The Green Sweater and the Art of Letting Go

I have been slowly going through all of the clothes in my closet. I did a big purge about 6 months back, but now I am making sure I wear everything that is left. I wanted to give myself this challenge because sometimes I get too comfortable with my favorite shirts and jeans and I don’t wear other things, even though I know I love them. As I wear things that are ‘new’ again, I find myself inspired or facing the day with a little more confidence. I am also finding things that are, well, not so good. Case in point…..

There is a green striped sweater that has been haunting me for a couple of years. It was cute, super soft and a little different. But I knew it wasn’t really me. Every few years, I will buy something that has a traditional ‘preppy’ look because I like it. What I never seem to remember is that I always end up giving those clothes away because I don’t feel like me when I wear them. Well this green sweater was one of those ill-conceived purchases. It stared at me, daring me to put on a visor, a pleated skirt and grab my tennis racket and flounce out the door. That clearly never happened. I just can’t pull off that look. So I decided to try the sweater with a cute tank top and a pair of jeans. I was going to Pull It Off! I asked my husband what he thought of the outfit before I left the house. I said “Babe, what do you think of this sweater?” He burst out laughing and said “It’s cute if you were 5.” Hmmm.

Somewhere deep down, I was completely expecting this reaction, because this is the reaction I vaguely had as I looked in the mirror. But getting someone else’s opinion helped me to come to terms with my own opinion. If I had truly loved that sweater, I would have worn it no matter how someone else reacted. But I didn’t love it, still don’t, never will. And coming to terms with that let me change into a better shirt and toss that sweater straight into the donate box.

I have realized that it’s ok to ask for help or opinions. Just be prepared that you might not always get the reaction you were hoping for. Look at other’s opinions as a way to gauge your own feelings. Look at them as inspiration, as advice, as a non-emotional view. You don’t have to follow every piece of advice that people give you, but others can often give you valuable insight that you might be missing through the clouds of your own emotions. An unattached, unbiased, unemotional look at something can help release you from unhealthy attachments. Like a green sweater.

So try to look at your situations from the outside. What is best for you? What is holding you back? What can you let go of?

~Erin

 

Purge….No More Excuses!

So many people struggle with purging items from their home. There are a lot of reasons why it’s difficult….from “I might use this some day” to “my Great Aunt So-and-So gave me this” to  “I don’t know what to do with this or how to get rid of it.” Now is the time for No More Excuses Purging. We’re going to face some of the difficulties of getting rid of stuff and figure out how to solve those pesky purging problems.

Excuse #1 – I might use this some day.

Yeah, well you might. But if you haven’t used it in the last year, especially if you haven’t used it for longer, chances are you won’t use it. Here’s how to make this one easier for yourself. Put items you don’t use in a ‘test box’. Let them sit in the box for 6 months. If you haven’t gotten those things out (or maybe you don’t even remember what is in there after that length of time!), then you can officially let those items go.

People also don’t want to get rid of typically useful items, such as pens or cups. However, if you sort your items so that you can see any duplicates you have, it may be easier to part with some of them. If you have 40 cups or 100 pens, you can definitely handle getting rid of a few. So sort like with like and see how many of each type of item you actually have.

I know from personal experience that people will also hold on to items that represent a version of themselves that they would like to be. If you are holding on to that old hockey stick or food processor or weight machine and hoping you will wake up with the motivation to use them, you are really putting a lot of pressure on yourself. If it’s something you won’t actually pursue or is causing more negative feelings than positive ones, it may be time to let go.  I KNOW this is hard (I’m talking to you juggling pins and banjo patiently waiting in my office), but I also know that the freedom that comes with letting go can create such a sense of motivation in other areas. Now you can focus on the things you are actually going to do!

Excuse #2 – I got this as a gift and I would feel guilty letting it go.

Most people don’t give gifts so that you feel guilty about having to keep them. If it’s something you are not using or displaying or it’s something that you don’t like, get rid of it. Alleviate some of the guilt by donating it or giving it to a friend who wants it. The freedom of letting go of something you no longer want is much more positive than the mental weight it puts on you if you keep it.

Excuse #3 – It has sentimental value.

