mnmlist: how to let go of possessions

By Leo

One of the hardest things about becoming minimalist, for most people, is letting go of possessions.

It’s tough, I won’t lie.

Letting go can be an amazing release, and when you do, you’ll feel liberated and light. But allowing yourself to let go is an emotional thing, and as with anything emotional, it’s not always simple.

There are a few emotional reasons we have a tough time letting go of possessions. A little while ago, I read an excellent series on learning to let go of clothes from The Very Small Closet, and several reasons were given for this difficulty:
  • We have memories and good emotions associated with the possessions;
  • We spent money on the items, which meant we missed other opportunities to spend that money, and we hate thinking of the missed opportunities;
  • We fear we might have an occasion to use the clothes in the future, or might lose 10 lbs. and fit the clothes in the future;
  • We fear an uncertain future, when we might need the possessions because we don’t have the money to buy more;
  • And, in the present, we enjoy having the feeling of “plenty”.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into this bond with our possessions. You might also notice that the first two are associated with the past, the second two are associated with the future, and only the last deals with the present.

There are two ways we can beat those fears, so that we are free to let go of possessions:

1. Focus on the present. Sure, we might have feelings about the past, and worry about missed opportunities in the past, but those are gone. If we focus on the present — enjoying this time, without the need for all these possessions, we can let go of the past. Be happy now, not tied to memories or missed opportunities of the past. If we get stuck in the past, we are missing the opportunities of the present.

And fears of an uncertain future can also be banished if we focus on the present. The future hasn’t arrived yet — the present has. We have no idea what the future will bring, so worrying about it is a waste of time. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Instead, focus on living now, in the present. And when you do that, you realize you don’t need any of these possessions. All you need is to make the most of this moment, right now.

2. Focus on quality over quantity. Sure, it might feel good to have a lot, to have that feeling of “plenty”. But if instead we focus on quality, and not quantity, we can get an even better pleasure. Having a few good things is so much better than having a lot of things. Enjoying small pleasures, now, is better than the fleeting and unsatisfying feeling that possessions give us.

So focus on the present, and let the past and future fade away. Focus on quality over quantity. And in doing so, banish our emotional ties to possessions, so that we can let them go.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, I know. But it can be done, and when you do it, you’ll feel amazing.