Stop wanting to control the destiny of the items you let go of

We need to let go of the items we no longer need responsibly. But if letting go of your clutter has become like rehoming a pet, it’s time to reassess.

Clutter control

The story of the basket

It began so innocently. Kathy was decluttering to move home so she decided to set up a stall at a flea market to sell some items she no longer needed or wanted. To while away the time, she spent ten hours chatting to her neighbouring stall holder, who was selling hand-woven baskets that he made.

By the end of the day, they had both sold very little. As they were packing to leave, he decided to give her one of his baskets. ‘Oh no, I can’t possibly accept that!’ she said, knowing how long it took him to make one and how much he sold them for. But he insisted, and she finally accepted the gift.

‘The thing is’, she said, ‘I’m not a basket person. I knew instantly that the basket wasn’t anything I’d use or would want to keep. I think it’s a beautiful basket, but there’s just no affinity for baskets within me. None.’

She had just accepted clutter into her life.

“It’s like rehoming a pet”

Her first thought was to give the basket to a friend (everyone agreed it was beautiful but nobody wanted it). She tried using it herself for a while for vegetables. She didn’t particularly feel any need to honour the man who had given it to her but came to realize that she felt a responsibility about how to let it go.

“It’s like rehoming a pet”, she explained. “Is the next owner going to appreciate it? Are they going to take good care of it?”

On a deeper level, she also realized, “I didn’t want to be perceived by others as an ignorant person who doesn’t value things. That fear of being judged keeps me from making my own decisions and trusting myself to decide what’s right and good for me”.

These unconscious beliefs and thoughts were running her life and making it difficult for her to let go of this little basket and many other items that were cluttering her home.

Give up wanting to control the destiny of the items you let go

Four years later, the basket was still gathering dust in Kathy’s home and she was willing to consider other ways to dispose of it.

When her housemate offered to give it to a friend to use for kindling, she agreed. Previously, she would have rejected this idea as not good enough, even though, admittedly, she had not been able to find a worthier use for it herself. But the intervening years had mellowed her sense of obligation. She even resolved that if this didn’t work out, she would simply give it to a charity shop and let its fate unfold.

‘I’m officially giving up wanting to control the destiny of it’, she stated.

As it turned out, neither of these outcomes came to be. A few days later, she happened to meet someone who owned a big country house, who gladly accepted the basket as a gift.

The bigger picture

What has to be weighed up when clutter clearing is the virtue of finding the right home for each item versus how much you can personally make a difference in the world if your life is working better because you are not encumbered by all your stuff.

Viewed from this standpoint, if you have a major backlog of things to clear, how you dispose of items really is not so important at first. In the greater scheme of things, it is more essential to free yourself up to be of more use to humanity than to agonize over where each thing ends up. The luxury of deciding the individual destiny of items comes later, after you have got your life back on track. At first, it is just a matter of digging yourself out of the pit you find yourself in.

Yes, I know this radical approach flies in the face of environmental correctness. But I have seen people who really could make a difference in the world paralyzed for years by indecisiveness about how to let go of all the things they have accumulated in their home, and they are rendered next to useless because of this. They want to make sure their things go to a good home but, in truth, they are not the best custodians themselves. The items are stored indefinitely and never used instead of releasing them back into the world where others could actually make use of them.

The people who read my books and take my online courses generally aspire to do something in their life and know they need to free themselves from the chains of clutter to be able to do this. So if you are one of these people and the story of this basket resonates with you, please let yourself off the guilt hook.

Gift or sell some items if this can easily be done, but be willing to accept that some things will have to go to landfill or be donated to any old charity just to get them out of your home, to free yourself up to be all that you can be. Once you’ve made the decision, let go. Forgive yourself, and move on. Don’t stay stuck in the past. It’s far better that you put your time and energy into present time and learn how not to acquire clutter again in the future.

Related articles
Intercepting clutter before it even starts
How eco-consciousness can become eco-neurosis

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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7 Responses to Stop wanting to control the destiny of the items you let go of

  1. Mary says:

    As always, love Karen’s articles, so much to think about. I have struggled for so many years to dispose of “stuff”which doesn’t resonate with me, but with a a few simple techniques it has become easier.

  2. melissa says:

    “The items are stored indefinitely and never used instead of releasing them back into the world where others could actually make use of them.”

    Yes! The phrase “releasing them back into the world” really resonates with me. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Kate says:

    Dear Karen

    Thank you for an interesting, thought provoking article as always.

    Would you be able to give some examples of how people can do something good in the world when not held back by clutter? What sort of things, for example?

    Thanks

    • I have seen this time and time again in my online clutter clearing courses and with the clients I work with personally in their home.

      Many people who have serious levels of clutter in their home are intelligent, well-educated, warm-hearted individuals who are appalled at the situation they have got themselves into and feel paralyzed to do anything about it. They have much to offer the world but feel frozen in time and often very isolated too. Decluttering is the process of not just reclaiming their home but reclaiming their life too. Having helped themselves, they are once more able to help others in whatever specialist field their expertise lies.

  4. Danish Sunshine says:

    Excellent article, Karen. Appreciate the new perspective as I have been guilty of assuming responsibility for stuff as a prerequisite for being able to let it go. There is–and has been so much more I have wished I could and still want to do in life: now feel I have a new lease to send stuff out and permit myself to move forward! Thanks, again.

  5. D. Ikeda says:

    I can definitely relate to this idea! I will admit that when something DOES go to someone that feels “right ” to me it is much easier to let something go. I do love http://www.freecycle.org for that reason. A couple years ago I was throwing out some of my adult daughter’s clothes that she had come home to get rid of. There was a perfectly good winter coat. I advertised it on a site devoted to giving things away and a student from Malaysia contacted me. I met her in a public spot and she was thrilled with the coat. The funny thing was that being from Malaysia she had actually never been cold in the winter so the whole idea of a winter coat was new for her! Was so satisfying to help her out in that way. I have given away never used blinds that way as well as tons of old CDs, books, and kitchen gear – which also went to a student.

    Having said all of that I do need to jump on board with what Karen is saying here that not EVERYTHING can be let go of in a satisfying “non-wasteful” way. And it is true that dealing with stuff holds me back from doing more with people in an unencumbered way.

    Good thoughts!

  6. Ylva B says:

    This is so true.🌞 I have your book Clear your clutter with Feng Shui, and it’s one of the best books i have ever read.📖💖👍👍! Thank you very much for writting it, Feng Shui is my lifestyle now, and you have inspired me and still do, with your book, and i have learned a lot from you. Light and Love, hugs from Ylva, Gävle Sweden 🌞💜😇 ! Have a wonderful summer 🌞🍀!

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