Decluttering is not always easy. There are many items we hold onto for years that are hard to part with. These items are often connected to memories, unfinished projects, or are kept out of a sense of duty.
Old wedding dresses, papers, unused gifts, broken objects you meant to fix, mementos of the past.
The thought of letting go of these items is sometimes too painful for people. But these items can become a burden for us as time goes on.
So why do we keep them around? Here are a couple reasons why.
Clutter Connects Us to Our Pasts
Each time we pick up an object associated with a memory, it floods us with the emotions of that time.
The past is full of many sweet memories that we all want to remember. Baby shoes remind us of our little ones’ first steps. A wedding dress brings us back to that beautiful moment of being married to our sweetheart. A gift can remind us of a treasured friendship. So many happy memories associated with these things.
The past is also full of not so sweet memories, and sometimes the items we hold onto can be associated with darker times in our lives. It’s strange that we keep items like this. Why would we want to be reminded of bad times? But we all do it anyway.
The fact of the matter is that sometimes we hold onto certain items so tightly because we are resistant to letting go of our pasts. We hold onto these items and memories with stubbornness, reliving these past instances over and over again.
Reminiscing on the past is harmless, but we should question if our attachment to it is keeping us from living more presently.
When you are sorting through objects that remind you of the past, take care what feelings and thoughts those objects bring. If they are happy and bring joy to you, then there’s no reason why you should feel obligated to part with it.
If it brings feelings of sadness, anger, resentment, or regret, seriously consider parting with that item as a first step of making peace with those darker memories.
One of the things I’ve parted with to let go of negative feelings is unused gifts. I used to keep them hidden away in my closet because I felt obligated to keep them. It felt messed up to throw them out or donate them. Over time, they became a burden of guilt. A constant reminder of how ungrateful I was for not liking the gifts people gave me.
When I started to finally let go of these gifts, a funny thing happened. I actually began to feel appreciation towards the people who had given them to me. Instead of focusing on my sense of obligation in keeping the gift, my focus shifted to the kindness and thoughtfulness of the person who had given it to me. I felt their love for me and realized that in the long run, I didn’t need to feel burdened with guilt for not keeping the gift. That’s not the point of gift-giving. It’s not so much about the actual gift itself, but the feelings behind the gift. Sometimes, that truth gets warped in our minds because we’re so focused on the “stuff” of life. But it’s just that–Stuff.
The point of that story is to illustrate that holding onto things in the past can hinder us in the present.
Holding onto those gifts wasn’t helping me appreciate my relationships. And it was actually hurting me, creating negative self-talk in my mind that I was ungrateful and selfish. Getting rid of those burdens helped me see the bigger picture.
Clutter Make Us Feel Like We’re Prepared…And That We are Doers!
Clutter also happens to us when we have our sights set on the future.
The phrase “someday I might need this” is a classic excuse for keeping clutter around.
Collecting too many projects and things for “someday” can burden us as well. It takes up space in our homes and in our minds and leaves us feeling weighed down with an ongoing future to-do list that never quite gets done.
Preparing for the future is a worthwhile goal. And there’s nothing wrong with having a future project in mind.
But there are times when I think we need to take stock of ourselves in a more realistic light. Are you really going to paint and refurbish that old side table drawer and fix the broken picture frame? Or are they more likely to sit in your garage for the next 5 years?
When faced with the decision of whether to keep or hold onto something for future purposes, ask yourself why you haven’t used it yet. Then ask if that reason is likely to change in the future. If it’s not likely to change, you probably won’t use it later either and it may be time to let go.
Do the same with those projects you have saved on your to-do list.
I have a bad habit of hyper-focusing on the future. And it gives me anxiety. I’ve never had a problem with stockpiling for the future, but I do create endless to-do lists in my mind (mind clutter!) of all these things I want to accomplish by the time I get to a certain point in the future. You know what happens to me when I do this too much? I look at what I’m actually accomplishing and I’m discouraged and depressed with where I’m at. The problem is that I set the bar too high for myself for what I can realistically accomplish, and then I end up feeling like a failure. We need to be more realistic with ourselves so we can feel empowered with the things we are accomplishing. Which is probably more than we realize!
Decluttering is a Mind-shift
Decluttering definitely takes looking at yourself and your habits with a dose of brutal honesty. But in the end, the struggle pays off and can lead to a much happier you.
The first step to decluttering is learning how to let go of objects, but in that process, we also learn how to let go of the emotional baggage attached to them. That’s why decluttering has such a huge impact on our lives.
It’s a mind shift from holding tightly to things that no longer serve us. It’s learning what we really need in life and what we can do without. It’s living more in the present and focusing on our current goals.
I think we are happiest when we are focusing on those things and don’t have anything holding us back. Don’t let clutter, your past, or your anticipation for the future hold you back from living the best life you can live right now.