We each have our own reasons for holding on to stuff, clutter, negative emotions, and other things. Usually though, all of our excuses, fears, and resistance come back to a few common struggles.
One of those struggles is guilt. It was an issue for me, and based on our conversations, I think it may bother you too.
- I remember feeling guilt when I looked in my closet and saw clothes I never wore purchased with money I didn’t have.
- I felt guilt when I said no to people, or even when I thought about saying no.
- There was the guilt about gifts. I felt bad about letting go of things other people gave me.
- I felt guilty about overdue credit card bills and collection calls, for shopping to feel better, for feeling less than enough because I didn’t own the right things, or have the right car/shoes/kitchen … and the list goes on and on.
- I even felt guilty for rejecting all the things I thought I always wanted.
This guilt wasn’t all consuming, but it surfaced more when I made the decision to start slowing down and letting go. I finally had the time and space to feel all the feelings.
1. Own the guilt.
If you feel guilty every time you open your closet and see an expensive dress hanging with the tags still on, or a pair of shoes that give you blisters, own it. Write it down. That flash of guilt you may experience on a daily basis has become so consistent, it feels normal.
What you may have forgotten though is that it is your choice to carry the burden of feeling guilty about what’s in your closet, or other areas of your home. It’s your choice. (this was a tough one for me)
2. Reject the guilt.
I used to think I was supposed to feel guilty. After all, with all the mistakes I made, shouldn’t a bit of guilt go along with them? What I didn’t know is that the guilt was weighing me down with absolutely no purpose. The guilt wasn’t serving me in any way. When I recognized that guilt had become an anchor, instead of inspiring something better, it was easier to let it go.
3. Let it flow.
In January, I did a webinar with my friend Brooke. She was addressing a question about gifts. Someone asked “What should I do if I am trying to live with less and people give me gifts I don’t want.” Brooke said, “Simply let them flow through your home.” In other words accept the gifts with love and then let them go. Brooke and I knew the question wasn’t really about what to do with the gifts, but instead what to do with the guilt so I added, “Let the guilt flow out with the gifts.”
In my experience the biggest gift of gifts is in the exchange. It’s in the “I’m thinking of you.” or the “I love you.” and not what’s contained in the gift box. Is there really any “thing” someone could give you to prove their love? It doesn’t happen like that. Love isn’t a one time gift. It doesn’t arrive wrapped perfectly, and you never have to prove it.
Letting it flow doesn’t just apply to gifts. When you let go of anything in your life that doesn’t add value, let the guilt flow with it.
Guilty situations and solutions
Here are a few solutions to simplicity related guilty situations you may be experiencing.
- Guilt about letting go of a sentimental item: Try a victory lap.
- Closet chaos guilt: Clean out your closet for good.
- Guilt around relationships and boundaries, especially when you are telling yourself stories about what other people are thinking: This! This! This!
- Guilt about not doing enough: Measure more by what’s in your heart, and less by what’s on your to-do list.
- When you say yes, because you feel too guilty saying no: learn how to say “no” to everything ever.
- If you feel guilty about challenges you’re experiencing in your body, mind, and life: Work with a thoughtful professional and connect with like-minded people in the Mind Body Wise Living Room. (a private Facebook group)
- Guilt about spending too much: Stop shopping for a while.
- When you feel guilty about your home not being perfect: Invite your friends over.
- If you feel guilty about being too busy for people you love: End busyness.
- When your messy past causes guilt: Remember the blessings of a messy life.
The best way to let go of the guilt of letting go is to let joy replace the guilt. Let love replace the guilt. Remind yourself that you simply don’t have room in your life for guilt.
The guilt of letting go doesn’t come from letting go.
When stuff becomes a constant reminder of debt or discontent, we feel bad, sad, and guilty. When I look back, I can clearly see that guilt was just as much a part of my clutter as the things hanging in my closet or stuff in my junk drawers. I also know that the guilt and the stuff were deeply connected and when I let go of the stuff, the guilt went with it.
What’s interesting about the guilt of letting go, is the guilt doesn’t usually come from letting go. It comes from holding on. When guilt is attached to holding on, the only remedy is to let go.
I could continue to feel guilt about past mistakes, about my past debt, clutter, and busyness. Instead, I’ve let it go so I can live today with purpose and joy. I continue to create more space and time in my life, but if I fill it all with guilt and regret, there won’t be room for all the love.