Raise your hand if you own something that you don’t currently use. Think of your closets, drawers, attics and basements. Now that most of us are holding up our hands, let me explain why. I believe there are deep reasons that we hold onto things. And I believe these reasons can teach us about who we are and where we’re going.
Think about your unused items. Maybe they fall under one category, like clothing that no longer fits or books from a previous hobby. Or perhaps there is a wide range of items. No matter how good you are at eliminating clutter, I guarantee most of you can come up with at least a small list of items.
The major reason we keep things that we are not currently using is we feel that they are a reflection of who we are, who we were or who we want to be. They are a reflection of a part of us that we are unwilling to release. What you keep is a great guide. These items are doing one of two things: they are serving as a reminder of a goal, or they are actually holding us back.
Jana, mother of two, is practical and organized. In one corner of her very tidy basement is a stack of totes with fabric and supplies and a sewing machine. It is clear that the area is storage. At first glance, these items seem innocuous enough. What struck me about this situation is that Jana had an area upstairs designated for the kids for crafts and yet here was her creativity stored in the basement. Furthermore, when asked, she revealed that her background is in fashion and she had a strong identity with the field. But, when the kids were born, her focus became the family. Now that the kids are in school, she longs to continue her career in fashion but has settled for other work. A look in her closet reveals high fashion clothing that was pushed aside for more “practical” pieces. Jana keeps all of these items as a reflection of who she was and longs to become again.Â
Tom is a lawyer turned healer. He currently has a healing practice that is a little touch and go. A look at his bookshelf reveals a wide variety of books, including a large stack of law books on the bottom shelf. Tom explains that though he no longer uses the books and hasn’t for some time, he is resistant to getting rid of them. He further explains that no part of him wants to return to law, but he may have to “at this rate.”Â
In both of these situations the unused items hold a subconscious purpose. But, holding on to the items are not serving their primary goals. We always have our “practical” reasons for why we keep things. But behind those reasons is what I feel is the truth: a goal or an obstacle.Â
Jana had a goal to regain her image. A way for her to do that was to start integrating her old items into her current lifestyle. What worked would remain and what didn’t would get retired. She began to dress more fashionably again, recognizing that a lot of what she had kept wasn’t actually a reflection of her present state. She also designated a small area for her own creativity upstairs.
Tom had a career obstacle; the fear he would fail at healing and have to return to law. His choice to keep his books supported his fear and therefore the manifestation of his fear. For Tom, I suggested that it was time to release the old law books; trusting that he would not need them again and that furthermore if he did return to law, the outdated books would no longer serve him. If he was unable to release them immediately, I suggested that he remove them from his main bookcase which should be a reflection of his current work and interests.
So, as you look at the items on your own list, recognize why you may be hanging on. Don’t settle for your “own practical reasons,” but rather look at the deeper attachment. And then it’s time to either let go of the item that is no longer a reflection of who you are or hang onto it and become who you want to be!