Release Challenge — Knowing When To Let Go & Dealing With Your Favorite Collection

Release, Keep, & Organize Your Collection for More Enjoyment!

January 2012 — Great Release Challenge
9 January — How to Know When To Let Go

by Silver RavenWolf
copyright 2012

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!


23 thoughts on “Release Challenge — Knowing When To Let Go & Dealing With Your Favorite Collection”

  1. Shaking my head at the number of passes it took to let go of my ex. Now I’m wondering if I could have made money by selling him. :P. Oh well. Like you said, some stuff can’t be recycled. Heh, heh. I had to pop in and try my hand at humor. Love you Mamma Silver.

    1. You always make me laugh. Last year, by the way to those reading this, SilverStar came to our house for New Year’s, and brought me a very nice present — oven cleaner and scrubbies. I used them this year when I did the oven for the 2011 release challenge. lol

  2. Love, love, love, I have been gently doing this in between school & family = )
    Thank you for helping me to keep my eyes on the the prize!
    Blessed wishes always!!!

  3. Hi Silver!
    Its Valerie in Ireland. I started the Release Challenge and then had to drop out because I moved house to the other end of the country (direct result of last Release Challenge!!)and could,nt even find the laptop charger (everything in boxes.) Also got really sick possilby from the stress of the move.
    After moving in found a whole lot of stuff left by previous tenant so my husband and I are working to clear that and get rid of lots of trash and make this place cozy!!! We need to get several small items of furniture on a tight budget so I have a feeling that the new stuff will not materialise until the old is well and truly gone!! So it looks like I will be starting the Release Challenge again sooner than I thought.
    Thank you so much for continuing on with the posts. They are really keeping me going through a very stressful time right now. I hope you had a great Yule and New Year and I wish you the very best of happiness, health, and prosperity for 2012.
    Best wishes

    1. Lovely Valerie! Yup, move of house can be incredibly stressful — you are so right on that! I feel though, that this move brings amazing opportunity for both you and your husband. Keep your eyes open and the place clutter free. Good news soon, so get super well!

  4. Hi Silver,
    Happy Full Moon!

    I found that at the end of the Great Release Program I also continued to do the cleaning work. I too have found that with less clutter that I am able to enjoy our home more and live in it not be in it and constantly stress about the clutter. 🙂 The program and the magic work was a wonderful source of cleansing and transformation thru one of the most stress-filled months of the year. Thank you Silver! I felt really empowered through each day and the process to make positive changes happen. I also see now that our house feels much lighter and more welcoming and balanced.

    This past week I tackled the gross, dusty, dirty AC unit that is stacked next to our washer/dryer in the front closet. I found out that the filter was in backwards and that air quality had probably been crap these past couple of weeks as a result. While vacuuming behind the unit I came upon a bunch of junk that was piled behind the unit a couple of years ago. NOW everything is running much better.

    I also tackled the closets again and am selling a lot of our “expensive’ junk that is just taking up space on ebay which is fun. 🙂

    Many Blessings!

    1. I’m so proud of you! Yep, E-Bay to release is an excellent idea. Too funny about the AC — filter in backwards! I also found a pile of junk hiding in the one and only closet we have in the house. You keep going!!!!

  5. Yeay! I love your three-pass system Silver, it ensures that sticky energy gets a chance to loosen up so we can rid of stuff that needs going. I have to share this with you because it’s too hilarious. Keeping the 30 day challenge at home was fairly easy. We live in a teeny apartment and by necessity have to keep clutter in control. But work…that’s a different story! I finally tossed files older than most of my students, and tackled my book stacks. I gave away about 8 boxes of books- philosophy, art, sociology, anthropology- expensive books, most of them to a student who could make a few bucks at the 2nd hand bookstore. When the last box was stacked outside my office, in comes marching an old student with two boxes of new books, some not yet published. His wife is an editor. NOW I know what you mean about nature abhorring a vacuum!

  6. Your insights are wonderful. I wish I’d found your blog earlier in this process.

    About 18 months ago, after living buried in clutter for years, I started a major life simplification process. Right now, everything I own except for the car in the driveway fits into one bedroom and half of a ten by ten storage locker. And most of what is in the storage locker is books!

    I found it was much easier to get rid of furniture (I gave it away) than it is to unload all those little bits of clutter that fill drawers and shelves and corners. It’s been especially strange because much of what I’m dealing with is not mine, but my late husband’s. It was precious to him, who am I to junk it? But much of it wasn’t precious, it was just stuff he had, just as so much of my own stuff is just stuff that’s accumulated. I’ve given some away, thrown some away, and am now using eBay. EBay is our friend — if no one on eBay wants it, it has no value besides emotional value to me. And when I pass, it will mean nothing to my heirs — why stick them with trying to figure out what to do with it?

