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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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Interesting topic! I just shredded diaries going back to when I was 12 years old and I’m 69! The books were filled with so much pain, including a heartbreaking relationship that dragged on for years. I was finally ready to let go and it felt so good when I did.

Elise Krentzel

I can attest to that Paule.


A note to those who want to get rid of old paperwork: be sure and shred the papers. Just putting them into the trash risks identity-theft. Any item with PII should be shredded. PII = Personally Identifiable Information, such as SSN, credit card numbers, name, address, etc. See this website for more info: https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft


Good tip!


WOW! I’m moving and getting rid of the past… ‘stuff’ iis overwhelming…thanks for this article…papers from an oldbeloved house I moved from 26 years ago…37 photo albums of my kids growing up…did they do anything without being photographed?? they are now on social Security….phew!!!…no wonder I feel dragged down…


Good luck with ditching what you don’t need


Pictures are the hardest. I had a cup with a photo of my “wasband” with my four children and I just decided to get rid of that one photo and I did it!! Got the photo out and ripped it into little pieces!! It felt good!!

Elise Krentzel

Lol! The only thing I saved of mine is the wedding album which my so. CN choose to save or not.

Judy Marcus

I guess it’s time I also throw out my divorce papers, except for the final decree. I’ve been afraid I may somehow need them for some legal reason. Thanks for an interesting article.


I needed the divorce decree when applying for social security. I had thrown mine out and had to pay to get a copy.

Elise Krentzel

Your welcome! :) That’s exactly why I kept mine but let me tell you, once they’re gone (except for the decree) it’s a miracle how good things roll in. Who knows, maybe next stop is a new love?

Last edited 9 months ago by Elise Krentzel

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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