Freedom from Things

Decluttering and downsizing can lead to a sense of freedom that is very powerful. But decluttering and downsizing after moving is usually stressful and results in anxiety, depression and even a bit of anger. I have helped people downsize who either procrastinated or had an event that took away the luxury of time. They get frustrated once they realize how much stuff is in their homes, and it seems with every box filled, the mess doubles.

Rushing also usually means cherished possessions get tossed into boxes along with a mixture of linens, paper plates, and unused picture frames. Then, boxes are crammed into a storage unit only to collect spiders and cobwebs until someday the kids will have time to go through it – may be. Those storage units remind me of the Twilight Zone.

It is regrettable when there isn’t time to casually go through belongings, relish in the memories, and then decide whether to keep it, give it away, or sell it. When you have the time, you have more power over the outcome. Without time to think, it can be overwhelming. Let’s face it, even if there isn’t a compelling reason to move quickly; there are usually things more pressing or enjoyable to do other than sort through a lifetime of memories intertwined with ‘stuff.’

If you are considering downsizing, do yourself a huge favor and start a year or two in advance. Avoid an unorganized rush to separate stuff from valuable possessions. It is truly empowering and satisfying to leisurely go through the house one drawer at a time, one closet here, one box there. It is in this way, that downsizing can be a positive experience.

People, especially myself as a Baby Boomer, assign meanings or emotions to almost every object in our home. We cling to a past feeling even if it means tucking treasures into the crevices of basements, attics, garages, or worse yet, storage units. Many of us are hoarders at one level or another.

We keep things for lots of reasons. I think primarily because objects have been carefully wrapped and guarded with the memory of an event or person. Some of the memories are good, some not so good – but memories none the less.

When I began to downsize, I felt that getting rid of some things was analogous to getting rid of the memories. That was the scary feeling – also known as irrational fear or anxiety. 
I didn’t want to let go of other stuff because of …guilt. I felt guilty because I bought things and then didn’t use them. I had stuffed the guilty feeling in the back of the closet with the food processor and the juicer, and it was hard to face.
Then, of course, there is anxiety associated with getting caught selling or giving away gifts received over the years. What if they found out?

There came a point after the second huge garage sale, where it felt like stuff was breeding and multiplying and that the pile was growing – there was too much stuff to deal with. UGHHHH!!!!! That’s when a little anger crept in. But, anger is a built-in human emotion which can be used positively if it is tamed. I used it to break free of clinging to stuff, fill the SUV up a couple of times, drive to the Salvation Army and let go. I was finally out of self-imposed clutter jail.

One of the most challenging burdens of downsizing and decluttering was digging through my parents’ boxes of photographs and my 55-year collection of pictures. The thought that throwing away a picture of a family member might cause something bad to happen to them, conjured up guilt fear and depression all at once. Does anyone else have thoughts like that besides me?

Well, the only way to get it done was to start doing it. After I threw away 99% of the photos my parents left behind of people I did not know of, I went through my collection of pictures from my childhood, a failed marriage, and my daughter’s first 18 years. It was then I realized I didn’t want my daughter sitting in the middle of a room full of boxes stuffed with photographs not knowing what to do. That helped me move along.

I ended up with a 5’ by 5’ storage unit worth all my belongings but clothing, office equipment and toiletries. No more house to take care of either. I rented a beautiful room in a lovely home for a couple of years and enjoyed the freedom of not having to get on the roof and clean my gutters.

I help clients now with decluttering and downsizing. Some clients have the leisure to be organized and methodical. Some don’t. My husband and I have assisted the elderly move by renting U-hauls and carrying furniture and belongings to new homes and storage units. I am a person first, then a Realtor.

I look at letting go of ‘things’ like I looked at letting go of alcohol, smoking and eating disorders. It was like being released from self-imposed food-jail, alcohol jail, and cigarette jail. Freedom from things in this world is lightening and enlightening at the same time.

If you are struggling with a closed in, helpless feeling of being controlled by your stuff, pick up something and give it away. Take stock of how it feels when you see someone appreciates it. One step at a time, until the positive feeling of being in control, takes over and opens the skies for you.

Thanks for taking this journey with me and by the way, I wrote a guide called “Decluttered Happiness” that has helped many remove the cluttered weight around their neck. I want to help as many people experience what I experienced. Click “Learn More” to get your guide and start experiencing a freedom that comes from a decluttered life!

I am a baby boomer. At age 55 I chose to minimize my life. My daughter was going to college soon, and I wanted to be free to make choices quickly. I didn’t want to be encumbered by my 55-year collection of ‘stuff’ – stuff I had bought, things I had collected, stuff people had given me, stuff that I had no idea how I came to own.

I had the luxury of an extended period to execute my downsize. It was a two-year period from my decision to act, to the point where my belongings fit into a five by five storage unit. Then I sold my home and rented a room in a gorgeous house while deciding what to do with this glorious freedom. Of course, that is an extreme downsizing, but the thought process is not unique.

Five years later I am happily married, living in Reno, NV, and my life has never been more joyful. The process of letting go of material things led to a positive emotional experience I only dreamed of.

It wasn’t easy to downsize – at first. One of the more compelling reasons to keep something was that it was tied to a memory. Some of the memories were good, some not so good – but memories none the less. I thought getting rid of a thing was analogous to getting rid of the memory.

Another reason I clung to specific items was the guilt associated with buying something and then not using it. It would be admitting to myself I made an impulsive, wasteful purchase.

Then, of course, selling or giving away the many gifts received over the years felt like I was not appreciative and that I would be hurting someone’s feelings. The words “bad girl” kept creeping into my mind.

What about family pictures? Oh my gosh. How could I throw away a picture of my daughter, even though I had hundreds of every stage of life and every cute thing she ever did? It felt like I was doing something that would cause something evil to happen to my daughter. It’s funny how our minds work to make us cling to objects.

As I struggled to clear out boxes and boxes of photographs and other items I inherited when my parents passed away, I realized I didn’t want my daughter to have to go through this experience. It was irritating and frustrating and overwhelming. There were hundreds of pictures of people I knew nothing about and didn’t recognize. Well, it got easier. It gets easier, in stages.

It took three times of going through every cupboard, nook, and cranny in my home to get to the point where I literally loaded the car and took everything left to the Salvation Army and didn’t look back. During that two-year period, I had three garage sales and multiple sales on Craigslist and eBay.

Unfortunately, sometimes people need to downsize or move without the luxury of time to organize and think about what is essential for them to keep. That is when things are speedily packed in boxes and stacked in a storage unit, many times never to be seen again by the owners. I do what I can to help as soon as I am asked.

The point of my story is that I made a choice to have a choice. I now help other people downsize. I call the process “Choices for Change.” I wrote a guide called “Decluttered Happiness” that has helped many remove the cluttered weight around their neck. I want to help as many people experience what I experienced. Click “Learn More” to get your guide and start experiencing a freedom that comes from a decluttered life!

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