I’m a firm believer that everything carries energy, including our stuff. The energy our possessions carry can be positive, negative, and/or stagnant. This is especially heightened if the item has sentimental value.
Think about it, have you ever labeled an item as having “bad mojo” or maybe even assigned it some type of magical power? We all do it– we save ticket stubs from a concert, cherish a family heirloom handed down from a passed loved one, or tuck away artwork from our kids.
These items offer us an association or connection – connection to others, events, memories, and moments – the bad and the good. We give them power and in turn, it offers us a sense of comfort, protecting us from the fears associated with being without. It’s all about self-preservation.
There are a lot of different reasons why we save possessions. Research has shown that ownership can be uplifting – giving us a sense of identity, self-worth, security and control. Fear is the driving force for saving – fear of forgetting, fear of waste, fear of loss. But what about when our stuff starts to control us? Or maybe our stuff is holding us back and keeping us from being our best selves?
Through my organizing practice, I have no choice but to examine my own saving tendencies, including the fears underlying them. I empower my clients to be mindful, make themselves vulnerable and to take risks. If I expect this of my clients, it only seems fair that I do the same.
Following a bad breakup with an ex, I did a ceremonious purge of items that reminded me of him. This included gifts, items that marked shared events, and a really rad vintage moped (that was a tough one). The event itself may have been what I needed in the moment – a clean slate. I felt confident that if these items were out of sight it would cure me of my grief and I could be happy again. Those feelings of empowerment and freedom were fleeting, and what followed were feelings of abandonment, depression and loneliness. All that I was hoping to avoid.
I should mention that I didn’t let go of everything. Some of this was intentional – I inherited some tools that still had utility and were helpful to have around, a ring that I had picked out when we were together that made me feel self-confident, and digital photos of shared adventures. Some items remained untouched.
For months, I had saved the dress I wore on one of our first (and best) dates. When I picked it up, I immediately felt a flood of positive emotions remembering how I felt in it. How he looked at me in it. How when I wore it on that night, all that mattered was me, him and this dress. This dress symbolized all that was good in our relationship when we were at our best. I tried it on, longing for those feelings to linger on.
Reality set in and I had to be true to myself. I had put on a few pounds and it really didn’t flatter me anymore. There was a stain on it. And while I had high hopes for this dress to transform me into a worthy, loveable, confident woman – whenever I looked at it all I could think of how tainted it was, much like our relationship.
I still kept the dress around holding on to hope that maybe someday that positive energy would return. Maybe someday I would be worthy of love and this dress was the answer. For a while, the dress brought upon an instant high. But over time, I looked at the dress with disgust, disappointment and anger. After that relationship, I felt broken. And this dress reinforced those feelings.
Yet – I wasn’t ready to get rid of it. Like many of my clients, I needed to mourn. I had to hold the dress, feel it against my skin. I had to cry over it. I had to thank it for all that it did for me and face the reality that it had brought me joy at one point but was no longer serving me. I was not that person anymore, and that dress no longer represented my best self.
This letting go was a process – and it was hard as hell. It took a long time but I finally faced the reality that this dress and my ex were of the past and didn’t embody any magical powers that would free me from my grief. I had to experience it full force.
At my own pace, I was able to detach from this possession. I was also able to release myself from negative feelings and let in room for more positive ones. Feelings and thoughts that healed and allowed me to grow into the person I wanted to become – less angry, more forgiving and above all – accepting of myself, him and others. By acknowledging my grief and making myself vulnerable to those feelings, I was able to let go. And in turn, I became more open to loving myself for who I am today.