Minimalism is a wonderful catalyst for change. I explain it a bit in the linked post, but I’d like to go deeper into how letting go of material things is a way of changing one’s life. I have consistently found it to be effective whenever I get that “stuck in a rut” feeling. As I explained in my story in the previous minimalism series post, I do not own much anymore, and it has given me a lightness and freedom I had not previously experienced.
Let’s talk about what “stuff” is. For this specific post I want to focus on material things we have, but stuff can be anything… drama, emotional issues, relationships, illnesses…. that’s why we call it baggage. It weighs us down, right? I consider stuff to be anything that is not in alignment with the soul, aka nothingness, just “being” and that’s it. Presence. Anything that feeds the mental and emotional noise that keeps us from just being in the moment weighs us down.
Our material things are a physical representation of this stuff, whether we realize it or not… and we often don’t, because it has become so commonplace for humans to have it. That prom or wedding dress in the back of your closet is only there for memories, let’s be real. You can’t even zip it up anymore. And you only think about it now and then, but your subconscious knows it is there all the time. The box of stuffed animals in the attic that belongs to your kid who is now in college (really?), the old electronics you will either fix, sell, or eventually recycle in the basement (sure). The 10 pairs of shoes you haven’t worn in over a year. I am cringing right now just writing this, because that is all your ENERGY being tied up in dead weight, and somewhere in your mind energy is always tied to that thing.
We let ourselves accumulate because not only is it socially acceptable and even encouraged in western culture, but mostly because we do not want to face the feelings that flow when we let things go. There is a stuck emotion tied up with a possession (otherwise we would not have an attachment to it, we would not consider it “ours,” it would just be a thing). There is pain, whether it’s just a twinge of fear (what if someone steals my identity from this 2004 Gateway PC hard drive after I hand it over to the Best Buy recycling center??) or a bigger emotional release (my baby is all grown up and I will never have another one), the mind avoids it because that’s what the mind’s job is….to avoid bad experiences for the body! But in the case of material things, the body never fully processed that emotion.
This is why we hang on to things. Things are irrelevant. We don’t need hardly any THING. But the telltale sign of an emotional attachment is that you will read this post and then look at something in your home you’ve been meaning to donate or recycle or give away or sell, and you won’t take steps to do it. But there will be a mental excuse for that. “I’ll do it this weekend” (and you don’t). “It seems like a bother,” but you have literally nothing better to do today. It’s avoidance, not laziness. Because what happens when we actually take the steps to begin letting it go, whatever that step is…. cleaning it up and taking pictures of it for Let Go or Facebook Market, researching donation centers or consignment shops nearby, tossing it in the recycle bin… it automatically begins the process of emotional release. We feel it, and then have the opportunity to fully experience that feeling. After letting it go, we feel buoyant, lighter, happier.
I have learned to use this process of cleaning up to move energy in my life in all areas. I like to start with things I know I don’t need, old papers, maybe a spice that has gone bad, anything. The thing itself truly doesn’t matter, it’s the action of re-examining a thing that isn’t my favorite to see how I can repurpose that thing if possible, and if not, let it go. It starts the momentum, and then pretty soon other things become obvious. I know when I am done for the day because I feel refreshed, empowered, free, and I feel energy in my body.
I did this process for years every other weekend or so, just because it delighted me, and I stopped when I felt like it. If I picked up an object in my home and it filled me with happiness and joy and I loved it then I kept it. Anything that felt like it weighed me down and I couldn’t repurpose, I either sold, donated, gave away, recycled, or tossed. Anything I was on the fence about was saved for another time (and inevitably let go of in the future). This minimalism process swiftly accelerates our energy, and our life situation then shifts and changes rapidly. To be honest, it’s just fun! And it feels so light and free to own less!
It’s all a letting go process, really. Emotionally letting go of the past. That’s all material things are… a reminder of the past. Some of it is still great and fills us with joy and is highly functional, and that’s the stuff we keep and cherish more when we have re-chosen it here and now. The stuff we let go of gives us life and energy and that energy will flow in all areas of our life, keeping us present, changing, flowing, clarifying, growing, aligning more and more. It’s well worth it!
(One caveat: in a world of waste, always try to repurpose, sell, donate, give away, recycle, before trashing things please! Our environmental footprint is not something that can be eradicated as easily.)