As I let go of one possession after another, there is one fear that keeps coming up: What if I cut too deep? What if I give something irreplaceable away and then regret it forever after?
Perhaps if you’ve ever decluttered (or even thought about it), you know the feeling.
Sometimes I am overcome by a panicked feeling. I can’t believe I got rid of that! What was I thinking?? I don’t have a way to kill the fear. But I can say that no such situation has resulted in the world ending. In fact, as the panic abates, I usually realize one of several things:
Got rid of a sweater you realize you actually needed? Go buy a new one. A book you wanted to reread? That’s what libraries are for.
It’s not as sentimental as I’d thought.
Every single time I’ve felt regret over of having given away something “sentimental,” I’ve realized I’m actually afraid the gift giver or person the thing is associated with will be offended. So far, that hasn’t happened. Not even a little.
I didn’t need as many as I had.
Perfect example: my three sets of dishes. I drastically reduced the number of dishes I had. Logically, it made sense, but I was still a little worried. What if I needed them? Well…I don’t. And I won’t. One set is just fine.
So then what are we afraid of?
I think we are afraid to be stripped bare. Not in a physical sense, but emotionally, spiritually. We define ourselves by what we own: how many books, what kind of car, the size and cost of our wardrobes. Without those things, who are we?
The more I get rid of, the more I realize that things are just things. Yeah, I still have a lot of stuff that I’m not ready to part with. But what I’ve noticed is that once I get rid of the really unnecessary stuff, some of what I thought I needed starts to look pretty unnecessary, too.
It is simultaneously terrifying and freeing to slowly unhook my self image from my possessions. Some of what I’ve let go of is stuff I’ve had forever: a bouquet of silk roses from a high school concert that’s been on my desk ever since. The cupcake display topper from my wedding. My old diaries.
But as I realize I can let go and then actually do it, I start to move forward. I become agile and empowered. It has nothing to do with burning bridges to the past and everything to do with understanding this: We are not our possessions. Memories do not live in objects. And by letting go of one, we come more fully into the other.
Does that mean my fear of cutting too deep is gone? Nope. But when a decision I’ve come to is threatened by that fear, I try to remind myself of these things. And so far, I’ve been fine.
What’s Your Take?
How have you dealt with the fear of cutting too deep?