Separation Anxiety

“Letting go doesn’t just mean letting go of the past, but letting go of an unknown future; and embracing NOW.” - Michelle Cruz-Rosado

Recently I was working with a client who was decluttering and downsizing from a full house to a small apartment in a retirement community. As we were trying to separate her belongings into "Keep", "Sell" and "Donate" piles, it became clear that she was very reluctant to let go of her things. What makes people grow so attached to their possessions?


Monetary value? Sentimental value?

Helping someone overcome the desire to hang on to their things depends on what is motivating them.

"It's worth a lot of money" and "I might need it someday" are examples of thinking an object has monetary value. The problem is that most things are not worth what we think they are, and keeping an item for "someday" is only possible if you have unlimited storage space.


When moving, focusing on the here and now is important. When something has sentimental value it is even more difficult to let go. These things remind us of people, places and events that have been important to us. Part of my job is to help people prioritize and be selective with their souvenirs.


The other part of my job is to make sure their "unwanted" things get removed from the house quickly so that there are no retrievals. It is so tempting for some people to just go back and rake through the boxes and bags to recover some trinket they hadn't seen in 20 years, because all of a sudden it brings back a cherished memory and has sentimental value. That's the thing with memories...I try to gently remind my clients that a good memory will always remain with you, in your heart and in your mind, whether you hold onto the trinket or not. When decluttering and downsizing, it is very important to focus on where you're going rather than where you've been. Yes, remember the old, but you don't need "stuff" to do that. Also, look forward to the new! And plan on making more wonderful memories!

Yes, It can be difficult. But with a little bit of empathy and understanding, we can work together to take the anxiety and stress out of downsizing.
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