Why You Can't Let Go Of Clutter
I recently sold my grandfather’s old desk. Over the last 30 years I had schlepped it around from England to Scotland, back to England, to Idaho, to four different houses in New Jersey. I was given it when my grandparents moved into assisted living and no longer needed it. My grandfather questioned my sanity at the time. He hated the desk. It was old and the varnish had yellowed. It was made during ‘the war’ (WWII) so it wasn't the highest quality. He was sure I could get a better desk.
Roll on 30 years and I haven't used the desk in a long time. It's not comfortable to sit at and type for a long time and, as I downsize the square footage of my house it looms large in a small space. Furniture that stays in my home has to be used all the time or do double duty. The desk fit neither category. I kept it because it was my grandfather's desk and I miss him.
I realized recently that, as I downsize towards a tiny house I really didn't want to give precious floor space to this desk I no longer use and to be honest I didn't really like much and neither did he. I didn't really want the desk, I wanted to be close to my grandfather. That desk had sat in the bedroom I used when we lived with my grandparents for a while. I actually enjoyed living with them for the few months we were there. I miss them and that is why I had hung onto the desk. It took a long time for me to realize that I was confusing letting go of the desk with letting go of my grandfather. But how often we do this? We keep old love letters from boyfriends we long since broke up with to remind up of all the good times. All the birthday and holiday cards anyone ever sent us because they remind us of how much we are loved.
But sometimes keeping all the mementos will stop us from moving on and progressing through our grief to the point where we can accept the loss and move on. Whether it was a relationship that didn’t go the way we wanted it to or a loved one who has passed on, it is easy to keep everything and keep going round and round in circles without ever making any progress.
Why do we do this? I was listening to a podcast last week (can’t remember which one) that said recent research has shown that letting go of things can cause actual, physical pain and that is why some folks have a harder time of letting go of things than others. So it really does become like ripping off a band-aid.
The best, least painful way I have found for getting rid of things is to do it a little at a time working from not so important things up to the big stuff like my grandfather’s desk. Once I saw that life would not end and I would not end up as an emotional wreck by getting rid of duplicate pictures, little knick knacks etc., I was able to work up to selling the desk. I felt pangs of guilt and loss as I saw it driving away but they didn’t last long and it was a relief to have the floor space back. I took my time and let go of it emotionally long before I let go of it physically and that is often the key for me. I take the letting go in small steps so it is a relief when finally the clutter leaves the house.