letting go Archives
You're about to move. You may not have realized this, but it's true.
This time next year you'll be a different you, maybe majorly different or maybe only slightly. And that different you will live —or should—in a home better suited to that new self.
Conveniently, it's quite likely that this move will be into a home that is precisely the same size and layout as your current home.
So, what doesn't make the move? What isn't worth carrying on that journey and taking up space in your new home? What's part of an old you that you don't need or want or like anymore?
Keep looking around for the things you don't need to carry with you on this move into the future and get them out of your way now.
My pal Ilona just moved and said on Twitter, "now to the unpacking. not my strong suit. anyone want to place a bet on how many boxes will remain untouched a year from now? :-/"
This one's for you, awesome lady.
I'd bet that more of those boxes will hang around than the closet space would be worth to you in the meantime, so chip away at them faster and reap that reward sooner.
Give yourself until Valentine's Day to settle in. Then after that, every other week, turn up the music and for the duration of four upbeat songs, open a box or drawer and paw through it, seeking items which can go into active use, or (more likely) your charity box, recycling, or trash.
Odds are if you didn't dig it out before this foray, you neither love it nor use it and it can move on to someone who does.
Just four songs. You can do this easy-peasy.
“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists agree, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”
- Aldous Huxley, A Brave New World
Why is spending for a transient experience okay on food and movies but we get ourselves in such a twist over objects? Wrestling that insidious feeling that if we get rid of this object it will mean that we wasted our money causes us to behave as if somehow by keeping it around we are improving our chances of compensation for the expense. We aren’t.
So how to avoid the guilt of bad buying decisions? Think about purchases longer before making them. Also, recognize that you will make some bad decisions. As one Discardian put it, “Did you get your money's worth? If you are ditching a $5 paperback book, did you enjoy it $5 worth? If you did, then, like a loaf of bread you ate, you got your money's worth.” For that reason, sometimes the cheap (or used) version of something is the better way to go; give yourself room to feel free to part with it.
Once you’ve gained what you needed to get or learn from something – including an emotion – it’s perfectly acceptable and often helpful to let it go and move on.
The flipside to this coin is the stuff you fail to enjoy because you spent so much on it, but which you know you would still enjoy. My friend, writer and mom Meg Hourihan, wrote poignantly of this dilemma:
“I'd keep bottles of wine and treasure jars of jam for so long they'd be no good once I got around to using them. I decided life was too short and that it was important to use the good stuff. And now I do, mostly. I saved a beautiful birthday gift of 1989 Laurent-Perrier Champagne too long (no situation ever seemed good enough to justify its drinking) and when I opened it, it was passed and I was so sad. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to remember to use the good stuff.”
Journalists and wine critics Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal recommend you quit waiting for some occasion special enough for that most special bottle you've been holding onto for years. They said:
“We invented Open That Bottle Night for a simple reason: All of us, no matter how big or small our wine collections, have that single bottle of wine we simply can never bear to open. Maybe it's from Grandpa's cellar or a trip to Italy or a wedding. We're always going to open it on a special occasion, but no occasion is ever special enough. So it sits. And sits. Then, at some point, we decide we should have opened it years ago and now it's bad anyway, so there's no reason to open it, which gives us an excuse to hang onto it for a few more decades. So OTBN – which is now always the last Saturday in February – offers a great opportunity to prepare a special meal, open the bottle and savor the memories.”
You can wait until the last Saturday in February if you like, but wouldn't tonight be a good enough for a special meal with those closest to you and a toast to the past and the future over a glass of something fine?
"Through the years I have found it wonderful to acquire, but it is also wonderful to divest. It's rather like exhaling."
Walsh isn't surprised that decluttering is so popular these days. Between worrying about gas prices and the faltering economy, people's first reaction, he says, "is often, 'I need to get some control over my life, even if it is just a tidy kitchen counter.'"
Time's decluttering section: http://time.com/declutter which redirects to a longer URL. Nice decluttering there, webmaster.
