“Letting go” - an essential skill to ease those big life stage changes
Whether your little one is entering the school system for the first time or your “not so little” one is returning to complete their final year it can be a source of both pleasure and pain. The passing of time is brought into sharp focus. When I see all those 1st day back pics on social media I hear myself repeating my own mother “How did that happen?” “The years are rushing by.” “How did they get that big?” etc.
Each age brings a new stage and a little more “letting go”. In this blog I’d like to explore how dealing with the “things” your children no longer need can be dealt with in a positive way for both the parent and the kid. Letting go is a life skill that CAN be learnt. Making it part of your family life will ease your day to day living but also make those tricky transition times and difficult events such as moving home, illness and break ups a little easier to cope with.
A build-up of “things” can be a real burden. It’s not just the physical result of too much stuff but also the emotional weight it puts on a person.
“Letting go” makes more room for other stuff. (I don’t mean more things!) When my teenage daughter shifted from a high sleeper to a regular double bed recently, she also had a pretty major declutter of her walls. Some of the pics, medals and “creations” had been around since she was in primary school. Yep they are lovely but they’re not a reflection of who she is or the way she wants to be right now. Some bits we popped into a memory box but most have been moved on. She’s now really enjoying flopping on her bed, reading and just chillin in there! There’s also plenty of SPACE to add meaningful bits and pieces as the next stage in her life unfolds.
Leo Babauta, author of Zen habits, talks of letting go of possessions as “delicious and liberating”. He identifies a process that most of us follow in letting go:-
1) Ask whether something is worthy of being in your life. E.g. ALL the artwork and craft your child ever created in nursery!
2) You realise it causes more problems than it’s worth.
3) You’re a tad concerned but you manage to part with it.
4) You find that release and a touch of freedom.
Our own particular route might have a few more questions come up, some nagging doubts and possibly some procrastination in there too. Some will find getting past number 3 more easily than others.
At times we’re afraid of making the wrong decision. “What if I let it go and then I NEED it?” is such a common thought. This can be magnified when we are considering other people’s items, especially our children’s. There is usually no WRONG decision. From letting go we might learn how to find an alternative solution, go without or accept that it’s just not that important.
Why not think of it as an opportunity for growth, as well as an unexpected surprise? It’s ok to get it not quite right. In fact, it can be pretty desirable.
Getting back to Babauta, he goes on to explain that every possession gives us something more than just practicality. What he’s talking about are the things like comfort, security, love and even self-image. And the thing is, it is NOT the items that hold these – it is within YOU. When we have an understanding of this it can help us to make those really tricky decisions.
Let’s think of another example. Last year I worked with a single mum and son (aged around 8). My client had recognised for some time that there was simply too much stuff in most rooms of their house. She couldn’t quite pin down why she struggled to part with it. Together we decided that her bedroom would be the first to be tackled and tamed.
Once we started, we moved surprisingly swiftly. Over a few sessions she started to untangle her feelings associated with the items. There was make up she held onto for security in case she couldn’t afford to buy more, not because she was actually going to wear it. There were partly completed craft projects that she felt she SHOULD be doing, which added to her self image, but were no longer important enough to be on her to do list. And then there were mementos from a very different period in her life which she thought she gleaned love from but were actually dragging her back into the past. When considering what to keep and what should stay it was now becoming clearer to her that she no longer needed to hold onto the physical items to feel safe, loved or to bolster her self-esteem. Her bedroom transformed.
With this new found energy and insight we were then able to move onto her son’s room. Whilst this was a slower process, we still made substantial progress to a warm, comfy, fun and pretty organised space. We used some tools to aid the declutter – taking photos of special stuff that was going, transferring the REALLY precious items to a memory box and focusing on the benefit to others of the donations that would be made. At the end of our work together both of them stated they felt refreshed & happy with their “new” rooms. The joy of letting go.
In conclusion we are sometimes AFRAID to let go. We’re often focusing on the past and not being in the moment. When we embrace the present, we can find the courage to let go. Establishing our honest response as to “why” we (Or our child) wants to keep something is not easy to do but with practice it does get easier! And in turn, this allows us to move forward in achieving our decluttering & organising desires for both ourselves and our children.
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