Which is where it all starts to get a bit more difficult!
Why is it so hard to give up our stuff?
As we get older, we tend to accumulate more and more stuff. As well as our own stuff, we inherit other people's stuff too - mainly stuff from deceased family members that we either want or feel obliged to keep.
We also have all our own mementos - the kids' old toys, books, books and more books, photos, stuff that might come in handy one day...
No one's saying that it'll be easy to simplify. Ask anyone who's downsized into a smaller home in retirement or moved to a more minimalist lifestyle, and they’ll tell you that there can be a lot of resistance to parting with possessions. "But it’s only stuff!", you can hear the logical part of your brain saying. So why do we have such a hard time finding a new home (including the bin/trashcan) for items we no longer need or use? (Clue: It’s all about the emotions surrounding the items that cause us to hold on tightly.)
Stuff makes us feel secure - we buy with our emotions, not logic, which means we invest emotionally in our possessions. Having a lot of stuff makes us feel safe and secure. How many things do you keep around “just in case”? Having a lot of stuff or expensive items gives us status in our society, which also makes us feel important and secure in our place in the world.
We spent our hard-earned cash on it - many people feel wasteful and guilty when they start decluttering their things. They think about how much they senselessly spent on items that are now simply cluttering up their homes, garages, basements, and sometimes even the storage space they're paying a monthly fee on.
We know we should use it - guilt also comes in the form of 'shoulds'. We should use that treadmill. We should wear that expensive suit. A lot of times we buy special or nice things and then only use them for special occasions… which are usually very rare (or we forget about them when we actually ARE preparing for a special occasion).
It was a gift - even if our least favourite aunt gives us a hideous lamp for Christmas - something we would never dream of putting out on display, we keep it in a cupboard, attic or storage unit. We feel it’s mean to donate something that someone put thought and money into, even though we hate it. So the guilt keeps us hanging onto it.
It reminds us of better times - we hold onto stuff from our past, most of which has little or no monetary value, but a large sentimental one. Keeping a few small items isn’t a big deal, but when we feel we need to keep everything from our carefree uni days or all the love letters we’ve ever received, it can take up a lot of space and emotional energy. Being unwilling to part with things that remind us of happier times can be a red flag that we aren’t happy with our current situation.
Everyone feels emotional when going through their stuff to declutter. It’s natural, so when you experience this, don’t beat yourself up. Just be aware that even though they're just things, we're typically connected to them in various ways because of the emotions that we have attached to them.
So, now we've got our heads around why it's so difficult to part with the stuff we've been hanging on to, let's have a look at some the reasons why it's a good idea to do exactly that...