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Why You Need to “Let Go” Before You Declutter – and How to Do That

By Angela Horn April 23, 2020 Lifestyle

Are you stuck inside right now? With many parts of the world under quarantine, staying sane has become even more of a challenge than staying healthy.

Whether you’re self-isolating solo, as part of a couple, or with your extended family, being confined to your home can take its toll.

For many of us, it already has. If you’re alone, you’re craving company and if you’re not, all you can think about is going for a long walk. By yourself.

Complaining won’t change the situation. If anything, it’ll only make it worse. So, why not use the time to do something constructive?

I know, it’s the last thing you want to hear, but think about it. There are only so many books you can read, Netflix series you can watch, games you can play, and recipes you can try out.

These activities might be keeping you busy, but they’re not keeping you productive. And if all you’re doing is watching the news, you’re more than likely feeling overwhelmed and depressed, too.

That’s not a good space to be in right now. Balance is key. As much as we need downtime to recharge our batteries, so too do we need periods of busy-ness. (You can’t enjoy one without the other.)

With that in mind, why not tackle something you’ve been putting off? Like decluttering your house or garage. If you’re like most people, you have way too much stuff. You know you need to get rid of at least half of it, but something is holding you back.

The Many Benefits of Decluttering

Decluttering has some amazing benefits. It’ll save you money, leave you less stressed, and make housework a breeze. It also makes you happier. But then, you already know all that.

The problem isn’t that you don’t want to declutter. It’s that you can’t seem to let go of your stuff. How many times have you started decluttering only to find yourself stymied by an inadvertent trip down memory lane?

Surrounded by your children’s sports trophies, the ugly vase from your now-deceased aunt, running shoes you’ve yet to lace up, college textbooks from courses you never finished…

You decide (again) to put off decluttering until you figure out what to do with everything. The sad fact of the matter is, letting go of stuff is hard. We hold onto things for all kinds of reasons.

An item may hold sentimental value for you. There’s also a chance (albeit a slim one) you’ll need it in the future. Plus, you spent good money on it and don’t want to be wasteful.

Understanding the psychology of clutter is an important first step. Once you know why you’re holding onto something, letting it go will be a whole lot easier. The next time you decide to declutter, you’ll actually get the job done.

Forgive Your Impulse Buys

Acknowledge your past impulse buys for the mistakes they were, and move on. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s buying running shoes when you hate running or buying a Nutribullet when you can’t stand smoothies, it happens.

Our minds trick us into believing the item will somehow change us. We imagine ourselves running or blending with gusto, but we fail to consider the facts. We don’t run, and we prefer to eat our calories.

Make a pact with yourself to be more vigilant the next time that happens. Instead of hauling out your credit card right away, go home and sleep on it. Better yet, run it by a friend who knows you well (and isn’t afraid of being honest).

Back to that impulse buy. Think of someone who would love to own a new pair of running shoes or a highspeed blender and gift it to them. Knowing how much joy they’ll get from it will make letting go so much easier.

The Money Is Gone (And That’s Fine)

There is no point in keeping something because it was expensive. It’s not going to bring the money back. You could try recouping some of it on eBay, but either way, you need to make peace with the mistake and move on.

Instead of seeing it as money down the drain, view it as payment for a lesson learned. At least now you know better than to buy something because it’s on sale or because you ‘imagine’ you might use it.

Sometimes, all you need to do is give yourself permission to let go of perfectly good things. Sell them, donate them, or give a friend an early Christmas gift. Keeping items you will never use is only going to remind you of your past mistakes, and nothing good ever came from that.

Store Your Memories Inside Yourself

Sentimental items are memory receptacles. They remind us of a person, place, or event. Learn to access your memories from your heart rather than relying on some trinket you don’t even look at, let alone use.

How often do you look at the photos and videos on your phone? If you’re like most people, once you’ve shared them on social media (or showed them to your book club buddies), they rarely see the light of day again.

That Eiffel Tower keychain your sister bought you on vacation is still in your junk drawer. It’s too clunky to actually use, but you can’t bring yourself to let it go either.

You don’t need a photo or trinket to remind you of the good time you had with her in France. Shut your eyes, and you’ll be right back in that little coffee shop around the corner from your hotel.

Before you know it the aroma of freshly-baked croissants will fill your nostrils. The cute barista’s smile is as clear and bright as it was when you were there. (Wait, did he just wink at you or your sister?)

We think we need a physical reminder to help us tap into our memories, but we don’t. All we need to hold onto the people and experiences we treasure is ourselves.

When you focus on being fully present and immerse yourself in the moment, that person or event will stay close to your heart forever. Resist the urge to pull out your wallet or camera, and simply be there.

Okay, Now It’s Time to Declutter!

Now that you’ve figured out why you were keeping all that stuff, you’ll find the art of decluttering to be a breeze. Why? Well, because you’ve already let go. All that’s left to do is pack the stuff up and send it to its new home.

Yes, you might still feel a pang of guilt for regifting the ugly vase Aunt Berryl gave you on your wedding day. The difference is, this time you’ll put it in the ‘to go’ box regardless.

You’ll smile, secure in the knowledge that the good times you had with her with always be with you. Even better, the vase is no longer destined to spend its life gathering dust. It’s going to someone who will fill it with flowers.

That said, if the thought of letting go is still tripping you up, you can always enlist some help. Joshua Becker’s popular decluttering course is currently open for registration. Take a look at my Uncluttered review to find out more.

Where are you on the ‘letting go’ scale? Is it easy for you to say goodbye to something you no longer like or use? Are you overly sentimental, hanging onto love letters and old sweaters because they remind you of someone or something? Or, do you fall somewhere in between? Let’s have a discussion!

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The Author

Ang is on a mission to declutter the world, one misplaced Tupperware lid at a time. She loves coffee, her wife Sporty, Miles the pudding cat, and peanut butter smoothies. The order varies depending on current caffeine levels.

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