Moving is overwhelming to begin with so the thought of letting go of items in order to downsize can seem daunting and incredibly emotional. Here are seven tips to help you "Let it Go." (Cue the theme song from "Frozen" here)
When I work with clients who are downsizing to a smaller home, one of the hardest chores they face is letting go of sentimental belongings they no longer have room for. Souvenirs collected during travels, family heirlooms, and children’s keepsakes can be quite stressful to part with. It doesn’t matter whether the items have monetary value or not; in fact, often the most difficult items to let go of are worthless in terms of money, but priceless in sentimental value.
Here are some tips to help people part with belongings they are attached to but no longer want to keep. You may think some of these are woo-woo but trust me, they work.
1. Remember that our memories reside within us, not within our possessions.
Psychologists say that letting go of sentimental items can be extremely therapeutic. When we keep things, the items occupy both physical and mental space in our lives. It’s healthier to focus on memories and not the items that represent the memories.
2. Focus on the present.
Letting go also helps to bring focus to the present. Sometimes things are continual reminders of the past and hold us back from living in the present. Dwelling in the past can make one more prone to depression and can affect our ability to deal with the stressful situations in our lives. Realize that while we can always cherish our memories, we don’t need the past to be happy in the present.
3. Let go of guilt.
People often hold onto an item they don’t want or need because someone special gave it to them or it represents a special person. Learn to let go of the guilt associated with getting rid of gifts that aren’t being used. Appreciate the thoughtfulness of the giver or the special memory it represents but pass the item on to someone else who can use it or donate it to charity.
4. Don't save it for grown children.
Times have changed and today more young adults are able to buy their own furnishings. And they aren’t as sentimental about family heirlooms as prior generations were. Talk to kids now and find out if they are interested in the china, crystal, and silver tea service before holding onto it for years.
5. Compromise with your spouse.
It’s not uncommon for one spouse to resent the others’ favorite belongings while holding onto their own special stuff. It’s important to recognize that, while we may not understand our spouse’s need to keep every comic book they’ve ever read. They may feel the same way about us keeping so many pairs of shoes that rarely get worn. (But they’re so cute, can you blame me?) Decide together on a reasonable number of items to keep together.
6. Start with the easy stuff.
If there are a lot of belongings to sort through, start with the easier decisions and work from there. Often people find that once they get some momentum going it feels good to let go.
7. Write a family memoir.
Hold onto memories with words instead of things by writing a memoir or a family story. Writing the family story can be very therapeutic and can help release a hold on tangible items. For extra help, try a service like Storyworth.com.