Have you ever found yourself trying to declutter your home, but you cannot seem to let go of your stuff? You knew which room you wanted to tackle. You knew which day of the week you would start the process. You even had a clear vision for space once it was done. But once you got started, you began to feel overwhelmed by all the decisions. You suddenly found yourself unable to let go of items you had not thought twice about in a year.
So, what is going on?
It is common to feel attached to items when it comes time to declutter. Many of us are conditioned not to be wasteful – which is a good thing! The problem is when these thoughts prevent us from reaching our decluttering goals. There are many reasons we tell ourselves we need to hold onto items.
Here are some of the most common ones:
MONEY This item costs money! It feels wasteful to get rid of it, especially if it still has its tags on. Even though the money was spent when we bought the item, our brain is still attached to the money the item represents, even though the money is gone. By holding onto the item, we are not gaining our $100 back.
JUST IN CASE These are the items you struggle to let go of in case you need them one day. By focusing on its potential purpose in the future (even though it may not have been used in decades), we fail to see how keeping it does not serve us in the here and now.
FAMILY LEGACY Have you held onto something as it has been in your family for generations? The candlesticks made of silver may not take up much room, but the antique furniture sure can! Some of us feel we are the curator of family heirlooms. They help us feel attached to the past, or potentially, we can’t let go as the items end with us.
LOSS OF IDENTITY We extend our identity into objects more than we realize. Take the sporty chick who loved playing footy in her youth and cannot let go of her team jerseys. Or the baby boomer who loved roller-skating and has been unable to let go of the skates even though they have not been worn in 30 years. And let us not forget the pair of jeans in the wardrobe that “just might fit again one day,” representing a version of ourselves we do not want to part with. When we extend our identity and aspirations into stuff, we feel deeply attached to it. Sometimes we forge a connection so strong we fail to remember we are still us, including our memories and experiences, even without that shown in a physical item.
SENTIMENTAL Every smelt something, and it reminds you of a place, person, or experience? It is such a wonderful feeling! Often there are items in our homes that are sentimental to us. The issue is when we start seeing everything as special and are unable to let go of these items. Sometimes we get stuck in the past instead of living in the present.
FEAR OF FAILURE Accepting failure is not easy in life, and the same thing can be said for our things. If letting go of an item closes the chapter on something we held out hope for, it feels tough! It could be the musical instrument you gave up, the project you ‘were going to get to,’ or the marathon you did not train for. By holding onto these items, we convince ourselves we have not failed just yet. Holding onto them may be holding us back.
REGRET Ever worried if you declutter something, you will need it later? It is a common concern clients express to us at Little Miss Organised. The funny thing is even though this rarely happens when items are thoughtfully decluttered, it prevents many people from letting go, even though the odds are low.
If you can identify with any of these reasons, you may be wondering what you can do about decluttering items you feel attached to. Reframing how you view the problem is the first essential key step. Instead of focusing on what you might lose by letting go of these items, instead focus on what you might gain.
Side effects of letting go and getting organized:
Find things when you need them.
Better mental health
Sounds rather good, right? That is because it is! We have seen the impact decluttering makes in the lives of many families firsthand. If you feel stuck, here are a few quick tips that may help you honor the attachment to the item to let it go.
Worried about the money spent? Sell it online.
Think you may need it in the future? Test the theory. Give yourself a deadline and if you have not, say goodbye.
Fixated on the sentimentality of memory associated with the item? Pick a few treasures to keep for display/use. Remember, when everything is unique, nothing is special.
Grappling with your change in identity or a sense of failure? Thank the item for how it served you in the past, accept where you are in the here and now, and provide space for yourself to keep moving forward. By letting go of the old, we are creating space for the new.
Regret holding you back? Ask yourself this: what is the worst thing that will happen if I let this item go?
Are you getting ready to declutter a space in your home soon? Be sure to use these tips!