Our Attachment to STUFF and the Aversion to Letting Go

We did this great exercise in our group (Clearing Clutter Support Group).  Participants were asked to bring in something they wanted to let go of (get rid of) that was difficult for them to do.  Participants came in with some interesting items from a 20 year old leather jacket, to gifts that were unwanted, broken pottery, and a huge wooden sword with a shield attached with a chain.  The first woman to volunteer had the leather jacket which had University of Toronto written on it as well as the date of 1992 on the arm.  She said it has been sitting in her closet for over 20 years and it hasn’t fit since then and of course she does not wear it.   We asked her how this item makes her feel and she quickly said “it makes me feel bad as it is just taking up space”.   She said it also holds the memory of a happy time in her life.  Now, group members are very creative and resourceful and they can come up with a list of uses for an item that would boggle your mind.  They also feel a strong responsibility of where items should be donated or recycled.   There is usually someone in the group who will say “well, do you really have to get rid of it”?   I love that question because really nobody has to get rid of anything they don’t want to, however, they really struggle with that issue.  After much discussion around ideas for what could happen to this jacket, where she should donate it, whether she should take pictures of it, the woman was asked “what do you want to do with it?”  She responded saying that she was ready and wanted to donate it to Salvation Army.   Success!!  

The next person to volunteer was a male who brought in a huge wooden sword (about 4 or 5 feet long) with a shield attached to it with a chain.  He said this has been on his balcony for many years as he had no place to hang it and has never had enough space in his apartment.  Again, group members being very helpful, resourceful and responsible asked him questions about where he got it,  what it could be used for,  and other creative ways this item could be displayed or changed in order for him to keep it.   Group members laughed when it was pointed out to them about how hard they were working at helping him to keep this item.  We asked this participant what he wanted to do with this sword set and he said very clearly that he wanted to get rid of it, however, he had some difficulty thinking about how to do this as he had brought this item on the bus.  (this can easily be a barrier for participants in thinking about how to discard an item)  Another participant offered to take it to the Palace Theatre to see if they would accept it as a donation and if not she planned to take it to another charity.  Success!!  

Another woman brought in a couple of gift items that she had received from a well-meaning friend.  She said they were not her style and she lives in a very small room so these things just became clutter that has been in the way of her enjoyment of life.  This brought up some great discussion on “gifts we do not love or want”  She clearly did not want these gifts which might make giving them away easier but it is not always like that.  She was worried about offending the gift giver and said she had feelings of guilt if she gets rid of them and also a responsibility to this friend to keep these items even though they don’t fit with her values, she has no room for them and she does not love them.   At one point, we said that sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to let these things go.   This participant was confident about saying she was ready to give these things away and said that she was able to give herself permission to let these gifts go and reported that she felt relieved and much lighter.  Success again!!

This conversation was very intense for the participants and when we were finished they took a well deserved break. 

What do you have that you think about getting rid of but have difficulty with letting go?

About Kimberley

I am a Case Manager at My Sisters' Place which is a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association London Middlesex. My Sisters' Place is a program for vulnerable women. I love my job and all the wonderful women I work with. I am very honored to do this work with women who have been through so much and are so open in sharing their stories. I initiated and designed a Clearing Clutter Support Group which I have been facilitating since 2007 with a co-worker. I love running this group and learn so much from the participants. We offer this eight week program three or four times a year. I started my business Space For You in 2010 and work with individuals in their homes as well as offer some workshops in the community. I am available to speak to groups on "De-Cluttering Your Life", "The Magic of De-Cluttering", "Space Clearing" or really anything to do with clutter and hoarding.
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