LETTING GO OF POSSESSIONS | The Home Design School

LETTING GO OF POSSESSIONS

Declutter

When it comes to creating our ideal home décor, we start with a vision of how we want our home to look. For some of us this is a feeling, or a mood we want to create, and for others, it is a clear design board, containing ALL of the details of the room (go you!). 

But sometimes, in the execution of those plans, something goes wrong. We fail to create the look we want, the plan doesn’t come together as we had envisaged.

Why is this?

Often it is because we hold onto items that we already have in our homes, and we don’t replace them when we come to create our new decor.

Even though they don’t fit in with our design plans.

Even though we might not actually like them! 

So what’s going on here?

Perhaps it’s an item from your past, perhaps something that you had around you in childhood, and so you feel nostalgic about it.

Perhaps it’s an item that was gifted to you, and so you feel guilt if you were to get rid of it. Or you’re worried you’re being ungrateful. Or you worry that the person who gave it to you will notice it’s missing and be angry with you.

Perhaps it’s an item that is in perfectly good working order and it is wasteful for you to get rid of it.

Or perhaps- most strongly- it’s an item that was inherited from a close relative, and you feel as though by holding onto it, you hold onto a piece of them in some way.

I totally get all of these things. I understand. 

“Possessions come with powerful associations, and we (wrongly) assign greater importance to ‘things’ than we should. ”

— Kate Hatherell, The Home Design School

Possessions can hold so much power that we try to make them fit into our room schemes, even though they really don’t go. It’s like a little blind spot that we have; human beings are remarkably good at seeing what they want to see, rather than seeing what is in front of them. We ‘make it fit’ even though it really doesn’t. 

In order to move past this, in order to get the home you really want, you have to accept that these items don’t fit in with your design plan. Not only this, but they are stopping you from having the home you want. 

Like Disney’s Queen Elsa, we need to learn to “Let It Go!” when it comes to our possessions, if they are stopping us from having the home we want.

So, what’s the solution?

It’s all very well to say, “Let It Go!” but how do we do that?

Firstly, recognise that it’s not about the stuff itself; we are all perfectly capable of heading to the tip or the charity shop.

It’s the stuff in our heads, the stuff in our hearts. The emotional stuff. The (dare I say it) baggage that we carry around.

How do we move past those mental blockers we hold to rid ourselves of the possessions that are getting in our way?

Let’s see if we can get practical with some solutions…

1. Get clear on your vision

Start with the end in mind. Be super clear about how you want your home to look. Although a ‘feeling’ or a ‘mood’ is a great place to start, the more you firm up and crystallise the look you are going for, the easier it is for you to see where your current possessions fit, and where they do not.

Create Pinterest boards, scrap books or concept and mood boards of the exact look you are trying to achieve.

Write a description of how you want the space to feel, and what you need to include (and exclude) to get that look, and become super focused on how you want the end product to be.

At this point, remember that you don’t have to get rid of anything, you are just dreaming. So this is a safe step. Be honest about your dream, and don’t focus on what you currently have.

2. Future Cast your Dream

Future what? Future casting is about envisaging how you want the future to look in all it’s glorious detail. Creating a vision of the future is a really powerful tool to help get your mind in the right place for change.

Write a description of how your space will look, and how you will feel, once you achieve the vision you created in the previous step. How will life be different once you have achieved the home you want?

So now onto the actual possessions themselves…

3. How to Let Go of an Unwanted Gift

Someone has generously given you something for your home, which they clearly love, and they love you enough to give it to you. The trouble is? Their taste is different to yours, and now you are stuck with an item you dislike, forever adorning your shelves, or you risk offending them if you get rid of it. What a dilemma.

(Tip for everyone: never EVER buy someone something for their home. Buy something disposable- cut flowers for example- but never EVER something they then have to display. Do you want to give someone else the dilemma I’ve mentioned above?)

The best way to handle this is of course is to make those expectations clear up front. Please could I have <INSERT: voucher/ flowers/ chocolates/ a meal/ an experience/some babysitting/ a donation to charity> for my birthday.

 Set expectations beforehand if you can! Set expectations beforehand if you can!

But if you haven’t done this, and you’re already lumbered with said gift, you need to get your mindset in the right place so that you can get rid of it. 

Firstly, know that most people won’t even notice if something is missing. We are so focused on ourselves, that we think other people are as wrapped up in the minutiae of our lives as we are. They’re not. They may not even notice.

Secondly, if the person knew that you disliked it, they would be mortified to know that are displaying something you dislike. Stop being so awkward and get rid. And if they do question you? Be honest! I really appreciated the gesture but it’s not quite to my taste. 

Thirdly. Own your space. You all tell me how important your home is. You tell me it is your sanctuary. Your safe space. So in this space, it is your choice to have what you want in there. Are you really going to let someone else dictate how your home looks? Really?

And finally. Stop worrying about what others think. Going to offend Great Aunt Maud if you jettison her floral china vase? Well okay. That’s a shame. But she’ll get over it. Or she won’t. Either way, it’s your home. Have what you want in it.

4. How to Let Go of Stuff that’s Not Broken

For many of us, we were brought up with a ‘waste not want not’ approach to life. We were told to eat up everything on our plates, to ‘make do and mend’.

Throwing out all of our unwanted stuff was just wasteful.

Whether you are a post war baby, conditioned not to waste, or you are simply worried about the environmental impact of the disposable mentality we have, getting rid of unwanted possessions doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Whatever it is that you have in your home that you don’t like, you can still get rid. There will always be someone who wants what no longer works for you.

The success of auction sites like Ebay, and local recycling sites like Freecycle show that there is a roaring trade in ‘preloved’ items. Charity shops are always looking out for unwanted furniture. It really is true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

— Anon

Why hang onto something that is cluttering up your life, that you don’t really like or no longer have a use for? You are denying somebody else the pleasure of having your preloved possessions. Get rid, and get yourself something you love.

5. How to Let Go of Sentimental Stuff

Without question, the hardest thing to let go of is the sentimental stuff. The stuff you inherited from a relative no longer with us, the memorabilia from childhood. This is tough.

We confuse our sentimentality about the person or time in our lives with the possessions that were there at the same time. It’s almost as though holding on to the item will keep the person or the time closer to you.

But of course, the truth is, that it’s the memory you need to hold on to, not the item itself. I love this quotation from the Minimalists

“I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.”

— The Minimalists

It’s not that holding onto sentimental items is wrong. It’s only wrong if it gets in the way of the lifestyle and home that we want to have. 

Keeping 4500 CDs or VHS tapes in a rack because you have fond memories of the films and music is not going to help you achieve the clean-lined scandi look you’re after. Keeping granny’s vintage embroidered napkins isn’t going to work in the glam luxe pad you’re trying to create. Let it go.

Go back to step one, and check the sentimental item against your vision board for your home. Does it fit? Does it go with your design scheme? 

If it doesn’t, then check your future cast from step two. This item is now stopping you from realising that dream. Surely, that’s not what your relative would have wanted? Surely your younger self would not want you trapped in this way?

Marie Kondo (the queen of decluttering), tells you to thank the item for it’s usefulness and then choose to let it go. Let it go and be thankful that the item will now serve someone else, bring someone else pleasure, or simply thank it for giving you pleasure in the past. 

Whatever items you have in your home, which are stopping you from creating the home of your dreams, take stock, and see whether you can overcome some of these blockers for yourself. 

Declutter. Live lighter. 

Until next time x

 

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