On day one of the 21-day Decluttering Challenge, I invite you to write a break-up letter to your stuff. You can watch the video challenge here, or read the details below.
Instead of starting the challenge with letting go of your physical stuff, I thought it made sense to start with the emotional stuff. We get attached to our stuff for so many reasons, and that attachment can get in the way of letting go.
Even if you aren’t doing the 21-day challenge, writing this letter may help you let go, and get focused on what you really want in your life.
Write a break-up letter to your stuff and clutter.
You can’t write this letter wrong, but if you’d like some guidelines, this is what I recommend.
- Tell your stuff what you love, or loved about it.
- Say goodbye to your stuff and write about why it has to go.
- Tell your stuff what you want instead. What are you willing to trade your stuff for?
Simplifying your life is a matter of the heart. Once you write this letter, your heart and soul will be in the game. Decluttering and letting go will become easier and more sustainable.
I can’t tell you exactly what to say to your stuff because we each have our own story and relationship with stuff. I do know once you write it down, and really own it, you will never look back. Once simplifying your life becomes a matter of the heart, you will find the strength you need to let go of the clutter, the busyness, and all of the other things standing between you and what matters most.
Use this exercise before you start decluttering, when you hit a wall in your journey to simplify, or when you need extra encouragement to let go.
From the break-up letters.
I asked people participating in the 21-day decluttering challenge to share their break-up letters. Here are some of the very honest things people had to say to their stuff.
“I saved my skinny clothes to get back into them. I saved everything from my kid’s childhood because I thought it would prove how much I loved them. I saved kitchen gadgets because I wanted to feel like a great cook. I saved every wedding, birthday, baby card because I thought I should. I have been buried under all of this stuff for a long time. It’s time to say goodbye.”
“I was always optimistic about all the fun I’d have using you, my well-preserved collection of scrapbooking stuff. My dreams of making scrapbook pages and filling books with family memories, while enjoying artistic expression didn’t quite materialize. Although I enjoyed you for a time, now I just feel guilt about the purchases I made that weren’t used.”
“You are merely my leftover things from the past. It is important for all of my things to live in the present, just like me. In letting you go, you are helping me get to where I belong.”
“Stuff. You have spread all over my home like a contagion. You have created mountains of laundry and piles of despair. You have led to guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I have become a prisoner to you. You keep me from doing the things I want to be doing. I look around at you and feel so ashamed. I’m ashamed that I’ve let things get to this point. I feel guilty that I don’t treat the things that are important to me like they truly are. I can’t find half the things I look for. I look around and my stuff makes me feel angry towards myself and my loved ones.”
“What will happen when you go? I’m afraid to find out. I may find I have nothing to offer or that I gave away stuff I shouldn’t have, that I’ll be unhappy, alone, and unloved. What will I gain when I let go? I need to break up with you to find out. Maybe I’ll have more time with my family, because I won’t be stressed out trying to get stuff done. Maybe I’ll get out the door on the first try because I know where my keys are. Maybe I’ll be able to write more because I’ll have more time. Maybe my relationships with the people I love will be stronger because I’ll be focused on what is most important to me.”
Thank you to everyone who contributed by sharing their break-up letters. They prove our relationship with stuff is messy, that we are not alone in our struggle to live with less, and that we want more for ourselves … more of the good stuff.
We don’t remove the clutter, reduce the stress, and boycott the busyness to have a simple life. We do it to have a life.