The story of the stuff

Why am I holding onto this?

This is one of the most frequent questions I hear when I work with clients.  “Why am I stuffing my already overcrowded drawers with my child’s outgrown ballet outfit?”  “Why can’t I let go of Grandma’s china set, although many of the pieces are broken or missing?”  “Why am I keeping this thing – pillow, sweater, picture, tchotchke – that I don’t use or even like it?”  Usually, the reason we hold onto things we’re not using or enjoying is not about the item itself; it’s about the story we’ve created about the thing.  Especially when an item represents a time before a big transition like a divorce, the passing of a loved one, or the emptying of the nest, the story becomes even more powerful for us.

Do I need it?  Do I love it?

The two things we should have in our space are things we need and things we love.  I need and use my coffeemaker so it stays.  Looking at the teacups I inherited from Aunt Betty brings me joy so I display them so I can enjoy them.   You’re not using or enjoying the ballet outfit but the story is that your child was once young and your house wasn’t so empty.  Grandma’s china set reminds you of the happy times before she passed so the dishes are now a symbol and story of your relationship with her.  The sweater, which you never really liked and never wore, was a gift from your former mother in law and it represents that happy, pre-divorce time.  The story, and what that item represents, is what keeps it in our space, whether it’s working for us or not.

What’s really important in life is living; how we choose to spend our time and be connected with others.  Everything else is just stuff.  If keeping something, and displaying it, bring you joy then do that.  If you’re not using something or if looking at it makes you unhappy, get rid of it.  Space is finite; choose to surround yourself with the necessary and things that bring you joy; let the rest go.