What Happens When You Start To Let Go Of Your Stuff?
What is one thing that you just cannot bring yourself to let go of?
A carefully folded note? A tattered blanket? A pair of shoes?
Think about it…
I look around my home and work space and notice a few things here, a few more things there, all covered in a generous layer of dust or settled into a corner of the room. It presents a testament to their non-use, so I know I am one of those people.
How about you? What is your story? And why is it your story?
Let us delve into this all too familiar phenomenon.
Many people have items that they just cannot seem to consider parting with.
As I said, I am no exception.
Listen to this:
I have been teaching for over thirty years in one school. I know, who does that anymore, right?
And during this time I have kept one thing with me from the very first day: my big, old, hefty wooden desk.
Rumor has it that it was made by Stickley, back when Stickley furnished our schools with desks, chairs, tables, cabinets and bookshelves.
I inherited this desk when I took over a third-grade classroom my very first year and we have been inseparable since.
We have been housed both upstairs and downstairs in our building. We have worked with young minds and hearts from five to thirteen years old. We have met with parents, teachers, administrators and consultants. We have supported art projects, heart-to-hearts and lunch groups.
This desk has witnessed my greatest and not-so-greatest teaching moments.
You can bet that many a custodian have tried to ‘upgrade’ me to a fancy metal desk, but no - why change when this one is still in tip-top shape?
So, wherever I move to within this second home of mine, I take this desk with me.
Now, the funny thing is that I so rarely ever actually sit at this desk.
I store things in it and on it. I invite students to sit at it. But I no longer sit and use it as a traditional desk.
Four years ago when I was moving once again to another space in our building, downsizing to a smaller office, I just had to bring it with me. I made sure to carve just enough space out in one corner of the room for it.
Just thinking about getting rid of it hurt, partly because it connected me to day one and partly because I knew no one else would want this ‘old’ desk and it would end up in a junk pile somewhere.
So along it came.
Fast-forward to yesterday.
There are two of us sharing office space, and now a third is going to join us.
She came in as a brand-new teacher, looking around for a space to call her own in this space my roommate and I have already been calling our own. I knew the perfect thing to do: offer her the desk!
It. Just. Felt. Right.
And easy. And exciting.
So today I began cleaning out the drawers, moving the things I am choosing to keep into a little plastic drawer-cart. Not as handsome, sturdy, or welcoming as my Stickley desk, but it suits my needs fine now.
I know that in the back of my mind I was convinced this was the perfect way for me to part with my desk: the desk is still with me, I will see it every day, and I know it is needed and used, but it is not ‘mine’.
Just the baby steps I apparently needed, seeing as they happened so effortlessly and genuinely.
Why hold on?
Many of us choose to make attachments, so why might you choose to hold on to something?
One reason is for the connection it provides.
Items are often associated with people or moments that are important in your life. They remind you of special dates, events, words, feelings. When you see these items it is like you are taken back in time and get to reconnect with that person or moment for a quick second ~ nostalgia.
For me, the desk connects me to my students and experiences from year to year, through all of my exploring and growing as a teacher. I am reminded of all the folks (students, parents, colleagues) who have helped me become who I am today, and who continue to help me evolve.
Another reason is for the comfort it provides.
Some items soothe you and comfort you just by being present. You might find yourself singing a silly song your grandpa used to sing to make you giggle when you were upset. Or perhaps you could always fall asleep with your favorite blanket when you were a child, so having that nearby helps you fall asleep now when you are having a restless night. A seashell you had picked up by the ocean, where the days were peaceful and warm, brings you that same peace and warmth when you hold it now.
My desk brings me comfort. It is a safe place to rest my head at the end of the day, and to hold my valuables and necessities. Just the distinguished wooden smell of it reminds me of strength and reliability.
One more reason is for necessity.
There are times when you just have to hold on to whatever it is you are holding on to. You are still using it. You do not have the means to replace it, even though you would like to. You cannot find another item just like it or better (this is my particular reason for holding onto shoes!).
For many years I thought, “I am a teacher, and a teacher has a desk.”, so I had a desk. Then I began to really appreciate my desk for all that it is and utilize it in a million different ways. One of the reasons I kept this “old” desk is because none of the “new” desks were just like it or any better.
As with so many other decisions I have wrestled with over the years, the advice of “You will know when…” is so true.
When it comes to parting with your special-somethings, you will know when the time is right. You may hem and haw about the situation forever, but many times you will not even see it coming and suddenly you are offering a stranger your prized possession.
Because it feels right.
What happens next?
Okay, so you have had your epiphany and have let go of something you have been holding on to. What happens then?
Oftentimes it may feel freeing, especially if this is something you have been thinking about letting go of for a while. Letting go does not mean that the item (and all it is associated with) is no longer important to you or holds no meaning.
It means that you are in a space where you no longer need the actual, physical item to conjure up the special significance of that item. You carry its significance with you wherever you are because it has become a part of your thought and emotional patterns.
You may also open the door to that infinite cycle of giving and receiving. By giving something of yours away you are making room to receive something more in turn. Who knows what may show up on your doorstep? Perhaps something you have been wishing for, or perhaps something you never dreamed of.
The action of making room for the receiving opportunity initiates a domino effect. You know the saying, “The universe conspires to help the dreamer” (Paulo Coelho)?
Set that give-receive cycle in motion and be open to the gifts.
While you appreciate and know the value of what you hold, that same item may also bring connection, comfort, or fill a need for someone else. When you share your special item with someone else you multiply joy – your own for sharing and seeing their joy, and theirs, for receiving your gift.
So, what is your story? And why?
Why not share it with us.
“Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Want to consciously navigate your journey of “letting go” with grace, harmony and maybe even a little humor? Let’s talk! Schedule your free Discovery Session here.
If the sun is shining, my Crosstrek is calling me to fill up her tank, throw open her sunroof, and head for the back-roads. With wind in my hair, I smile at everyone I see. Grace smiles back at me (even through the trees).