Why Do We Hold On To Our Things? (And How to Let Go)

This blog started out as an outlet for my desire to write. It was a cathartic release to grief after my stillbirth. It then became a tome to the hardships and joy of Motherhood. Evolving, I looked in depth at health and then wrote a book How To Become One Healthy Mama.

And now….

It’s become a partnership in my happiness. I follow the flow of my thoughts and my life and what is really making me happy, in the hope to inspire others to find their own happiness and become content in their own lives. I no longer think I have to write everyday or prescribe to a set “blogging” ideal.

Letting go has been a big part of that.

First I had to let go of the comparisons between myself and other blogs. As much as I tried to write purely factual posts that would hopefully go viral, I couldn’t do it. My personal story and voice is woven through all of my writing and I am ok with that. I know I have a unique point of view and that is what I need to write. I don’t need to do what everyone else is doing.

Secondly, I looked at my life and realised so much of it was about cleaning, maintaining and tidying my things (and my kids things). The frustrations of over-flowing drawers, toy boxes and linen cupboards were taking over my life, making me grumpy and keeping me housebound. These were things I (or my family) had bought and were supposed to bring joy. But too much of a good thing is never good.

I wanted to get out and experience life. I didn’t want to spend time at the shops and I didn’t want to spend my time at home putting the clutter away. I wanted to travel, go on adventures, have thrilling experiences.

But before I could let go I had to ask myself why I was holding on to all these things that were truly holding me back.

1. Guilt. So and so bought me that. It’s not broken so I should really keep it to get use out of it. What if I get rid of it and find out I need it and have to spend money buying it again? That was expensive so I should keep it. My kids made that.

So I bit the bullet and got rid of some guilt items. Then I got rid of some more, then more, peeling them off in slightly painful layers – dropping garbage bag after garbage bag at the goodwill.

I have no idea what I dropped there and the sheer volume of it all is staggering.

It’s so hard to pinpoint at what point we decided to keep so much. At what point we developed guilt over getting rid of it. At which point we decided that if we bought it or received it then we had to get value out of it or use it till it falls apart – when the reality is what happens to the stuff is we store it and forget we own it until we try to get rid of it.

2. Holding on to the past. Yearbooks, teddies, cards, mementos, souvenirs, invites, movie tickets, concert tickets. I know some people will disagree with me here and that’s fine but I needed to let these go. They were in boxes in the garage. I never looked at them but I felt safe and tied to the past with them and I lugged them around with me until I realised that the best thing about those mementos were the feelings and memories that came along with them. They are always with me and a part of me. The love that people showed me in gifting me, writing to me and spending time with me is part of me and the joy was in the moment not in the memento.

3. Keeping up with the Jones’s. I didn’t want my kids to miss out. I didn’t want people to see me in the same outfit. I wanted better branded clothes, bags, shoes – though my heart was telling me they weren’t that original/didn’t suit me/weren’t really me. Don’t get me wrong – I love dressing up and I love nice things. I just want the items I own to really sing to me. To say “this is you, this brings you joy..” So many of my things were just that “things”. I was afraid to pick through the clothes, shoes and bags because I was afraid I wouldn’t have “enough”. But what is enough? I got rid of more than a half of my wardrobe and I still have enough.

The comparison to what everyone has is a natural thing to do. You see it in your kids who want what others have. The challenge is learning the lesson and once learned, the teaching is to be ok with who we are, what we have and where we are in life.

Contentment means that you are happy for the Jones’s but you are just fine. Work on yourself, your own personality, letting your light shine and you’ll suddenly find the Jones’s want to keep up with you.

So as I let go of my physical things I felt my mental and emotional “things” start to shift as well:

I was no longer taking life so seriously

I slowly stopped caring about what others thought about me (which can be a truly crippling condition)

As I got rid of gifts, items that were no longer “me” and old mementos I truly felt loved.  I read volumes of cards where my husband declared how much he loved me and our life together, My family told me how special I am to them, my friends told me about my beautiful qualities which included “kindness and laid-back approach to life” and my children told me I am the best Mummy in the world. The more I got rid of items that weren’t me the more I could see what was me and enjoy them. The gifts I discarded made me feel blessed for the thoughts behind the gift and the joy I had for the gifts at the time. These things are now a part of me and I don’t need the physical clutter to remind me that I am loved, that I am enough and that I am unique. 

Because in the end that’s why we hold on. To reenact the feeling that we had during the experience, that period in our past or with that person. To prove to ourselves that people love us. To feel connected to life.

But by letting go you make room for more and are not held back by guilt or the past or caring what others think.

You become more you.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

So on that note…if someone is telling you they are decluttering, letting go and getting rid of “things” – don’t tell them what to keep. It takes strength to let go and sometimes that strength can crumble with adversity. It is not an attack on you if you keep cards and they don’t or if you have every piece of artwork your child has ever made and they don’t. Don’t judge. Just let them be. And they will let you be. Your judgement of them is only because they have made a different decision to you and you fear they are judging you. They are not. They should not.

Just be and let be.

So my mantras for letting go are:

I received the joy and I am thankful

Experiences not things

Memories not mementos

I am loved

I am enough

I love everything I have

Thank you 

I am grateful

I am moving house shortly and with that move I feel like I am shedding a skin. That this year is about loving who I am and letting go. Moving forward with only love. No longer in fear that people won’t love me because I got rid of their present, stack of cards, keepsakes or am not following the same path/doing the same things that they are.

My big aha moment of this year was understanding that I can move forward without the past on my back, in my garage, in boxes and over-flowing from drawers. I could start again with just my family, friends, the love I have been given through my life and be perfectly ok. More than ok.

I can be perfectly, amazingly, thrillingly happy.




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