One of the most significant blockers to letting go of stuff is a reluctance to part with our old self and past identities. This might come in the form of old textbooks from your degree or masters, equipment or uniforms for a job you no longer do or materials for a hobby that doesn’t spark joy anymore.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Things we used to be or do play a significant role in our past, however they also don’t serve us in the present or help us to move on in the future. If you struggle with this, yet you want to declutter your space, here are a few things you can do to help move things along…

Thank the stuff for serving you at the time: As Marie Kondo advocates- it’s important to thank your possessions for the pleasure they gave you at the time or the purpose they served. Acknowledge this gratitude by taking each item in your hands, thank it and say goodbye to it. This is a beneficial exercise if you want to pay your respects to the things, the money you spent on them and the joy/function they brought you at some point in your life. 

Consider how this past identity has brought you to your new one: While the old essay from your dissertation might be useless to you now, it helped you to get your degree and gave you a stepping stone into your current career. This collection of papers enabled you to get to where you are today but you are no longer a student- you have moved beyond this and progressed much further now and it’s important to remember how far you’ve come and not dwell in your years of study. 

Remember the pleasure you got from something at the time: Try to recall how much you loved to horse ride or crochet and focus on how wonderful it would be to be able to pass on your tools and equipment to someone who is in that place right now. You are not- and that is ok- but rather than keeping the items associated with this hobby dormant in a box- let someone else dust them off and enjoy them as they deserve to be. 

Make a list: Sometimes visual aids can help- so if you are this way inclined- you could make a list of past hobbies and interests or your past self and in a column next to it- write where you are now. 

Perhaps you used to enjoy writing but you have been drawn to reading more lately.

Maybe you once considered yourself a mountain hiker but now you prefer a short walk on the flat around your local area. 

It’s possible you trained as a journalist but you changed career and are now a nurse.

Whatever is in your list- the important thing is to see that for everything you left behind- you found a replacement- something you treasure more in the here and now. People are allowed to change at any point they choose so celebrate who you are now- not who you used to be. 

Think about how the things that belonged to your past self make you feel now: Chances are you will feel a wave of negativity at the unfinished projects, the money spent and the sheer amount of stuff this all amounts to. No one needs these constant reminders in their life- it drags you down and holds you in the past. To release yourself of things will help you to look forward rather than back. Keep only the things that bring you pleasure to look at and use. 

Explore the feelings around the items: Sometimes it’s not the hobby/job itself that we miss but the things that were associated with it. For instance, perhaps you liked to draw, but you went to the lessons each week because you got on really well with the other people in your class and enjoyed the social side of it. 

You may be sentimental about a job you no longer work at, however it wasn’t the day to day tasks that appealed but the team you worked with that turned it into such a positive time in your life.

Remember memories are within you, not your stuff: If you sell your camping equipment, your memories of going away with your family won’t go along with the items. If you give away your fishing gear, no one can erase your mind of the times you enjoyed on the riverbanks with your best friend. Our memories stay with us, even when the items have long gone and if you feel you need a trigger for such thoughts, take photos of the pieces to help you to remember and then let the physical things go. 

RELATED: Lisa Bronner discusses minimalism, the decluttering of old identities and your past self

Lisa Bronner has come up with a fool proof way to make sure you don’t find yourself sitting amongst the same unwanted items this year, so we spent some time with her to talk about her theories on minimalism, decluttering and letting go of versions of yourself that no longer exist... to read more click HERE 


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