Over the weekend, I did the unthinkable: I began chipping away at the clutter in my basement.
It seems the older I get, the more I become annoyed by “stuff.” Perhaps it’s wisdom that comes with age and the realization that I don’t need all this stuff to survive; I can’t take it with me in the next life anyway. I decided one storage bin of pictures was feasible and began.
As I looked in this bin, I found a multitude of treasures: newspaper clips that my mother had kept, obituaries, an entire newspaper dedicated to construction of the Waldo Pool (yes, I am from Waldo, Ohio…and it yes, Waldo has a pool!), pictures from birth through college graduation and of course, my grade cards from pre-school through high school.
In an instant, I wondered how to decide what to keep versus what to toss. This box had been in existence for at least 40 years and contained family memories for many. I had visited this space before and so far, had never been able to let go of the contents of this box, no matter how small or insignificant the items seemed to be.
I decided this day was different. I took the plunge. (Relatives reading my blog, hold onto your seats.) In less than an hour, pictures, wedding announcements, church bulletins, obituaries, retirement napkins, graduation invitations and the like were (gulp) gone.
For most of us, letting go of anything is a painful process. Whether it’s junk drawer contents, memorabilia, clothes we no longer wear or something as significant as a toxic relationship, it is hard to let go of anything that is a part of who we are or how we got there.
Letting go is by no means a step by step process, but what worked for me this day (and I didn’t consider in the past) were three concepts I used to challenge myself:
- Ask why? (And don’t stop until you’ve got the real answer!)
Why did I keep this box of memorabilia so long? Because it was part of my family for a long time. Why has it been in my family for so long? Because we hated throwing anything away.Why did I hate throwing anything away? Because the stuff is from a precious time in my life and I want to remember these people, places and events.
Why do you need a box of memorabilia to remember this time in your life? Because, well… Bingo!
I don’t need this box to remember those points in my life. That’s what my heart and mind are for. The box is a visual reminder, not a necessity. When you do this exercise, don’t stop at why #1 or #2. In fact, I invite you to keep going until you hit four or five why’s. Challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone, until you hit the real answer. “I don’t know” doesn’t count!
- Challenge deeply rooted limiting beliefs (and ask, “Is it true”?)
For generations, my family kept these “things.” We held onto them to keep memories alive. Right, wrong or indifferent, “things” are our relationship to the past, a relationship to what was or what still is a part of us. My limiting belief was “I can’t throw these things away!” Really? Why not?
No. Instead: I have a significant emotional attachment to my deceased mother. Many of these things were saved by her. Throwing these things away meant I was dishonoring her, letting her down, throwing away everything that was important to her. Is it true that throwing these things away would be dishonoring her? Letting her down? Throwing away everything that was important to her?
No, it is not true. In fact, it has nothing to do with dishonoring her. Nothing to do with letting her down. And clearly, this was not everything that was important to her.
I can throw these things away. I cannot throw the memories away. These memories live vividly in my heart. My treasure chest resides in my minds eye, packed with beautiful things from this box of “stuff.”
- Make the decision to do or do not. (There is no try.)
This is my favorite part. I grew up in the “Star Wars era,” so I am fond of anything Star Wars, especially Yoda. There was a whole lot of wisdom packed into this little 900 year old dude. One of my favorite Yoda quotes is “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” When we make the decision to let go of anything, we must do it….or not. Trying to let go is a process. Making the decision to let go is the beginning of change. It’s really that simple.
With that, I made the decision to let go. One box of stuff in the trash. End of story. To reiterate:
I have no good reason to keep the box of stuff. The memories are in my head; I don’ t need the visual reminder of what was past. This does not mean I am dishonoring my mother or letting her down. I can throw these things away (but cannot throw the memories away).
That day, I decided one box of stuff in the trash was good enough for me. As I look around the basement today, I see more boxes just like it with contents waiting to be purged. While I’m tempted to become anxious about the scale of the job in front of me, I realize I can use the same “Let Go” concepts for each box and can make the decision to physically let go of the contents. Or not.
I can take baby steps or I can run. The timing around making the choice and the choice itself is all mine.
What are you waiting to purge? Where do you want to let go?
A job that you can’t stand (and that sucks the life right out of you)?
A habit or addiction that adds no value to your existence?
The tendency to take control and manipulate the situations around you?
The need to accommodate everyone around you?
A toxic relationship in which you feel obligated?
The list is endless and like me, you may think the job is too big to tackle. But with these three concepts, you own it. And just like my boxes, the decisions you make and the timing around those decisions belong to no one else but you.
So, what does your basement look like?
If you would like to work with Julie, she would love to support and guide your through your “letting go” process. Whatever it looks like for you, reclaiming your life as your own is a journey and it begins with your heart. Contact her today for your complimentary “Heart To Heart” Strategy Session.
Author: Julie E. Cline
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Rosa Majalis/Flickr