We all have an ugly coffee mug, a framed picture on the wall that we walk by every day without noticing, or a scarf that while treasured, is never worn. Even though a clutter-free life sounds appealing, some things are harder to let go of than others. We may hold on to different items, but we experience a similar struggle.
When letting go, it helps to start with the easy stuff like duplicates, and things you know you won’t miss to strengthen your decluttering muscles. You’ll have an easier time when it comes to the more challenging things, but there may still be a few items that have a hold on your heart.
Our heart strings are strong, but the following recommendations will show you how to get rid of clutter you care about.
This is one of the most effective strategies for seeing what kind of value, if any, an item adds to your life. During our early stages of decluttering we had 3 vases on our bedroom bureau, each holding a flower that represented the flowers at our wedding. Sounds meaningful right? They were lovely, but I realized that I only noticed them when I was dusting them, or accidentally knocking one over. I wanted to see what it would be like to live without them. Would I miss them? I wrapped them up, placed them in a box, and put the box in the garage.
I didn’t mention this to my husband. I kept waiting for him to ask about them, but he never did and after a few days, I forget about my treasured vases. Two months later I brought the vases back in and set them up on the bureau. I told my husband I wanted to donate them and he said, “No, I really like those.” When I told him they’d been in the garage for months, he agreed it was a good time to let go.
A little separation goes a long way when it comes to parting with your stuff. It’s why I recommend that people who try minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 put excess clothing aside for three months instead of donating it. It eliminates the fear of missing something or not having enough, and determines if it’s really our hearts holding on, or fear that is encouraging the tight grip.
Use Marie Kondo’s suggestion from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and question your stuff. She recommends holding each item in your hand and asking, “Does this bring me joy?” I recommend creating a list of the moments that make you most joyful and when you ask your item if it brings you joy, compare it to your list. Does it make the list, or even come close?
If the answer is no, Kondo says to let it go and be grateful for how the item served you. If your answer is yes to joy, try hiding it and see if you miss it.
There isn’t any magic in getting rid of everything. If the ugly coffee cup makes you smile every morning, keep it. If your spouse wants to keep their ugly coffee mug, don’t push it. Put it through the tests above, and if you determine that you want it in your life, make space for it and appreciate it.
We cannot compare or measure our lives based on what we do, or do not own. One of my yoga teachers told me about the first time he touched his toes, after years of practicing yoga and thinking he wasn’t flexible enough. After he finally connected fingers to toes he realized not much had changed. He was just a little more flexible.
Letting go is the same thing. There is no magic in reaching a certain number of items or sacrificing something that brings joy to your life. There are lessons in letting go and major benefits along the way, just like stretching and yoga, but be gentle with yourself and mindful about how living with less is changing you and bringing you closer to what matters most.
The magic in reaching for your toes happens when you feel the stretch, whenever that may be. The magic in letting go happens when you feel light, whenever that may be.