“Letting go” is a term often met with anxiety and unease. It causes people to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps because of concepts like FOMO or “not living your best life”, or maybe it’s deep-seeded fear of loneliness or self doubt. Either way, letting go is a daunting and often complicated process. Now, when I say letting go, I mean in all aspects of life. Letting go of personal possessions that no longer serve you, letting go of friends or family that do more harm than good, letting go of that toxic job to find something better. Even letting go of your fears and worries that are just feeding into your self doubt and holding you back.
Letting go is an art form. It takes a certain desire and passion to accomplish, and is often met with criticism from others, especially those you’ve let go. To help inspire you to get started, (because what is art without a muse?), I’ve compiled a list of ways to let go and rid yourself of certain burdens in your life, complete with explanations on the benefits of just letting it go.
Personal belongings are usually the easiest things to let go. If you want to get rid of a possession but are finding it difficult, you can always remind yourself that someone else needs it or values it more than you do. Decluttering the space around you declutters your mind.
To get started, you could simply follow the KonMari method developed by the incredible Marie Condo. It involves holding an object in your hand and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If it does, keep the item. If it doesn’t, thank the item for the role it had in your life, and give it away or donate it.
For those who are in a place where they are just overwhelmed and can’t tell what sparks joy, or just don’t believe in KonMari, ask yourself these questions instead!
How long have you gone without using it? If you haven’t used the item in the past 6 months, you likely won’t need it again. People have a habit of holding onto things “just in case” which causes boxes or piles of items that you have either never used or will not use again.
Does it create stress? It might not be possible to eliminate all stress from our lives, but letting go of certain things can greatly reduce your stress levels. If something is inconvenient, causes anxiety or you just don’t like it, let it go!
Do you have it just because you think you should? Often we keep sentimental items because we think we have to. As the age old saying goes, it’s the thought that counts. A gift from someone is better off serving someone else than sitting in a box serving no one because you feel obligated to keep it.
Could someone else use it more than you? If it’s something you no longer need, think about others in your life who might need the item. I often give items to my mom or brother so they don’t need to buy it themselves and I can declutter my home. If I know someone personally, I’ll ask them if they could use it. Otherwise, I donate to local charities and thrift stores.
Your personal space is a lot harder to declutter than your home. Personal space refers to anyone or anything that dips in and out of it like family members, friends, pets, and commitments like volunteering, work places, and school. This list is not all inclusive, and maybe you don’t consider any of the things I mentioned as part of your personal space, and that’s okay! This concept is completely adaptable to you and your unique situation.
Let me preface this with some words of experience. No one gets to be a part of your life just because they are born into it or they feel like they deserve it. Whether it’s your mom, dad, sibling, significant other or best friend of 10 years, they have to earn their place in your life with love and mutual respect.
When you’re letting go of people in your life (friends, family, coworkers, etc.), ask yourself these questions. They will help you determine whether it’s a relationship that needs to end, or you’re upset about a particular situation and the relationship can be repaired (if you so choose!).
Do you like this person? No, really. Do you actually like who they are as a person? Even after you removed any physical or emotional ties? Do you like their personality? Do you like how they treat others? If you answered no to any of the above, let them go. You don’t need to keep people around you that you genuinely dislike. That dynamic will just cause stress, anxiety and frustration down the road.
Are they causing the relationship to be toxic? The people in your life shouldn’t cause self doubt, self harm or unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking or drugs. They shouldn’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do. Do they abuse you physically, emotionally, or verbally? Do they withhold love, attention, or words of affirmation? If someone in your life is causing any of these things (or anything along these lines!), let them go. Pack your bags, or theirs, and move on. Focus on your positive relationships and reach out if needed.
Is it rewarding? You should enjoy spending time with those in your life and the activities and organizations you are apart of. You may only see someone once a year, but if you feel nothing but love and support from that long distance friendship / relationship, the reward is there. If you don’t enjoy having someone around you, for whatever reason, let them go. If you don’t like an activity or organization, quit. There is no shame in doing what’s best for you. If it’s draining and emotionally exhausting to visit someone (even if it’s a parent) and you dread it each and every time, then don’t force yourself. If you hate what the company you volunteer for now stands for, find somewhere else that aligns with your values. If any relationship, personal or professional, has more cost than reward, let it go!
Mind & Thoughts
This is the most difficult to declutter and let go. Decluttering your mind involves a lot of writing things down or “brain dumping”.
Write appointments, meetings and special events on a calendar, on paper in your office or on the fridge, or electronically on your phone or laptop. Write To Do lists, shopping lists, and any other lists down. The key here is to be mindful about what needs to be written down, what doesn’t, and to not overwhelm yourself with list upon list. Ironically, having a pile of lists clutters your mind almost as much as having things not written down and floating inside your head!
Thoughts are your inner voice, greatly affecting your mind set, mood, and ability to let things that no longer serve you, go. Let go of all your self doubt, self pity and negative self talk. Filter your thoughts so your not bogged down by negativity and clutter.
Ways to declutter your mind:
- Go to Therapy / Counselling
- Practice Mindfulness
- Write Lists
- Take Notes
- Read with Intention
- Go for a Walk
Ask yourself these questions to filter your thoughts and change your mindset.
Is this thought mine? Did it come from you, or someone else? If from someone else, do you want to have this thought? Do you like the direction it’s taking you? Is it motivating or holding you back? Does it come from a societal standard? Do you want to follow that standard? If you answered no to any of these, let it go!
Does this serve me? Does this particular thought provide insight, answer a question or motivate you? Does it help you accomplish what you’re working on or striving for? Is it positive? If you answered no to any of these, don’t let that thought set the tone. It is difficult and it does take time, but filtering your thoughts will have a huge impact on your overall health and well-being.
Letting things go, whether it’s a personal belonging or a thought or idea, isn’t something to take lightly. It is difficult and time consuming, and you may not be quite ready to let certain things go, but way overdue on others. The process must be done by you, for you, and in your own time. I promise you, learning to let go will take so much weight of your shoulders. Learning to let go will change you, for the better.
“In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.”
– Deepak Chopra