Many people hold on to things because they remind them of a special person, time or place. Certain mementos can be great as decorative pieces and help to personalize a space. However, it is not always a good idea to hold on to something just for the sake of nostalgia.

I recently got rid of a stack of concert tickets I was sure I would put into an album some day, a bunch of photos of events I hardly remember going to, and clothes I wore back in my college days. Do I miss them? Not even a little bit. I realized that the memories I have are more important than the physical item. And if I don’t remember something that well or with any fondness, that’s all the more reason to let the items go.

This excuse can be hard to combat when the items are family heirlooms. Some ways to deal with this are to take photos of the items. These are much easier to store and you can still have a visual reminder. You can also see if any other family members would like any of the items. You could choose to sell or donate things so that they are given a new life instead of collecting dust in an attic.

You can also choose to actually put these items to use. Decorate a kitchen shelf with antique cookware, put postcards or costume jewelry in a shadow box on the wall. Lay a family quilt on the end of your bed. While this isn’t technically a purge, it creates a positive impact. If you actually work these items into your decor, you will appreciate them more and they will serve a purpose.

Excuse #4 - I don’t know how to get rid of this item or where to take it.

There are a surprising number of things that can be difficult to get rid of, particularly if they don’t work. The most common ‘hard to get rid of’ items are appliances, bicycles, electronics and hazardous materials.

There are a ton of organizations dedicated to collecting unused items…from the well known Salvation Army and Good Will to the thousands of more focused organizations who may collect books, clothing, old cars or any of hundreds of other types of items. Check out my Donate and Recycle Page for a few ideas or do a local search in your area.

Many organizations will offer pick up for items and may even take things that don’t work, such as cars. In return, you can use the donation as a tax write off. Craigslist and Freecycle are website options where you can post your items.

If the item simply doesn’t work, look for organizations who collect scrap metal, porcelain or other hard to get rid of materials. Check if there is a hazardous waste disposal site in your area. These will often take things like paint, insecticides, batteries, old electronics or other items you want to get rid of but don’t want to throw in the trash.

Get creative. Donate old instruments to local schools, books to local libraries, cut up torn clothes to use as rags…there is usually a way to breathe new life into something through donation or repurposing.

What excuses are you using to hold on to stuff you don’t need? What is holding you back? And wouldn’t making the decision to purge unwanted items open up a lot more time and energy in your life?

~Erin

 

 

 

 

 

Simplify Your Nest

My theme for this year is ‘Simplicity.’ I have decided that every area of my life needs some level of simplification and I’m getting excited to share with you how I’m doing it!

With everything I do this year, I’m going to ask myself the following question:

“Is this simplifying my life or is it making it more complicated?”

Now the answer to this won’t always be cut and dry. For example, I want to cook more healthy and natural meals for my family. This will actually take more work in the beginning so it seems like it would be more complicated. However, when I’m cooking healthy meals, I feel better, I am in better control of what we are eating, I pay more attention to the food in my kitchen, I know what ingredients I have on hand and can start cooking healthy meals in bulk. So, in reality, this change will simplify my life quite a bit in the long run. And that’s what I’m looking at here….the long run.

I’m also going to PURGE!!! I want to rid my house of items that feel like clutter, that are unused and never looked at, that we have outgrown or are broken, and that just don’t fit our lifestyle.

I also plan to simplify my mind….stick with me here, I don’t mean I’m going to learn less or stop actively engaging. I mean I’m going to focus on worrying less, comparing less, making fewer lists, and relaxing more. I think it’s wonderful to actively engage your mind and seek out new experiences. I also think that our culture has the tendency to overwhelm ourselves with overstimulating technology and comparison and self doubt and worrying and so many other negative things. I’m going to clear my mind a little this year so I actually have time to focus on the good things.

I’m going to be GRATEFUL! Focusing on what we have is one of the most effective ways to be satisfied. The explosion of good emotions that come with gratitude can result in us actually wanting less stuff.

This post is going to start a Simplicity Series and I plan to share practical tips as well as focus on the root cause of disorganization and unease in our lives.

I’m ready to SIMPLIFY in 2015! Are you with me?

~Erin