Anyone who has downsized her home knows that the experience it is an emotional roller coaster. The process of getting rid of our possessions goes something like this.

First we get rid of the junk that has accumulated in our homes. This includes those items that really don’t matter to us or may have never mattered to us.

They were just there. We discard old boxes filled with stuff we haven’t used in years. We throw away long forgotten cartons of books stacked in the basement. That’s the easy part.

 
 

Then we eliminate other possessions because we choose to simplify our surroundings and declutter. This takes more thought and planning and is certainly more difficult.

And then we eliminate those things that were part of our lives. Things that had a history and a story and meant something to us. Things that we really don’t ever want to get rid of, but are forced to because we no longer have room for them. This is the most challenging part.

Letting Go of Memories

I had such an item when we downsized our home. It was my mother’s dining room buffet. It was in her dining room for as long as I can remember. It was present for all family events and celebrations.

When she became older and moved into a retirement home, I happily moved it into our dining room where it continued to have a place in our lives for many years.

There was nothing special about this buffet other than the fact it was hers. It was a part of my life and my memories of our family. It stood in my dining room for all family dinners, gatherings and holidays. It stored platters, dishes and decorations. But now I had to give it up.

I had a strong emotional attachment to this buffet because of what it represented to me. It reminded me of a past time when my mother was alive, happy and vibrant. A time before she became so sick and the dementia took over her life.

It reminded me of a time when our whole family was around the dining room table chatting, laughing and enjoying the time we had together.

I think that this is a common experience for many of us as we declutter and downsize. We have a hard time letting go of certain items because of our emotional attachment to what they symbolize. We want to hold onto the feelings and the experiences that they represent to us. Many of us have a hard time downsizing or detaching from the past. This is what I learned.

Reality Check

Getting rid of items from our past that have strong memories and meaning to us forces us to reexamine our lives in the present.

The Truth

We don’t need a material object to remember the past. The experience and the memories are within us now and will be in the future.

Step Back

We need to step aside and understand the underlying reasons for our attachment to an item. What does it represent that is so important to us? In my case it symbolized the love, security and friendship of family. It is a value and a need that I hold.

Evaluate

Ask yourself if these needs are still being filled in the present, but in a different way than they were in the past, with different people, environment and mindset. If they are, be grateful. If they aren’t, ask yourself what you can do to help yourself fulfill this need?

Let It Go

I had to let it go and move on. The day I let it go was actually freeing. The buffet was donated to a local charity and now someone else is using it. I hope that they are enjoying it as much as we did.

Have you started to downsize your possessions in your sixties? What are you having a hard time letting go of? How do you think you will you feel when you detach from it? Please join the conversation and share your story.

Terry ArztTerry Arzt is a life and transition coach. She is the author of the eBook, A Definitive Guide for Starting Over, which is available as a free download on her website. She works with women who want to, need to or have been forced to go through a life transition. Terry gives the support, confidence and inspiration they need to move forward and to create a life they want or desire.

Let's Have a Conversation!