Mary’s attic housed several large boxes of Christmas cards. (After all, she was connected to tons of people who loved her family!) I encouraged her to go through them and pull out the ones that mattered most. With every card she withdrew from a box, she gave thoughtful consideration before tenderly transferring it to a KEEP or DISCARD pile.
“Why is this so hard?” she asked me. I helped her explore that question until she uncovered the root: “If I throw a card away, I feel like I’m saying I don’t care about the person who sent it.”
Similarly, Frank had a spare bedroom cluttered with several boxes of items cleaned out of his grandmother’s house. A few from Aunt Peggy’s littered the room as well. Everyone else in the family had willingly parted with most of the treasured items. But Frank simply couldn’t. It felt wrong. Now here he was, three years later, with a room that was serving no purpose other than storing “treasured things,” that weren’t being appreciated, in unopened boxes.
Sarah, on the other hand, struggled with her closet. She had flowed in and out of three sizes of clothing over the past several years; she hadn’t fit into some beloved items for over a decade. The racks were so full, hangers refused to budge. Additional clothes lay piled on the floor, on the dresser, and on the wing-backed reading chair by the window. Yet every day she loathed getting dressed because she felt she had nothing to wear.
And then there’s Sarah’s husband, John, who blamed her for the lack of peace and order in their home. Clutter was a source of tension in their marriage. So much so, he hired a professional organizer. “Tell her to get rid of all her junk!” he blurted out.
John could not see, however, that he had his own battle with stuff. His was more subtle. Ten of the same basic tool cluttered the garage. Electronics he hadn’t used in five years stuffed his nightstand drawer. A large plastic tub of cords that powered who knows what consumed precious space in his closet. He hadn’t pulled anything from the box since he’d moved six years ago and couldn’t tell what they went to. His resounding answer to my gentle question, “Why are you keeping this?” was “I might need it someday.”
Maybe you find yourself in one of these stories. Or maybe you know someone who fits the profiles. Though I substituted fictional names for the sake of confidentiality, the stories, which I’ve seen time after time, are real.
Why is it so hard to let go? If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked that question during my ten years of helping others free themselves of clutter, I would be a millionaire.
I’ve seen quite the gauntlet of circumstances that led to chaos. One common thread, however, is that it’s simply hard to “let go.”
Granted, letting go is challenging in every facet of life. My approach to teaching clients how to discard clutter, therefore, differs with each situation. I’ll share a simple secret with you, though.
There’s truth in the saying “more is less.” When you keep less memorabilia—especially items passed down from family—you appreciate what you have more.
And the only way forward is to let go.
The question is: how badly do we want to move forward? Is the cost of making some hard decisions worth moving into a new sense of calm? For each of us, the struggle is different. For all of us, it’s costly.
Maybe it’s time to finally decide what price you’re willing to pay for peace in your home. How much longer do you want to remain stuck in your life and feel out of control?
Do it afraid if you have to but be brave. You’re strong enough to take a deep breath—and just let go.
Resources and Links
Check out Melissa’s website, Simple Spaces and sign up for her newsletter to get her free resource download, The 4 Heavy Hitters
Listen to the podcast episode Why Clutter is Stealing Your Peace with Melissa Capps