Decluttering can be an emotional experience. Getting rid of things forces us to confront changes in our lives: we are getting older, we don't do some activities or hobbies anymore, and some people are no longer with us. We also may have guilt surrounding our belongings because they were gifts that went unused or unliked, or we feel bad about money spent. It is tough facing these facts, but in doing so we can unburden ourselves both physically and emotionally. Here are the four main emotional challenges to decluttering and how to approach each one:
1. Attachments to people - When a person dies they typically leave behind a great deal of stuff. If you inherit these things they can be very difficult to part with because it feels like you are parting with your memories of them. Keep in mind the things are not the person, and the memories you made and experiences you shared will stay with you even without their physical belongings. Very few things we own are truly meaningful or say something important about our essence. By all means, keep those objects that were well-loved or are tied to a special memory of the person, but get rid of the rest. Your loved one would not want you to be burdened with their things.
2. Attachments to our past - I started playing a musical instrument in fourth grade and continued through college. After that, other interests and responsibilities took precedence and I did not play again, but I held on to that instrument for almost 20 years. What took me so long to move on? It was the difficulty in admitting that being a musician was no longer part of my identity. It can be hard to accept changes in our lives and ourselves, and to face the fact that we are not the same people we were years ago. But making space in our homes, hearts, and minds opens us up to new interests and experiences. What might you be willing to try if you let go of the past?
3. Guilt about unwise purchases - Who among us hasn't spent too much money on something that ended up unused in the back of a closet? How do you feel every time you come across that thing? We carry the guilt of these bad purchases, and that makes it difficult to part with them. In order to do so, accept the fact that you are human and you make mistakes sometimes. Give it away to someone you know who will appreciate it, or donate it to a charity where it can help someone in need. You will feel much freer without the regular reminder of money ill-spent.
4. Guilt about gifts - Most of us have received gifts that didn't really suit us, but we hold on to them out of guilt. Every time we come across that unused item we feel unappreciative. In order to let go keep in mind the gift-giver already got what they wanted out of it: they thought about you, chose that item for you, and received your thanks and appreciation when they gave it. They have probably not given it another thought, so you shouldn't feel bad giving it away to be appreciated by someone else.
What emotions are holding you back from decluttering?
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