“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris
Just as we can fill our days with a whole lot of nothing — splattering our attention on things that don’t really matter to us — we can fill our houses with heaps of crap we don’t really want.
Just as we can cram plates and plates of empty calories into our mouths — not really nourishing ourselves, but most certainly filling ourselves — we can also cram our garages, attics and rooms with stuff that fills the empty spaces but doesn’t actually feed or fuel us.
So, why do we do this?
In part, it’s lazy thinking. Or lazy non-deciding. We allow others to decide for us. Then, we don’t ever have to be responsible for our own surroundings. (And risk being perceived as a “bitch.”) Being a victim to incoming stuff is more comfortable than clearly asking ourselves what we want to have (or not have) in our environment. “But the Lancome lady gave me this little zippy cosmetic bag I’ll never use! It was free!”
When someone has decided to step out of the role of “nice girl” or “martyr” or “victim,” one of the first things she changes is her surroundings. I’ve gone through this exact shift myself. It’s liberating. It’s fun. And it’s scary.
Why is it scary?
Because the number one stickiest reason we hang onto stuff we don’t really want is the most insidious emotion of all:
Guilt is sticky. Guilt is thick. It keeps us stuck in old patterns and beliefs. We feel safe and comfortable in those old patterns and beliefs.
After my grandma died, my mom came to visit me. She brought a bunch of stuff that had been my grandma’s. She said, “I knew you’d want this.” (You did? How’d you know that?) She left it all sitting in my living room without saying any more about it.
What she brought me was stuff she felt too guilty about throwing out. I, then, would have to be the one to carry the guilt around with me.
Guilt is the stickiest clutter issue for people. Not just women. So many people are riddled with family guilt about holding onto things – most of which they don’t like or need – because it’s the family stuff.
“It was Aunt Rita’s! She crocheted these doilies! I can’t part with them! That would make me a bad person!”
“This is a box of my grandpa’s ties! If I give them away, it will mean I no longer love him!”
Then, when your kids are old enough, you can pass those damn doilies and ties (and all that gooey sticky guilt) onto your kids. This pattern can go on for generations. All the while, Aunt Rita and your grandpa are out in the ethers shouting, “Oh for Pete’s sake, toss the damn things! They’re stained and old!”
I held onto that pile of my grandma’s things for a long time. Then, I recognized that I could choose to love my family and my friends in my own way. I didn’t have to bring sentimentality or guilt into it. Guilt is not love. Neither is sentiment. We’re taught to believe that both of those things equal love. And we might believe that keeping things around will also keep us safe and loved.
Remember this: Things – all things – have energy. If you’re not using something, or if you don’t love having it around, then it isn’t serving its purpose or its usefulness in this world. That’s not helping anybody. This idea alone has inspired me to let go of so much stuff that I didn’t want. Someone out there will happily use Aunt Rita’s doilies. (Or my grandma’s silver serving spoons!)
And, as of this writing, my grandma has never appeared to me in the dark of the night shrieking, “You wretched bitch!”
The next post will dive into other reasons we hang onto things we don’t really want.
But for today, can you think of anything in your life that don’t want, but you keep because you would feel guilty if you let it go?
Then, can you give yourself permission to let it go?