In talking to people who get excited when they learn what I do, I have learned a few things about the human experience. The more disorganized your home is, the heavier the burden on you. And not just because it’s something you have to deal with, but because it weighs on you in such a way that your health is on the line. Saving things just because somebody you loved gave it to you, or a relative who sat in judgment upon you gave it you, can be an unusually heavy burden. I helped someone let go of old letters that she didn’t even know were upsetting her by just having them in her house stuffed way back in a closet. Those letters were filled with all the things that an aged relative thought she was doing wrong with her life. She felt like she had to keep them or more angry letters and judgement would descend on her. She threw them in the trash and immediately felt lighter and, believe or not, she slept better that night.
Memories are one thing, but clinging to the past is hurting you and your body. Old yearbooks – sure save those. Old love letters – maybe not. Your college coffee mug – you can probably ditch it. Your college research papers – toss those right into the recycle bin. Old photos – don’t have time to sort through them? Great. Just gather them all in one place and put them in a bin with a label and you can deal with them later or never, but they are safe.
Study after study demonstrates the health benefits of decluttering, getting rid of things, and heading towards minimalism. “Decluttering may also help you feel better about yourself because it’s something of an accomplishment, says Dr. Robert London, a psychiatrist based in New York City. “The clutter leads to anxiety, embarrassment, family stresses – some kind of despair,” London says. ‘When you relieve the problem and learn to throw things away, you feel better.'” (Why Decluttering is Good for Your Health, U.S. News & World Report)
So, it’s good for us to declutter, but it’s hard. So very hard. It’s hard in large part because the things we possess are the things that we think define us. That client with a pile of letters detailing her failings from a relative … those letters defined her in her own mind. Once we let go of them, she was free to redefine herself. That collection of Lladro figurines you inherited from your grandmother … well, you can’t get rid of that it was your grandmothers. But they aren’t your style. But they were your grandmothers. If you get rid of them, you’re getting rid of your grandmother. No, you’re not. If they don’t match your decor, and you’ve been storing them or displaying them in a corner somewhere, donate them. Right now. Pack them up and donate them. Your grandmother doesn’t live in those figurines. She lives in you. You don’t need a Lladro to remember her. You are not a bad person if you donate the items that don’t bring YOU joy or a sense of peace. You do you.
Take a load off by going for minimalism. You deserve it.