“Out of clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~Einstein
I’ve spent the last 3 weeks selling all my possessions for my upcoming round-the-world trip.
As I watched friends and kind strangers leave with my belongings, I felt aches of attachment.
“What if I need it when I come back?”
“I’m selling it for so much less than I paid for it.”
“Should I have even sold it? I have such fond memories.”
Clearing my possessions to start my new adventure was the right thing to do, so why did I feel such attachments to my items?
[ Aside: Get free email updates on my year-off and round-the-world trip. ]
A personal story
A year ago, my (then) partner and I moved into our bright and spacious apartment in the perfect location in downtown Toronto.
It was our first time living together and we moved in with nothing but excitement and a suitcase of clothes. We painted, furnished and filled the apartment with everything that makes a place home. Everything we bought was hand-picked, assembled and enjoyed with love and happiness.
How could I get rid of everything when it has so much meaning attached to it?
When I decided to travel, I initially wanted to keep everything in storage where they’d stay safe and secure while I was away.
Then I started wondering, What if I end up travelling longer than I plan? What if I don’t need everything in my next apartment? I’d feel guilty about leaving items I love couped up in storage and guilty about spending money for storage.
In the end, I decided to sell everything.
Parting with my material possessions was hard. I genuinely loved all my belongings, from my white IKEA couch I assembled myself, to shiny Lagostina pots, to the free birch tree from Craigslist. I felt blessed for the abundance that has made my apartment so joyous and comfortable. I wanted my things to be in good homes where they’d be enjoyed.
Just like how I moved into the apartment a year ago with nothing, I’d have the freedom to go onto my next adventure with a fresh start.
Why we get attached to belongings
- Guilt for “throwing away” money
Maybe it took a long time to save for the item, or the cost of acquiring the item was significant. When we consider giving away or selling the item, we remember the financial investment we made.
- Guilt for selling/giving away gifts
Even when we may no longer use items, getting rid of a present seems ungrateful to the person who gave us the item. Sentimental items like cards, old love letters or photos are extra hard to toss away. You might not remember the shoebox full of letters at the back of your closet, but once you see it again the re-attachment surfaces.
- Attachment to “sweat” equity invested
This is the strongest reason behind why I get attached to items. It’s hard to let go of things I put a lot of attention and emotional energy into. In the case of my apartment, I had many days of frustration and joy of assembling an entire apartment of IKEA furniture, plus the memories of the furniture facilitating good times with loved ones.
What I’ve realized about material possessions
- Beautiful things are nice, but freedom is even better
Material objects can bring comfort, beautify your surroundings and even impress your friends, but being baggage-free is priceless. Unneeded belongings ends up filling mental space as much as it does physical space.
- Experiences make me happy, not things
In some of the happiest moments in my life I had nothing but a backpack, and some of my happiest days didn’t even have running water or electricity.
- The more I latch on, the harder it is for new things to flow into my life
This applies to both physical objects, like shoes I don’t wear, as well as emotional items, like old grudges. Clearing out old things creates space for great new things to enter my life.
- Minimalism leads to clarity
The less clutter and baggage you have, the easier it is to focus on what really matters. Each time I travelled living out of a backpack, I’ve gained or regained a clearer view of the big picture, what would truly make me happy, and found the courage to pursue what matters most.
- Possessions are just tangible tokens of beautiful moments
I used to think it was the actual objects I was attached to, but what I really connected with was the enjoyment from the item or the kind gesture from the person who gave me the gift. Your attachment is to the moment and experience, not the object. Giving away the objects you don’t need won’t make your memories any less precious.
- Assume abundance instead of scarcity
Instead of hoarding possessions under the “I might need this later” thinking, believe everything you need will be easily available to you. If you do need material things, there is almost nothing you can’t again, or find the resources to get what you need, whether it’s at a store, online or from someone you know.
- Focus on value, not price
You might have made a big time or energy investment in the past, but do the items still provide value going forward? Would you replace the item if you suddenly lost it? If they’re not worth replacing, why do you have it in the first place?
Practical ways of getting rid of possessions
- Just toss it
As someone who has gone through the pain of decluttering hundreds of pounds of stuff, tossing things is the fastest and most effective way to declutter. Selling items or giving it away to people may sound appealing, but that means you’re keeping your clutter around for longer, which means you might change your mind, and it takes patience to find interested takers.
Throwing away things may seem unenvironmentally friendly, but your mental clarity will benefit the world much more than a few bags of recycled possessions.
- Sell it on Craigslist
If you have many items to sell or give away for free, here are a few tips:
1. Save time by taking a photo of all the items together.
2. Take photos during daylight
3. When posting items, post each item individually, e.g. IKEA paper floor lamp, not in aggregate, e.g. Moving out sale
You can see samples of photos I used for my sale.
- Constantly give thanks
When people pick up your items, take a second to silently give gratitude for having the item. Thank the person for picking up the items and wish them well. This is what I said to everyone “Thanks so much for picking this up, all the best.” Over my 3 week sale, I thanked over 100 people who stopped by and by the end I was delighted all my things found good homes.
What does letting go feel like?
Letting go is like a breath of fresh air.
You’ll feel lighter, freer and happier. It feels like the sense of relief you feel when you find the courage to tell someone something you’ve been scared to say.
In the process of letting go, hidden feelings may surface. You may feel attachment, sadness, joy, or fear. That’s natural, take a deep breath and keep going. Every time you get through a challenge, you increase your capacity as a human being.
Do you have a hard time letting go of belongings? What your #1 tip for moving forward?
>> Please say ‘hi’ below, I love hearing what you think :)
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