You don’t have to turn off your emotions when uncluttering

We sold our house yesterday. We signed a lot of papers, handed over the keys, and said an official farewell to a place we loved.

The rational part of me accepts that a house is just concrete, bricks, glass, steel beams, and wood. As George Carlin once pointed out, a house is simply a container for you and your stuff. The emotional part of me, however, has a difficult time separating all the wonderful memories created in the house from its drywall. The house we sold is where we brought my son when we brought him home. I wrote my book in that house. There are six and a half years of my family’s laughter and happiness within those walls.

As with almost all possessions, though, there comes a time when an object stops meeting your needs. Something that was perfect for you in the past, is no longer a perfect fit in the present. And, as difficult as it is to let go, it’s the right thing to do to be able to pursue the life of your dreams.

Even though I’ve been living as an unclutterer for close to a decade, I still haven’t come to the point where I can completely turn off my emotional attachments to sentimental things. I’m not an automaton. I still mourn a little when I say goodbye to objects that have passed through my life, but now I can at least bid them farewell when it’s appropriate.

There is nothing wrong with feeling a little sting when saying goodbye to objects you have loved. Just don’t let that sting keep you from parting with something that no longer fits with your life and the life you desire. When uncluttering, if you need to take a few minutes to mourn the end of ownership of an object, take a few minutes to mourn.

21 Comments for “You don’t have to turn off your emotions when uncluttering”

  1. posted by Shalin on

    Even though my house has been a money sucker, I think I’ll be a little sentimental when I sell it. Fortunately, there have been plenty of smiles, laughter, and stories that have happened there. I think I may leave a simple worded note that the new owners enjoy the place and keep filling it with smiles and laughter…I could have closure in that act.

    This post reminds me of this video of Disney’s “Little House”:

  2. posted by JustGail on

    Congratulations on selling the house! For us, even with those happy memories, it was a bigger relief to have all the papers signed. I still miss our old (much smaller) house, usually when I’m cleaning. And for garbage/recycling pickup. Not for much else though, as you said, it stopped meeting our needs.

  3. posted by reenie on

    Yes, we’ve had to say goodbye to a couple of houses we really loved. One was a big funny old house that we had started restoring and had only lived in for 7 years. We moved to another city. I still dream about that house and every time we go back to that town we drive by and gaze at it. We had a huge yard sale at the time because we were moving into a much smaller old house. Decreased from 12 gigantic rooms, a full basement and full attic, to 7 rooms and no attic. Quite an uncluttering experience.

    * * *
    Small change of subject: we visited our elderly aunt in her assisted living center last week and on the way out to lunch ran into another resident who wanted to give Aunt Martha a stuffed giraffe. Martha graciously declined–hooray for her! The friend, who’s trying to unclutter, has the nicest way of thinking about letting her things go. She does NOT “get rid” of things. She says she “sends them off to find a new and better home.” I’m not certain, but I got the impression that she actually says these words to each item, “go now and find your better home.” I’m incorporating this phrase into my mantras…

  4. posted by María on

    I have moved many times and I always say to myself: If you weren’t a bit sad that would mean you didn’t enjoy that place. Every time you let something into your heart you become vulnerable, but it is soooo much worth it!

  5. posted by D on

    I guess this means you don’t have to clean the garage?

  6. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Congratulations on selling, Erin. I’ve never sold a property, but have moved several times. Even leaving behind a place that you don’t own is often upsetting. Geez, I get sentimental about leaving workplaces. Perhaps I should work on that! 😉

  7. posted by Erin Doland on

    @D — The garage is at the new house. The house we sold yesterday didn’t have one. We’ve been in the new house since March.

  8. posted by Heidi Poe on

    I’m a former pack rat in transition of becoming someone who is able to let go of her past. This past weekend I visited my parent’s home and cleaned out part of my old walk-in closet. I threw away a lot of broken or dirty toys and dolls that I’ve had since I was a kid, and donated the toys that were still clean to charity. I took pictures of the ones that meant a lot to me, but it was silly for me to let them continue taking up some much-needed storage space. I knew I wasn’t going to take them with me when I move into my first permanent home and it’s selfish of me to expect my parents to keep it all for me. It’s hard, but I’m working through it.

