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Why Processing Your Past Ensures You Leave It Behind

By Elise Krentzel February 07, 2023 Mindset

Do you find it difficult to throw out items that no longer serve you? Are you hanging on to old photographs or articles of clothing?

I hung on to court case divorce documents, which piled three feet – yes, three feet worth – in my closet for 12 years. Just last week, I finally dumped them where they belong, in the dumpster. I don’t know why I kept them. Maybe I was hoping to find a pathway to redeem my wasband.

Perhaps I secretly hoped to nail him for the wrongs he committed, and just in case, I had my proof stored in boxes, ready to be copied, whipped out at a moment’s notice. Whatever fantasy I engendered, it was time to get rid of bad rubbish.

The Liberation of Cleansing

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘out with the old, in with the new.’ When you release yourself of the old”, you remove the old “thinking.” I divorced myself from past pain, sorrow, and revenge thoughts by throwing out those divorce documents. In another bold move, I dumped four thousand five hundred physical photographs of my past into large industrial-sized garbage bags.

I took each photo album and chose five pictures to keep. I thought more than that wasn’t worth saving, especially if I couldn’t remember the people or events clearly. I saved the creme of the crop and discarded the rest, which liberated me.

Are there any items you are having trouble parting with that need to go in the trash?

Beyond the Physical

While physical items allow us to experience the sensations of past smells, tastes, feelings, and touchpoints easier than having to summon them just from memory, emotional baggage is far heavier in all meanings.

Processing your past ensures you will move into a new phase of your life. And stages are not just based on age but act as transitional points from one way of thinking to another. It’s as if you wake up and suddenly have a new surge of energy. Did this ever happen to you?

The Benefits of Processing the Past

What happens when you process old crusty emotions is miraculous. Did you notice that when you let go of someone who had not served your greater purpose someone else showed up who was better for you?

Although this is not a perfect example, it worked for me. A few years ago, my closest friend died of breast cancer. I was distraught for many months and meditated on our relationship. I bought into the concept of lack and what I was missing since she was gone.

At some point, I changed my sad mantra into one of hope. My morning meditations began with an “I hope to find another dear friend to replace my lost one.” And what happened? When I least expected it, I met a new friend who became closer to me than the one I had lost, just as I had imagined.

I left behind the sadness of losing a friend and replaced it with enduring fondness for all the people, places and events that miraculously moved my life. And so can you!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

When was the last time you threw stuff out that were weighing you down mentally? What did you get rid of and why?

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After Christmas tree was taken down off chest, I cleared out what was in the chest- alot of old newspapers and magazines about Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the year (2009) that Saints won Superbowl.(Yes, I’m from NOLA) and I remember it all very well without keeping literature.

Elise Krentzel

Isn’t it liberating?

Elise Krentzel

Exactly my point about the photographs. And I can imagine in your case there is much NOT to remember.


Enjoyed reading this. Great advice. Sometimes past memories can be painful and stop you from moving on. I’ve tossed things too, took me awhile but I felt better once they were gone.


Thanks. Yes it’s true letting the past stay in the past is a life lesson.


Prior to our last move after my husband and I retired in 2017, I finally scanned then shredded my 27-year-old divorce documents and parked the scans of the most important (final decree) in an email folder to be one day deleted into oblivion.

In 2021, laid up with a broken bone in my foot and looking for a project I could do sitting down, I went through 4 boxes of photos and memorabilia, tossing several bags. The rest awaits the next “cut” where I’ll winnow further and just save the best. Although, since I’m getting into watercolor painting, I shall save the most scenic and interesting snaps for painting subjects.

I have found that it gets much easier to get rid of “stuff” once you get started!


That sounds fantastic. You might even want to use those scraps as a collage? With paint text made to look like shreds.


Great article! I just had to move business boxes from a storage unit, including two banker boxes of divorce papers from 14 years ago. I don’t need them cluttering up valuable space in my beautiful home, they will be trashed today!! Thanks so much for freeing me from something that may have been weighing me down without even realizing it.

Elise Krentzel

Thanks for the compliment. You are so welcome. I write to relate to others who’ve gone through similar situations. You made a good point. Sometimes we really don’t know what weighs us down until we relieve ourselves of it.


Years ago I tossed diaries from my marriage/divorce. I didn’t want others to read them when I was gone! I still have my divorce papers from 35 years ago. Today is a good day to toss them! And I love the 5 photo idea! Great article!


Thanks and good luck with tossing! 😀


I shredded my 8yr old stack of divorce papers a few weeks ago ! They were a reminder of so much negativity and the lunatic cost of it all. I felt liberated by the act but at the time it was a tumult of emotions.

Elise Krentzel

That’s a coinkidink! Tell me about the lunacy of the cost, not just monetarily but emotionally. That is when you divorce in the USA. In Europe and Asia it costs more to marry.

The Author

Elise Krentzel is a book coach, non-fiction ghostwriter, and communications entrepreneur. She offers online writing courses and helps authors market their books. Her memoir Under My Skin - Drama, Trauma, Rock n' Roll is on sale, and she's busy writing book two in her memoir trilogy. She's lived in 5 countries for 30 years and is based in Austin. She's over sixty, and her son is 22!

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