself, “Why can’t I get rid of this stuff?” Something that seems so easy for your brain is a much harder task in the heart.
Instead of addressing what has been taking up space, or staring at you for up to years, you avoid it. After awhile, the clutter becomes invisible.
I have been asking myself this more and more. Some things are so easy to discard, while others pull at my heart strings. The more I let go, the lighter I feel.
Everyone’s experience is different. Our past can influence our thoughts and decisions. The future can keep us stuck and afraid to make decisions to move forward. Creating a space that speaks to our present life can be the sweet spot.
Kinds of Clutter
There are different kinds of clutter. Why does this even matter? Because different kind of clutter can tell us more about how one operates in their space, and how changes and new systems can be helpful.
Day to Day Clutter
This kind of clutter is what builds up from the regular day to day things we do. Day to day clutter can build up in bathrooms, floors, kitchen, clothes and more. One of the most challenging I hear from clients is paper.
I agree. Paper is the one clutter item that I have to stay on top of for myself.
Some may not understand this, but some do let trash build up in their space. There can be a number of reasons why one would do this.
It could be that they:
- Don’t have easily accessible places to dispose the trash
- Are ashamed of what they need to throw away and stash it
- Think they can reuse the item for another need in the future
- Have an emotional element, like trauma, they are coping with
Sentimental clutter may be the most challenging for some to address.
What is it about sentimental items we have that can keep us emotionally stuck or froze?
I am not saying that every memory item we have kept, or all sentimental things are clutter.
Sentimental items can be very special. They can remind us of precious moments from the past. Sentimental items can help to remind us of special people and special times.
The type and amount of items kept can make a big difference.
For one person a memory box with a few keepsakes is perfect. For another, holding onto large and small items, and anything that may remind us of a loved one or of the past is what feels right.
It is different for everyone.
To me it’s not that there is a right or wrong approach to keeping sentimental items or how to remember the past.
It’s about how we are not only honor our past, but how are we honoring the present and our future.
If you are reading this post, chances are you are feeling the nudge to address what you have been holding onto, or you are facing a change in your life.
Guilt of Letting Go
Wondering what that lingering feeling is as you try to make decisions as to what should stay and what should go?
Definition of guilt:
1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.
2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
Reading these definitions, the two words that pop out for me are “responsibility” and “remorse”. Being a responsible person is a good thing, feeling responsible for the outcome of a situation could feel very heavy.
Why We Feel Guilty
In reading the definition of guilt, it makes it more clear why we may feel pressure to not let something go.
We don’t want to worry about offending anyone because we let go of some.
We don’t want to feel we made the wrong choice.
We certainly don’t want to feel the heaviness of feeling responsible if the choice wasn’t correct.
Worse yet, we don’t want to have regrets and feel remorse.
Instead of thinking about how we can avoid the feeling of guilt, we can chose to not accept it. Instead of worrying about what could happen, we can use good questions to help us make decisions.
Feeling Good About Being Guilt-Free!
It doesn’t mean there is something wrong if you don’t feel bad or guilty for letting go of items that may have sentimental value to others.
You don’t need to worry about what others will think. If you feel someone may want an item that you are ready to let go of, then ask them if they would like it. If they don’t, then it’s ok to let the item go. We can’t operate in our lives or always make decisions because we want to control how someone will feel or to avoid them being upset.
That’s really what it is. We are trying to control how someone will feel. That isn’t up to us, just as you don’t want someone to behave or operate in a way that is to control your feelings.
The fact is, somethings we like and somethings we don’t. We take responsibility for our feelings, and our feelings alone. Someone can’t MAKE us feel a certain way.
If you have an item that you love, or you feel it’s taking up space, or you tired of storing it, or it has negative memories . . . I have questions and ideas to help you come to a decision.
Sometimes avoiding making decisions, like with clutter, may feel better than facing it.
However, have you ever avoided making a decision then later regretted that it was made for you in the end, and the end result isn’t what you would have wanted?
While we think that we are avoiding making a decision, the situation is still running through our head. Even if you think you are avoiding it and getting relief, the truth is that you are still keeping it in the back of your mind. You have an ongoing conversation about how you are going to continue avoid the clutter . . . . you are really never avoiding it. Just wasting energy.
Why is it so Hard?
Letting go of items that remind us of the past can be hard for some. All the fun memories and special moments we can relive. All the photos and keepsakes that remind us of our family, friends and childhood.
But when there is an abundance of items, it’s more about storage and not about enjoying the memories.
What if a decision didn’t have to be so difficult and we could chose what items made our heart sing?
Breaking it Down
When we put off making hard decisions I find that most of the people I work with are thinking:
“What if I make the wrong decision?”
“What if I need it someday and I miss out?”
What if it wasn’t that cut and dry?
Questions We Can Ask Ourselves
Here are some questions to ask yourself when faced with making decisions that are difficult with your clutter:
- Does this item still serve me?
- Does this item support my current vision for this space?
- Does keeping this item support my new goals?
- Do I want my children to have to sort through this?
- Does this support my new life and my future?
- Is this a distraction in my life?
- Does looking at this make me feel good about myself?
- Does looking at this bring up past hurt or negative thoughts?
You don’t have to use all of these questions to help you come to a decision, just chose the best one that resonates with you.
It is very rare that we look back and think, “I can’t believe I got rid of that.” I have looked for a couple things in the past thinking, “What did I do with that?” It obviously wasn’t what I need in my life at the time I gave it away, and I moved on!
The good news is that I was ok. I reminded myself that it’s not a problem and there was a reason for my decision. You can do the same!
If you have struggled with letting go of items in order to get organized, or you are making a change in your life, you can work through the thoughts that keep you stuck.
You now have good questions to ask yourself to discover what the vision is for your life and how to support it.
The more you do this, making decisions without avoiding, the easier it will get. You will know what to do.
I believe in you,