January 2012 — Great Release Challenge
9 January — How to Know When To Let Go
by Silver RavenWolf
Officially, we spent thirty-one days together, you and I, tornado-ing through our homes, offices, garages or vehicles in an effort to reduce the clutter and handle the daily stresses of our lives in a more spiritual way. Several folks posted that they either fell behind due to illness or family business, or wanted to actually begin the challenge program in January. Others indicated that steady support would be very helpful in the coming months. Perhaps I could write other articles that might tie into the Release Program?
Eliminating the clutter from my life this year brought me more energy than I thought possible. As I tossed bag after bag into the trash and continued to do the five-minute nightly de-clutter run through the house and the what-can-I-do-in-one-minute-or-less challenge during the day after the program was over, I realized how much of really living life I’d been missing due to wading through a house filled with far too much stuff for its size. With year three under my witchy belt it dawned on me that the more I’ve run through this program, the better I feel, and the more I can concentrate on those things I love to do. (Like right now I’m knitting a stuffed snake for my granddaughter — its going to be so cool — bells, dazzle tail — I’m on a roll.)
By the end of the program this year I learned that less is actually more. The less junk I have lying around, the more space I have. The more space I have, the better I feel. I realized that living in a mess is a major distraction that I don’t need.
The First Week of January — Parting With Something You Like or Something That Initially Cost You Money
When we finished our program, I didn’t stop. The first week of January found me continuing to drag almost 30 years of crap from the basement and out to the curb. I’m still working on that! I also finished cleaning out a cabinet I didn’t get to during the program. On Thursday night my husband asked, “What are you doing? I thought the program was over for the year? Don’t tell me we’re gonna keep going.”
Yep. And right then and there I called my daughter-in-law and asked her if she minded helping me with a few things in the coming week, including going through my vast rubber stamp collection, boxing it, and offering them on E-Bay. I haven’t used them in a year and I’d hate to throw them out. Not only did I love collecting them, I really enjoyed using many of them. However, I realized that they were taking up valuable storage space, which was constantly dusty because I had to crawl over other storage boxes to get to them, and that even though stamping was something I very much enjoy doing, there are projects I’d like to complete that won’t involve this type of craft form any time soon. I realized that the stamps fulfilled a need for art expression at the time; but, now, I’d like to fulfill that need in a different way. Still…
Letting Go Is Hard to Do
One reason why many of us won’t let go of things is because of the amount of money we spent to get the stuff in the first place. Especially if we went without something else to own the item. If we don’t somehow receive a return on our initial investment (in our minds) then we have trouble parting with the object. Sometimes this return is emotional, and other times we consider the return in financial value.
Owning an object doesn’t immediately give you a return on your money just because you can touch it whenever you want to. Holding onto an object doesn’t mean its value is actually working for you. The six big reasons for keeping or letting go of any physical object are covered in the following Object Review List:
1. Does it bring beauty into my life that I consciously welcome on a daily or cyclical basis (Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall, Religious Holidays)?
2. Am I currently using this item? If not, when did I last use it? If more than six months, consider tossing, giving away or selling.
3. Is this item necessary for my (or my family’s) survival?
4. Will I be required by law to keep this item for a particular amount of time?
5. Does this item have something to teach me that I wish to learn? If this is true, when did I last invest my time in this subject matter? Again, if you haven’t looked at the material in six months, you most likely will never get to it, and even when you do, the information you are hoarding will be probably be out of date.
6. Is the item broken? If yes, have I bothered to fix it in the last six months?
Notice that our Object Review List doesn’t mention monetary value? That’s because we’re discussing ordinary objects that often become clutter — not the Rembrandt hanging on the wall.
I have a few other questions I’ve learned to ask myself when reviewing whether to keep or let go of any object, particularly if I am having trouble letting it go:
1. Is this object of monetary value after my death? You must realistically answer this question, because in most instances the answer will be no. The twisted metal cat that I bought at the novelty shoppe for $10.00 brand new is not going to raise itself in value any time soon. Probably never. And right now, if I took it to a flea market or swap meet I’d get a buck or two for it. If the answer is an absolute yes (like a family heirloom) then who do you want to have it? Consider giving it to them now (which means there won’t be anything to fight over after your demise).
2. Was this an impulse buy that I’m now ashamed of (at worst) or uncomfortable about (at best)? Ah-ha! Didn’t expect that one, did you? Yep, our emotions rule what we keep. If we don’t want to admit we allowed advertising to sway our purchasing power or that we foolishly exhibited the kid-in-the-candy-store mentality on a particular item, we may emotionally dig in our heels when trying to let go of an object. Here, we really already got our money’s worth because we were going for the emotional high at the time; but, we don’t want to admit that such an impulse cost us monetarily. The one very nice thing about asking yourself this question repeatedly when clearing your clutter is the next time you have that gimme-gimme-impulse, you may not succumb to it. Granted, this takes a while to become ingrained; but, if you ask yourself the question enough times when shopping, eventually you will be able to walk into a store and NOT fill your cart with say — the latest rubber stamps — because you know darned well you’re not going to use them anytime soon. Being able to say no (I can tell you from experience) is incredibly empowering. Eventually, you will walk out of a store grinning because your common sense prevailed.
3. Did I make money off my investment? Did I use the object in some way to bring money into the household? If I did, have I covered my initial expense?