Want to get re-inspired for letting go of things around your home? Take a break from it.
I just spent 5 nights staying at my boyfriend's place and came home tonight ready for major purging of stuff that I don't require anymore.
The trick is to go somewhere else that you can relax. Before you come home think about what you actually missed. That's the definite "keeper" stuff. The junk you walk in and say "jeez, I forgot I even had that" about is a good place to start the discarding.
Even without that dichotomy, though, I found the time away left me in a clearer mental space to distinguish between that which I keep more as the museum of me and less as something I actually use & enjoy now.
I'm enjoying saying some farewells this evening, and the ability to save the story or favorite details from things in pictures on Flickr is helping a lot!
Haven't quite got the stomach for just throwing something away?
Consider these alternatives:
- There's a tradeoff here between time spent and money gained. (Read more about this in past posts Do The Math and What's Your Time Worth?).
- One way to offset that is to add some to gain side of the equation when where it goes makes you happy. Selling something very cheap to or bartering for it with a worthy person can feel great. For example, you might provide a nice older camera to a new photography student.
Giving It Away
- Or you could just give something to that worthy person.
- Charitable organizations are another obvious destination for things of value or utility which no longer fit in your life. How about donating it to the library, a school, or just good old Goodwill?
- You can also have a good deal of fun getting a crowd together for a Pirate Gift Exchange of wonderfully weird stuff. Here's how it works: Wrap everything. Draw numbers. Person number one picks something and unwraps it. Person number two can either steal it or unwrap something else. When what you have gets stolen, you can steal anything but that from another player or unwrap something new. When you don't have what you want you can extol its virtues to other players in the hope that they will steal it from you. Popular items will go racing round the room in repeated thefts. Hilarity ensues!
It's time for a big letting go. The rich nations have got to say farewell to the strange notion which has gripped us for the last half century and recognize that the suburban life style - with its 2 car garage, its lawns in the desert, its strip malls - is completely unsustainable. More than that though, it isn't even really "the good life".
There's never going to be more oil readily available than there is now. Nor more natural gas, either. Suburbia relies on these, not only for its residents to be able to get to shops or work and to heat their homes, but also to build the homes and the accoutrements associated with this lifestyle.
And it isn't even that great a lifestyle. Do people really form tighter bonds with their neighbors in a suburb than they do in a mixed-use city block or the countryside? Do people in the suburbs feel connected to the communities surrounding their neighborhood? If you have to drive to get to anything, do you feel anything but distanced from the places you move through?
Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal recommend you quit waiting for some occasion special enough for that most special bottle you've been holding onto for years.
We invented OTBN for a simple reason: All of us, no matter how big or small our wine collections, have that single bottle of wine we simply can never bear to open. Maybe it's from Grandpa's cellar or a trip to Italy or a wedding. We're always going to open it on a special occasion, but no occasion is ever special enough. So it sits. And sits. Then, at some point, we decide we should have opened it years ago and now it's bad anyway, so there's no reason to open it, which gives us an excuse to hang onto it for a few more decades. So OTBN -- which is now always the last Saturday in February -- offers a great opportunity to prepare a special meal, open the bottle and savor the memories.
You can wait until February if you like, but wouldn't tonight be a good enough for a special meal with those closest to you and a farewell to the close of the year over a glass of something fine?
I talk a lot about cleaning up clutter along the way of making my main point about freeing your life of stuff that you don't actually want in it. I find it relaxing now, after steadily whittling away at my Discardian efforts for a few years, to be able to have my house ready for company with less than an hour of tidying up.
It's important to note, though, that your comfort level may be more or less messy than mine. I'm more of a neatnik than the folks in Thursday's New York Times article "Saying Yes To Mess", but much less so than some folks I know with pristine homes and perfectly ordered closets.
What matters in all cases is that there aren't things you don't want, blocking your enjoyment of what you do.
Think of the cottage style garden with flowers spilling out in clumps; embrace your particular mess and ruthlessly prune away any junk that detracts from your happiness.