Let it go!

How do you know when it’s time to let go of something? Is there a right answer?

We spend so much of our lives trying to get stuff, from clothes to cars to jobs to relationships, that I think it’s somewhat against our nature to let things go. There comes a time, though, that we have to dispose of things that we’ve accumulated for our own well-being. When it no longer serves its purpose or no longer feels good, it’s likely time to let it go.

What are some things that we might consider getting rid of? Hard feelings, toxic relationships, objects that don’t make us feel good anymore, negative feelings that are getting in the way of personal growth or contentment. There are a number of other things that can affect our lives that we should consider dismissing from our lives.

It seems that I’ve been on a purging expedition for the past few years. I’ve reexamined relationships, living environment, finances, emotions and feelings as well as my general “stuff” that I’ve spent decades accumulating. I’m not sure that there’s necessarily one reason why we do this. Rather, I think it’s a gradual process that we go through and sometimes we’re just more aware of it than others. In my case, I think it’s a combination of events including illness, financial necessity, reprioritization of what’s important to me, and capping it off with a milestone birthday (i.e., ageing!).

We all have things that we hold onto that we know we should get rid of. Sometimes it’s emotional, like anger, grief, or resentment. Those things take a toll on us, emotionally and physically. Sometimes we’re able to process these things and move forward with our lives. Sometimes we get stuck in a perpetual replay of whatever incidents caused these feelings. Sometimes we need longer to process something that happened and that’s okay. At some point, though, we know that we’ll have to let it go, to move forward and start healing. That can mean mending a problem that we’re dealing with in order to move in a more positive direction. We can do this by letting go of something or someone or by actively addressing the problem itself. Making a decision and taking action at all is positive.

Sometimes we have ideas, principles, or beliefs that we hold dear to our heart, those things that define us; who we are, what we stand for. These things are really hard to change but sometimes we have to examine them and determine if they’re still appropriate or right for us. If you start feeling uncomfortable about things that you do or things that you think or say, it’s letting you know that perhaps those things no longer belong in your life. Our culture and our surroundings are always changing and what you used to think may no longer be applicable. It’s up to us to ensure that we are self-aware and behave according to our norms and morals. Additionally, as we age and as our life circumstances change, so do our beliefs or the things that we expect in our life. How we think about things at 15 isn’t how our circumstances are reflected when we’re 35 and certainly different than when we’re 65. Things that we experience, people that we meet, and things that happen to us throughout our life will, of course, affect the way we view things. We SHOULD be changing our beliefs and ideas about things. If we didn’t, we would always be disappointed! It’s important to let go of things that we thought should happen or we wished would have happened. We have one life to live and we need to move forward. We need to adapt our own beliefs and ideas to the person that we actually ARE and that may not be the person you expected to be.

Then there’s our STUFF. I’m a person that had (has) boxes of the kids’ stuff in my attic. Every card I received was something that I loved and wanted to keep. I have mementos from vacations and wear a t-shirt to bed that I got at Niagara Falls probably 20 years ago (OMG, I just realized it was that old). I like my stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hoarder and it’s all put away somewhere, but I have a hard time parting with things that mean something to me.

We keep things for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s simply because of where/when we received it (vacations, memorable times, etc.). Sometimes it’s because of the person that gave it to us; perhaps they’re no longer with us or you identify that person with the item. Sometimes it reminds us of better times and we hate to get rid of it. There are any number of reasons that we hold onto things and lots of them are good reasons. There are some things, however, that would benefit us to let go of.

If you’re holding onto clothes from 10 years ago because you might fit into them again, you’re constantly thinking about how you DON’T fit in them now, which is defeating.

If you’re holding onto every single piece of paper your kid brings home, trust me when I say that you’ll be able to remember their accomplishments and their personality 30 years later without looking at that picture they made in kindergarten. If you order just the school pictures you need instead of the full package just to throw away 90% of them, you’re not a bad parent. Don’t let guilt guide your decision. You don’t need to keep or buy everything!

Old batteries and light bulbs are a great example of keeping things just to keep them! How many times have you replaced either of those and held onto the spares because they MIGHT still be good and you MIGHT be able to use them at some point? No more! I’m throwing them away…starting today.

I just let go of my treadmill and exercise bike. If I had to guess, I would say that I’m not the only one with exercise equipment in my home that isn’t used (or used much). I tried to get in the habit of using them, I really did. When I walked past it, I would occasionally walk for a bit or spend some time on the bike, but it was more out of guilt than it was enjoyment or even for the benefit of exercise. I was defiant in holding onto it, though. I kept convincing myself that I would soon be in the habit of using them every day, or at least every couple of days. Why? Because I wanted to be that person! I really wanted to be the person that exercised a few times a week and was fit and toned and healthy!  I wanted to be dedicated enough to stick to it and see results. Sadly, I’m not that person.

Many times, we hold onto things, not because of the things themselves, but for what they represent. To me, that bike and treadmill represented success, diligence, and health. That’s a lot of pressure for exercise equipment. The fact that I had to admit that I don’t have the dedication I expected is something that I finally dealt with. The fact that I had to admit that I’m not physically able to use those things on a regular basis (and likely will never be) was a lot harder to accept. It was something that I’ve been trying to ignore for awhile now. That part makes me sad. So in getting rid of these two items, I’m releasing the guilt and the sadness that I lived with daily when I saw them and reminded me that I didn’t live up to my own expectations. Good riddance!

In the end, not everything is worth hanging onto, from our thoughts to our belongings. Be choosy about what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, and what you’re holding onto. Not everything benefits you. We all have things that we have to deal with. Sometimes the best course is to keep something and other times, it’s to release it. When it’s time to let it go, take a deep breath and just DO IT!