Let’s go back to my rubber stamp collection and answer all those questions.
1. Beauty? No, haven’t touched them in almost a year.
2. Currently in use? No.
3. Do I need rubber stamps to survive? No.
4. Will I be required by law to keep my rubber stamps? No.
5. Will my stamps teach me anything? No.
6. Are my stamps broken or damaged? No. Some are new, some are gently used.
Okay, let’s ask those other three questions.
1. Are these stamps worth money after my death? No. Rubber cracks and dries out. They won’t make it that long (hopefully).
2. Were these an impulse buy? Yes and No — some were, some were not.
3. Has any income gained by using this object covered the initial expense? Yes and No. Some designs more than covered what I spent for the stamps, other stamps did not. Collectively, however, when viewing the entire group, the answer would be use, I at least broke even.
One of these nine questions will be your “kicker” question if answered honestly. It could be any of the above (or one I didn’t think of), and, for different objects the “kicker” question will also vary. When you hit that question and are truthful in your response, you will know whether or not the time is right to give away, toss, or sell the item.
How Many Passes Does It Take? The Three Pass Technique
I’ve learned that where you can easily let some things go right away (trash, for instance) there will be other items that aren’t so easy to release. They may be emotionally loaded items, or objects that are still useful (even though you’re not currently using them). This stuttering to let go often occurs with a collection of like objects — like my rubber stamps (something I’ve finally decided to let go of) or a movie collection (that I use here as an example as well). Sometimes, it is easier to go through a collection with a little help from a sympathetic partner (not the I-told-you-so-kind) friend, or family member. To help me release my rubber stamps, something I used and loved, I enlisted the assistance of my daughter-in-law. Just having her there to help separate and box cut the time in half and gave me someone to talk to while doing the task. This made the stamps much easier to release and turned the experience into something fun (we raced each other to see who could work faster).
For any type of collection, I use the Three Pass Technique. The first time I go through a group of related items (books, music, tools, movies, rubber stamps, old art supplies, photographs, etc.) I throw out anything broken or anything I absolutely despise. For example, last summer I threw out a few horror movies that I wouldn’t put on for a dog to watch. These movies were just so disgusting that I had no interest in either giving them away or selling them. At this point, I made my first emotional break from the collection by admitting that I wasted my money on these awful movies, and it was time to move on. Cracked DVD’s and those so scratched they would never work again also left the building.
The second pass occurs either a few weeks, or even a few months later. In a few instances, an entire year (such as old software, when I’m absolutely sure I will no longer need it). The second pass focuses on what I’d like to give away to someone I know who would enjoy the items. In the movies example, we knew one person my husband works with that uses VCR tapes — he was given most of these. I also have a large English mystery collection as well, and I knew a circle member who loves this type of film, too. He received all of those. This is the second emotional break — giving away to someone who you know will enjoy the item.
The third pass, for me, is the “sell” pass (if the item is worth selling) or the give to a stranger pass (if the item is in good condition). If neither of these two instances apply, the third pass is normally where much of the stuff hits the trash can OR as in a my movie collection, awaits another Three Pass Technique later down the road. This third pass often represents the final emotional break from the collection as it once stood.
The third pass can be tricky because many people say, “I can make money from this,” and then never go any further with it. In this third pass, you must be in agreement with yourself that you will, within a specified amount of time that you give yourself, sell the items if that’s what you said you were going to do. Just setting the thing aside and saying, “I can sell this” doesn’t cut it. Many people do not really want to put in the effort to sell their junk because it takes time and usually some type of investment (unless you find an avenue that doesn’t require an upfront expense). However, it doesn’t end there if you are selling. Many people have the misconception that their junk is worth big money. Um, unless it is an antique — most likely not. The emotional hurdle of value and how you’re going to handle it now comes into play. Some people purposefully overprice items, particularly emotionally loaded stuff, because either they subconsciously know the thing won’t sell or because they have unrealistically attached value that isn’t there. I have found that if you have really and truly let go of something, and place it on the market at a reasonable price, a buyer will appear. I have also learned that if you find joy in providing a bargain for someone, you will reap a delightful emotional reward. Those movies on that third pass? My son decided to have a yard sale last summer. I actually hadn’t put out my movies as we were focusing on other items. A neighbor who sells things at the flea market looked over several of the items on the table, and then, after purchasing many of our things, took the chance to ask if we had any movies we’d like to sell. “I know you don’t have any out here,” he said, “but, I can usually unload movies pretty quick.” I went right in the house and brought out a big box. We agreed on a bargain price for him, and the delight of mine that I could get rid of them.
In the third pass of any collection, now is the time for arranging and labeling of those items that made it through your release process. Use your creativity! Look for eye-pleasing storage that is easy to access. Alphabetize things like music, books, and movies, or arrange them by category, and then alphabetically. Be inventive! That’s the fun of owning a collection — working with it, rather than against it.
By keeping your collection organized, you are much more likely to use it! That’s right! We often don’t enjoy our collections if they are disorganized and messy because it takes too much time to find what we’re looking for within the collection. If everything is neatly arranged and easy to see, we’re apt to reach for it and find delight in it more often.
Oddly enough, less can mean more. More enjoyment. More time. More space. More peace.
That’s definitely worthwhile!