Why is it so hard to get rid of our old stuff?

I was going through my closet this week, pulling out clothes I haven’t worn for a long time. Yet it was almost painstaking to make myself put them in the donation bag, to let them go.

I spent the first half of my life accumulating. Toys, money, degrees, jobs, husbands (well, only a couple and one at at time!), kids, dogs, homes and all the stuff we all grow up dreaming about. You know, the things that are supposed to make us happy.

In our society, we’re taught that more is better.

Now, in the second half of my life, I’m starting to get the notion that the significant and profound lesson I’m supposed to learn is not about acquiring or accomplishing more, but rather how well I can let go.

I know. It’s scary letting go. I almost wish I hadn’t figured this out.

But in the times I’ve been able to do it, letting go, while often difficult and stressful, generally seems to lead to something better.

It all started when we were young, with little things – like sharing one of our favorite toys with a friend. So hard to do!

Then, remember how hard it was to let go of your mom’s hand when you started school for the first time? Even harder was letting go of your child’s hand, tears streaming down her little face, as you dropped her off on her first day. Next thing you know, the tears are streaming down your face as she’s getting married.

Stuff aside, what’s even more challenging is letting go of an argument. The need to be right. Learning to let things be without having to control the outcome. I’m still working on this one!

We have a letting go exercise in An Island Perspective workshop: Using our creative imagination, we visualize a handful of sand in our open palm and slowly letting it trickle through our fingers. Sand represents our thoughts and practicing letting them go, one grain (one thought) at a time.

Maybe what it all boils down to is letting go of the fear that we aren’t good enough just the way we are. So we keep accumulating, keep holding on. Trying to be . . . more.

I actually feel lighter when I let go, which can be very liberating. Truly, less can be more.

The only way we get better at letting go is to practice. Here are some ideas of things we can let go of this week:

  • The need to be perfect. None of us are, and that’s okay.
  • Some of the stuff in our closets or storage. If we haven’t worn it/used it in a year, give it away.
  • The need to be right. What’s the point in winning every argument? Would you rather be right or happy?
  • The shoulds. How many times do we do something only because we think we “should?”
  • The past. Okay, we’ve all made some dumb decisions. Let’s not beat ourselves up over them anymore.
  • Negative thoughts. A positive outlook will actually make us more successful and may even help us live longer. (Believe me, I know getting rid of negative thoughts takes a LOT of practice! But, it really can be done.)

I was pretty good at accumulating. Now I’m practicing getting better at letting go.

As we continue on our Journey to Palm Canyon, letting go may prove to be the path to true empowerment.