    When I gave away all my furniture and most of my household goods (Freecycle and donation) my mother was appalled. “You could sell it!” But when I figured out that I’d have to stay an extra month in my apartment in order to properly organize a yard sale, it didn’t make sense. I’d spend more on the extra rent than I’d ever recoup for the used Ikea. And there are some wonderful pass-along moments; my baking pans that went on Freecycle wound up with sisters who had just started a home business as a bakery. I love baking, but I didn’t need to keep all that stuff. When I’m settled again, I can buy it again, if I need it. I may never need it. And now I’m not lugging it around the country or paying to store it.

    I give a fair amount of stuff to local thrift shops, but I have made it a rule not to visit that shop for a few weeks after I make a donation. It would be just to depressing for me to see one of those “emotional value” things sitting there forlornly. But if I wait a bit, I’ve never seen any of my stuff. Either it sold or they got rid of it as unsaleable; either way, I’m free of it.

    In our rural county, we also have a Swap Shed at the county dump. We can leave stuff in there for someone else to take. I gave away some high-sentimental-value stuff there, and a few things that were marginal for the resale shop. Makes me feel good, either way. Again, if no one wants it, it gets tossed, but I have made a good effort to pass it along. (I confess to taking home books from the Swap Shed, but after I’ve read them, I bring them back so someone else can enjoy them for free, too.)

    Beginning the process was the hardest part, but it has been nothing short of liberating.

  7. Silver,
    Many years ago, you wrote about using a snake on receipts to guard your money. It’s a long ingrained habit, people think I just scribble on them. Wink, wink. BUT you wrote about using a snake stamp instead. I prefer the immediacy of writing.
    If you have that in your collection, it would have huge meaning to me if I could have it. It would be something I would cherish.

    1. I will look for it. I haven’t gone through all the stamps, yet. So far I have eleven boxes ready to go and have listed five. Six more to list. Then I’ll start through the rest of the stamps. If I find it, I’ll give it to you.

  8. Thanks always for your motivation in this area! This seems to work great with your blog about the new moon and Mars going into retrograde. If we start now it will be something we can work with over the next few months. I started doing the same thing – I worked through your release progam as best as I could before the holidays. I really start to go into cleaning mode though after the holidays are over and things get quiet again. Hibernation time is a great time to be inside working on cleaning out things, because there aren’t as many outside activities. I make piles too, one pile goes to the trash, one pile goes to friends or charity and the last pile goes to the flea market to be sold. A lot of small stores sell some used items now, so you can ask your local shops if they will help you recycle your extra items.

  9. Being one of the people who got derailed during the Release Program I decided that I was not going to start the new year off continuing with unhealthy trends. My motto is “New year, new habits” and I’ve been doing a little cleaning every day starting with the kitchen (the hearth of the modern home as you pointed out). I got most of the cabinets cleaned out so far and nearly all the dishes that were in them were washed (why put dusty dishes into a clean cabinet?); cleared out and organized the dining room armoire, swept the floors, tossed out food storage containers that either didn’t have lids or didn’t have bottoms, have kept up with the cat boxes and the dishwasher daily, tossed all expired spices (one of last month’s Release postings) scrubbed the entire outside of the fridge not in front of a wall, washed couch covers and throw blankets, and put a lot of stuff aside for the thrift store. I took a 3 subject notebook, divided it into Daily, Monthly and Year and have been writing out what I want to accomplish in that period and it’s really working out well. I did that Creative Organization idea from the Release Program and posted the pictures on your wall to share it with you. Thank you so much for inspiring me and my creativity! I truly do not think things would be going so well if it had not been for last month’s program.

      1. Thank you Silver. I’ve nearly gotten the kitchen finished at this point. One more cabinet to go, the one under the sink. Due to the leak we just had and a previous one the bottom of the cabinet is horribly warped and my husband is going to rip it up and then I’ll clean that one all up. He scrubbed the top of the stove, the sink, and the backsplash. Just have to do that one cabinet, wipe down outside of oven, clean oven, and sweep and mop floor and then the entire room is done. Not a lot if you do it a little at a time as I’ve been and you have help. Kitchen should be fully complete by week’s end and then we just have to maintain it which is much easier when it’s clean. Then it’s on to the dining room! I’m not stopping, I’m tired of the house being a mess and all the negative energy here. I’ve been continuing with all the rituals we did in the Release Program and I am seeing a huge change in our lives for the better. I can already feel the energy and our spirits getting lighter as well as our overall mood. Thank you so much Silver, for the Release Program last month that is helping me start this year out in a much more positive environment. You are the best Silver, Blessed Be!

  10. This couldn’t have found this article at a better time. I have really had the urge to purge lately for these some of these exact reason. I have have less is more running through my head for prob 3 weeks now. Thank you soooo much for writing this, I’m going to get started today. Yay!!! Best wishes to you and yours Blessed Be!!

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