Do you know anyone who is a saver and has difficulty letting go? Are you a saver and struggle with this? Guess what, you are not alone, many people struggle with this challenge. For, some it is such a huge challenge it can develop into something more serious such as hoarding. I am not discussing hoarding in this article, just your average struggle with letting go. If you or anyone you know struggles with hoarding please know there is help for you and your family. Institute for Challenging Disorganization, https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/, is a wealth of resources. The site also has a zip-code search feature for the public to find organizers who have been trained & specialize in helping folks who hoard.
Many times the items we save represent dreams and goals. These items can be proof of dreams that have been fulfilled or even of dreams that have been unfulfilled. The latter can be a constant painful reminder if you view having unfulfilled the goal as a negative. Sometimes people keep painful reminders to reinforce negative beliefs about themselves as being a failure or being unsuccessful. If these items are painful reminders then think about removing those items which are obviously not serving you in any way that is healthy. Keep in mind that goals and dreams evolve and change due to circumstances which may or not be in your control. If you decided to not pursue a goal, then cross that goal off of your list and donate the items associated with it. Put it in the past. Sometimes having a friend, or a completely objective person such as a professional organizer, can actually make this process easier.
Then there are the memories associated with positive experiences in one’s life. Some folks get carried away with keeping every reminder associated with that event or person, whether it was a wedding day, a trip of a lifetime, a previous job, children or death of a special loved one. I have been in homes where one or even both spouses had lost relatives and wound up bringing most of the furniture to their house where it isn’t being used but is being stored in the garage. Now, not only can they not park in their garage, they have one to two households of furniture that isn’t even being used!
I hear all the time from clients that they wanted to keep the furniture because it’s an antique and they couldn’t just give it away. Or, it all reminds me off him/her. Or, the kids can use it when they are on their own.
Let’s take a hard look at these reason’s. Just because the furniture is old, doesn’t make it an antique. There are companies that can sell everything in your house using online auctions where anything of true high value fetches what it’s worth and anything of less value will again, fetch what it’s worth. Remember, it is only as valuable as what someone else is willing to pay for it. If you know anyone who needs to empty out a home for a deceased relative or one who is downsizing, look into MaxSold, they can sell anything from cars, to cleaning supplies and they do it in two weeks using an online auction platform. I can say without a doubt, having used them for many downsizing clients, there is no easier or faster way to empty a house and get money for items that you may have been tempted to toss into the landfill or donate, a win-win for you, the planet and the folks purchasing their new treasures!
The next reason I hear often for keeping all of the furniture is that it reminds them of the person to whom it all belonged. Okay, I understand that completely, accept for the part about not using any of it and storing it all in your garage which then leaves your car(a high value item) exposed seasonal elements. The more practical approach to this dilemma is to keep the one special item, if large, or two, if smaller and actually use them in your home so they are more respectfully honored. If there are other items you can incorporate into your home by replacing current duplicates then by all means do that and know your relative would be thrilled that their belongings are bringing you joy. The opposite would be storing the furniture in a garage collecting dust, not being used and being exposed to the varying temperature and damaging humidity. If you can’t incorporate any of the pieces due to size or because it simply won’t fit with your current décor, then you should think about donating to a charity that can put your relatives furniture to good use and bring joy to others. That would be honoring your relative in a beautiful way. Take pictures of yourself sitting in a favorite chair before letting go of them if that would help you.
Another common theme I hear, even from my own husband about our stuff, is that the kids can use it someday when they are on their own. So, IF you think your kids would really want to use said household items, AND you have the space to store the items safely, then go ahead and keep them, that’s practical. BUT, don’t guilt your kids into keeping stuff they don’t want just because you want to keep something in the family; that is really doing something for you and not your kids. If your kids are only 5 & 6, I would rethink keeping stuff for them that long, unless you truly have a place to store it that isn’t causing you to lose valuable living space for your current life. It’s just too easy to find inexpensive or even free perfectly good furniture from resale shops, Craig’s list and my favorite, Facebook Marketplace. Don’t save it if it will impact your space or if you are keeping something out of guilt.
For smaller memories, keep in mind that if you have to store it all in bins down in your basement, you aren’t really enjoying the memory so find one or two objects that really represent the moment, person, or event and display or use them! For example, I had a client who had saved her mother’s many, many aprons because it reminded her of her mother who was always cooking for the family. They were crammed into a drawer which was too full to open and therefore they were not being used. I suggested we pull them all out and choose the two that jumped out at her right away that represented “Mom”. Now she is lovingly using these aprons and not burdening her kitchen with too many.
Another reason folks hang onto things is guilt and this is a biggie for some people more than others. I want to give you permission to appreciate any gifts that were given to you with good intentions and thoughtfulness(mostly) from people you know and love(mostly) and let them go if they no longer serve you or make you happy. Truly, if the item makes you cringe whenever you see it, it most certainly is not bringing you joy and is only adding stress to your life. Donate the gift to someone else and allow it to be re-loved in a new home.
Good luck with your attempts at letting go and if you need help with this process I am here to help. I offer virtual organizing to folks living anywhere and in-home organizing to those living in the Northern VA region. www.enuffwiththestuff.com