“I can’t get rid of it because my mother-in-law gave it to me.” Eeek. Anyone ever said that? or “My dad brought it back for me from Greece, but I’m not really sure what it is.” These statements represent the guilt that holds us back from letting go.
Bottom-line is the tough love statement: you can’t keep it all.
If you’re in this guilt-driven boat, you feel bogged down by all your stuff. And you unknowingly feel even more overwhelmed when you are surrounded by items that you don’t whole-heartedly love. It’s time to mentally coach yourself through ways to get rid of those gifts and “treasures” you don’t want to keep in your home.
I was organizing with Sandra [not her real name] in her home office when we opened a cabinet with odds and ends of non-office related items. As we started pulling the items out one by one and assessing if she would keep or donate them, Sandra paused, studying the unique figurine of a dog for a long time, when I finally asked her, “are we going to get rid of it?” She let out a deep breath and stated with discouragement, “well I don’t like it, but my mother-in-law gave it to me, so I feel like I have to keep it.”
Ugh. “I feel like I have to” are some of the worst mental words we can tell ourselves. They insinuate that we don’t have a personal choice and that we aren’t in control of our own actions.
I halted our organizing process to have an honest conversation with Sandra. I looked at her and lovingly said, “remind me, why do you want to get organized?” And Sandra replied without missing a beat, “because I’m so overwhelmed by all this junk in my house. [pause] I need order to feel like I have control of my life.” I responded with patience, “so how is keeping this figurine giving you control?”
As you can imagine, the figurine eventually went into the donate box and out the door with a freeing sense of pride and a breakthrough moment for Sandra that she needed to be more aware of what came in [and went out] of her house.
Now, not everyone will have this same solution as Sandra, where they can simply donate items they don’t like. Sometimes there are items that we “have to” keep, but it can be spun into a positive memento. And must be determined with intention.As mentioned earlier, it’s time to mentally coach yourself through ways to get rid of those gifts and “treasures” you don’t want to have in your home. [disclaimer: use your discretion because they are not a one-size-fits all approach.]
• Give it back to the giver. If the giver gave it to you because she [or he!] thought it was such a special item or heirloom, ask her if she’d like it back and respect that she found it valuable. If she doesn’t want it in her house…truth will show it’s probably ok to get rid of it. I’m sure you could elaborate on some great ways to say this…Remember it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
• Take a picture of it and give it away. Often times we keep large items, vacation memories, or projects from kids because we feel guilty throwing them out. Taking a photo of it is the perfect way to preserve the memory without the item taking up space. Plus, many paper items deteriorate overtime.
• Incorporate it into your décor. If you’re going to keep it, the closet isn’t the place for it. Don’t keep things just to fill the closet with it. Either put it into a memory box or incorporate it into a wall or shelf design. [that is if you like the item!] This is perfect for keepsakes you acquire from trips abroad or kids’ masterpieces. [side note: when traveling, don’t spend the money on it in the first place, if you don’t have a home for it]
• Donate to a library, school, or museum. Items such as toys, books, or art supplies can be given to municipal locations or non-profits. Be sure to call and ask if they could benefit from the items before you load it up. No one wants other people’s junk.
• Talk with the perpetual giver. If there is one person in your life who seems to fill your house with items that you can’t say no to, you need to [positively] address the situation. If you are serious about purging your home and taking control of the order in your life, this has to happen. You can’t live always saying white lies to this special person [it will only continue, if they get the impression you like the gifts!]. Explain that you are investing time, money, energy, and emotion into organizing and minimizing your space and schedule. With love, they will hopefully understand. You can always recommend you spend time together, rather than her spend money on items you don’t need. If she is giving your kids items, recommend the items stay at her house for the kids to play with when visiting.
The end of the story is, the dog figurine was small, so Sandra could have kept it in the corner of the cabinet and it wouldn’t have taken up much space. But the realization of what that figurine represented for the rest of the items in her home, transformed Sandra’s mindset. She would no longer keep things for the sake of other people’s happiness. She committed to only having things in her home that are essential and that add to the happiness and purpose of her family’s life.
This revelation parlayed into quicker, guilt free decisions and an end result of an orderly office that she loves walking into!
Often times, you can’t keep it all.