When clearing clutter there are always a few objects that we’re ready to let go of, but just don’t know what to do with—like photographs, gifts, and family heirlooms—we call these clutter challenges. Here are a few questions that we’re often asked about these challenges and our replies:
What should you do with photographs and letters from old relationships?
Photographs and letters present a common challenge. Give special consideration to all your photographs and old letters, including those of family, friends and particularly old lovers. Ask yourself the following questions: Is this an important part of my history? Will I use this as a tool to understand myself? Could my children learn from this (keeping in mind that you do not want to weigh your children down with unnecessary baggage)? Spending time with intimate memories from your past may be a healing and empowering experience. However, if looking at these photographs and letters is not healing or empowering, then it is time to let go of these items. Remember to surround yourself with things that reinforce who you are now, who you want to be or that speak to you in positive voices. Especially consider photos letters from past relationships when you’re beginning a new relationship and starting a “new” life someone else. Beginning a new relationship is a time of looking forward to your future, not being bogged down in your past!
Remember that the items you decide to keep do not need to be on display. Your partner does not need visual reminders of your past relationships, but nor should these items be carelessly tossed in a box. The key is conscious placement. Take the time to put the pictures and letters you decide to keep into albums. Any albums that you do not look at regularly or your partner may not enjoy, pack neatly into a storage container, or a closet designated for your belongings. Putting together albums is very time-consuming and should not hold you back from finishing this project. We suggest completing the letting go process (throwing away letters and pictures you decide not to keep) and then placing the remainder neatly into a container. When you have the time you can pull out the containers and work on your albums. Because you consciously chose which items to keep and neatly placed them in the containers, these items are no longer “unfinished business” that drains your energy.
What do you do with items that you may have to use again in the future?
Whenever you find yourself saying, “I am keeping this (fill in the blank) because I’m afraid I won’t have enough money next year to buy one I really like, or because I’m afraid there could be a fire or because I’m afraid I might get sick again,” you have fear-based clutter. These fear-based thoughts are a signal to let it go. Feng Shui acknowledges that everything is made up energy—including thoughts. Like attracts like and what you focus your attention on manifests that much sooner. You will not want to keep objects that encourage you to focus on negative scenarios such as a financial loss, illness, or natural disasters. Instead, let the item go with the positive thought that you trust that you will be provided for and that all your needs will be met. Karen Kingston in her book Clear Your Clutter with Feng says the number one reason people accumulate clutter is because of “just in case” scenarios. An example would be someone keeping crutches “just in case” he breaks his leg again, or someone keeping suits in her closet for over ten years “just in case” she stopped making it as an artist and needed to get a day job again. “Just in case” scenarios are based on fear. Go around your home and take a few moments to find out what your clutter is saying to you. If you are keeping anything that is attached in your mind to a doomsday scenario, let it go, along with the fear. As you let go, know you are attracting positive outcomes.
What do you do with clothes that you hope to fit into again someday?
Often people keep things that require them to change before they may enjoy their benefits, for example clothes that you no longer fit into. This kind of clutter can make you feel as though you have to change because you are not good enough as you are now. The expression “what you resist persists” applies here. It is better to support and accept who you are now by letting go of things that make you feel that you are not good enough just as you are.
What do you do with family heirlooms or gifts?
You have probably received gifts that you don’t need or that don’t fit your personal taste. Don’t feel you have to keep something to please the person who gave it to you. It truly is the thought that counts, not the material item. So thank the person who gave you the gift for the kind thought and then return the gift to the store, give it to someone who will use it, or if it’s a family heirloom, you can see if there’s someone else in your family who would really treasure it.
What do you do with expensive objects?
Everyone occasionally makes a mistake and buys something to only realize later it is not necessary or needed. Forgive yourself for your mistake and let the item go to someone who will really appreciate it. It is a greater waste of money to just let it sit unused. Either sell it or give it away affirming that wealth is infinite and you are making more space to receive something you will truly value. Don’t let guilt facilitate clutter.
Photograph: Amy Rachlin