The Art of Letting go

What was life like for you growing up? Did you live in an environment that was clean and tidy, or messy and cluttered? Were you able to feel at ease or was it like walking on eggshells as you waited for the next person to blow up? We all grew up in homes with some level of discomfort, and in order to feel a sense of comfort, belonging and safety, we adapted. As children, we develop attachments to our caregivers, family, friends and community. These attachments also extend to our belongings and spaces. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase children are like sponges. This is very evident when seeing the mirror reflections of how a child becomes an adult and mirrors the patterns of their parents, unless they’ve made a conscious decision to change and take steps to follow through. We learn as children the meaning of money, belongings, what to do with them and when to let them go. For example, I remember my mom going through her clothing each time the seasons changed. She would let go of some and see what items needed to be replaced. She did this periodically with other areas of the home. I learned that it was ok to let go of things if you weren’t using them and they were no longer in good condition. This helped me do the same as an adult.

How did it get into your home in the first place?

The journey of your belongings starts somewhere. First from what you learned as a child from the moment an item came into your home to the moment it left, or didn’t leave. Take some time to ask yourself the questions below to understand your beliefs and blocks around letting go of items and where they originated. 

  • Did someone give the item to you?
  • You got excited because you found a free item?
  • Do you feel the need to buy something all the time?
  • Did you buy it to replace something you can’t find?

If you notice that not all your habits of acquiring items came from your family, that’s ok. Sometimes we have life experiences that change us, and we develop coping behaviours to deal with these challenging experiences. For example, getting divorced and going from a large home to a small apartment. Often when this happens the individual will feel that they have lost everything and only have their physical belongings left. There is no room for all of them, they are no longer of use, yet this loss and fear of not having enough to survive kicks in. Being able to recognize this is very powerful. Once you have awareness, you can decide to change.

What keeps you holding on?

Once items get into your home there are a number of factors that keep them there, everything from attachments, beliefs and even reinforcement factors. Some reinforcement factors that keep the clutter there are:

  • Putting off clearing the clutter
  • Avoiding doing it
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Have a hard time making decisions
  • Acquiring more items than you need
  • Not letting any items go
  • Having a hard time with time management overall
  • Self control or lack of self control
  • Difficulty maintaining a routine and planning
  • Dealing with a very stressful time in your life

Attachments to your belongings

I’ve spoken about attachments in other blogs like this one.  These types of attachment can also be grouped into the following categories:

  1. Instrumental – You keep something because it will be useful at some point
  2. Sentimental – The emotional meaning you give something from a past meaningful experience or the connection to the person who gave it to you
  3. Intrinsic – Refers to the attachment to the quality of an object, like a painting. You appreciate its beauty or design
  4. Energetic – The connection to the items themselves, you feel bonded with them and feel like they are a part of you.
  5. Beliefs – You have an attachment to a belief that you need to do or behave in a certain way that requires you to keep, buy or use particular items. This usually happens around environmental, cleanliness, or how you store an item.

Each of these types of attachment keep you holding on, not only to the item, but the belief, energy, and behaviours that make your life unmanageable. 

Behaviours and beliefs that create clutter and make it hard to let go

  1. Self-doubt – You worry that you won’t remember, have a hard time making decisions and your ability to do either. 
  2. Guilt – You feel bad for not using, liking or wanting to keep an item someone gave you. This guilt is so strong that you can’t let the item go out of fear of judgement, being confronted or disappointing someone. This is usually binded with shame
  3. Need for perfection – You believe that there is  only one perfect way to store something, the perfect way to do something, or perfect type of items that you need to research before buying. This creates more clutter, because it doesn’t get done or there is a need for more space because of the way the items are being stored.
  4. Lost opportunity – If you let go of the item you will miss out on an opportunity, ie. keeping a business card but never contacting the person
  5. Feeling responsible – Someone gave you something or you bought something and you feel responsible to use it, keep it and not let it go. This can come with a sense of need to protect the environment and not wanting to create waste or other ethical beliefs.
  6. Habits and behaviours – You believe that there is only one way to do something, which likely creates more work for yourself. This need to do something in a particular way or keep something sometimes developed out of a need to feel safe.

How to Let Go

Letting go is more than just keeping things that you like and letting go of the rest. It’s about getting clear on what matters to you, what life you want to live and how your belongings can help or hinder this lifestyle. Check out the blog on my five step process as well as my video playlist to help you go through a process instead of trying to implement random tips. 

I also encourage you to go within and see what is the need that is not being met that makes you feel you need to keep something. I love the process of focusing, that helps you get clear on that part deep inside of you that needs attention, needs to be heard, and shares with you the wisdom of what is needed to let go and transform. There are many other wonderful techniques that can help you shift your attachments and beliefs like EFT tapping and letting go meditations. Either way, I recommend going through a process, finding different techniques that help you get clear on your clutter and help you find peace within so you can let go. This approach is ideal when you can integrate multiple support systems of meditation, community and mind, body and spirit strategies. And remember above all it takes time to change and going slow and one step at a time means lasting change.

the handbook


Aenean leo ligulaconsequat vitae, eleifend acer neque sed ipsum. Nam quam nunc, blandit vel, tempus.