  9. posted by Elizabeth in Transit on

    This is especially timely today, as my movers empty my house if 7.5 years. I poured myself into this house after my ex left me, and it became me. It’s time to go and have a new adventure somewhere else. I hope my tenants are good to my little house, and are as at home here as I have been.

  10. posted by writing all the time on

    @Erin, congratulations on saying goodbye to such an important part of your past in a wonderfully balanced way.

    Having feelings is a good thing. Holding on to things, thinking we’ll just never feel sad or angry if we keep a tight grip, is not.

    Well done!

  11. posted by *pol on

    Very timely. I am mourning the realization that some furniture that I LOVE simply has no place in this house. I have been hanging onto these pieeces for over 10 years (!) looking for the perfect place for them here, and not finding it. Finally, now I see that I like my house better than this furniture, so I have to find these THINGS a new owner (but it still makes me sad).

  12. posted by Deb on

    I am a fan of Dr. Thomas who is an Elder Advocate, who advises when Elders move to a Nursing Home, or other Elder Care facility, they bring a bit of the “earth” with them…..I have decided that when I move, I will always take a little dirt to add to the dirt (outside, not in) of my new place….This way, a part of me can be transplanted as well. I think a piece of us (more than just our stuff) should come with us.

    It’s better than my daughter, who took the doorknob from her bedroom. Whoops…

  13. posted by Erica on

    Great topic. I purchased my childhood home 10 years ago then lost the home to a fire 5 years ago. The rebuilt house is a testament to minimalist living. I love the land and the house, but the weather is too cold for me most of the year. I wish I could let this go as I have with stuff, but…

  14. posted by Rebecca on

    I often felt sad when packing up an apartment getting ready to move, esp those places where we lived when our sons were born. I tended to be the one to do the final walk through and hand over the keys, so I had one last chance to walk through each room and say “goodbye” to the place while taking my memories with me.

  15. posted by Susan in FL on

    Hubby and I lived in 5 places in California, 8 places in Indiana and 3 places in Florida where we now live. Whenever we visit California or Indiana, we make a “home tour” just for fun. I have to say there are some real dogs and some don’t go there places on our list of former residences. Its always good to see where you’ve been so you know where you are going.

  16. posted by Susan on

    If there is any truth to place memory, Erin, then the joy you and your family shared in the old house will be felt by the new owners. That joy will help them create a home from the house they bought. I hope your new place has joy imbued in its walls and that it will soon feel like a home.

  17. posted by Andy on

    I’m just about to do the same thing, but with my car. It was my first car, and, as silly as it sounds, my dream car. People laughed at me, but my ’89 Volvo sedan with heated seats fit me and my life perfectly for years. Now with a new baby, practicality has won over and I bought a car with better headlights, AC, safety anchors, air bags and the like. But, it’s just a car to me – not a friend like my Volvo.

    It’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone in mourning these events. I just hope my car’s next owner loves it as much as I do. Maybe I’ll write them a note too. It’s a lovely idea.

  18. posted by bryan on

    I don’t see a lot of emotion when uncluterring, but I do wonder occasionally if I will need the item in question in the future once its gone. This is the case for a lot of people when uncluttering.They feel they may need it in the future so they hold onto it

  19. posted by Jasmine on

    I think everybody who lives in a home for a few years has some level of sentimentality attached to it. I don’t think we’re attached so much to the building, but rather, to the feeling of being “home” (whether that’s a house, apartment, condo, or whatever, is irrelevant). We don’t mourn the loss of access to a specific building, but rather, we mourn the loss of our home. We may have a new building or location to move into, but it is not yet established as a “home,” and it won’t be until new memories are formed there. There’s nothing wrong with this sentimentality, as long as we understand that change is sometimes for the better, and as long as we don’t stop ourselves from creating more exciting memories in the new place.

  20. posted by the other Tammy on

    My mother in law just traded in her trusty old Honda Accord with 250,000+ miles in on a beautiful new (used) Jaguar…and she cried about leaving the Honda. The car dealer was making fun of her, but I would have been right there with her…I can’t imagine how emotional I will be if or when we ever sell my house…

  21. posted by Michaela Stephens on

    My strategy for dealing with that emotional attachment is to write about it in my journal. I’ve found emotion need to be validated and recording memories of the stuff I’m letting go of (and places I’m moving from) helps me let go better.

Comments are closed.