5 Things You're Hanging Onto, But Shouldn't (and How to Finally Let Go)

5 Things You're Hanging Onto, But Shouldn't (and How to Finally Let Go)

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Nancy Mitchell
Jul 31, 2015

Why do I have so much stuff? Chances are that at some point in your life, you've asked yourself this, especially if you move a lot. Where do all the things come from? And why is it so hard to give them away? I think part of the problem is that stuff isn't just stuff — we develop complicated relationships and associations with the things we own. Here are five kinds of things that can be especially difficult to part with — and how you can finally let them go.

Things that have sentimental value.
I am one of the most sentimental people alive, and I recognize how hard it is to get rid of things that you connect to certain valuable memories. The good thing is that, in the digital age, it's easier than ever to keep the memories without keeping the stuff. Allot yourself a certain amount of space: a shoebox, a big Tupperware container, maybe a small closet, depending on the size of your home and your degree of nostalgia. You can keep the really important things — for the rest of the stuff, you can document it, either with photo or video (and even share it with relevant friends on social media) and then give it away.

Gifts.
The people you love may know you really well, but sometimes they're not the best at knowing exactly what you would want. Getting rid of gifts can be awkward because, even if they don't know, it somehow seems like a betrayal of the gift-giver. But here's the thing: the point of gift giving is to express thoughtfulness, not to saddle people with stuff that they'll never use. If you've expressed adequate gratitude for the gift and you're subtle about it, I think it's perfectly ok to pass something along.

Once exception: if the gift giver comes to your house often and would be liable to be upset by the disappearance of the gift (and especially if it's something handmade or one of a kind), keeping it on hand might be the best option. Even if it's something you wouldn't have chosen for yourself, it's still a reminder of a dear friend, and friendships > perfect house.

Things you paid a lot of money for.
Maybe you feel bad about all the money you spend on that rug that just doesn't look quite right in your living room. You could afford to buy a new one, but you can't help cringing about how much money you wasted. Here's the truth, though: suffering through life with the ugly rug will not help you recoup a single cent. It will just make you feel guilty. If you paid a lot of money for something, it probably still has value, so sell it and use the money to buy something you do like.

Things you keep thinking you'll use someday but haven't.
You've had that punch bowl you bought at the Salvation Army for four years, and yet you've never made punch. I think a lot of us fall into the trap of buying things for the life we wish we had, not the life we actually do have. Either that, or you have tons of things that you got for cheap, or secondhand, that you keep thinking you'll use someday, but then you don't. If you haven't used something in a couple of years, chances are the space that thing takes up is more useful to you than the thing itself.

Things you used to like but don't.
It's likely that throughout your life, your tastes will change a lot, and that may mean that you'll find yourself with some things that you used to really love but don't care for much anymore. I know I tend to suffer from a sort of strange obligation to these sorts of things: giving away that chair or blanket that I used to really love somehow seems like a betrayal of my past self.

I think you just have to be honest with yourself when things really aren't working. By passing these things on to other people, you can give them new life in a place where they're appreciated, and free up your space, and your mind, for new possibilities.

And if all else fails, listen to this (and maybe sing along) while populating your outbox. You're welcome.

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