Clutter Clearing: Your Housemates May Hate Me

Instead of ownership, when you pay for something, think of it as the cost of renting that item until it no longer serves you. Then, you can release it back into the river of stuff that flows throughout our society. We get hung up on the permanence of our relationship with the stuff and it leaves us stuck. It’s time to release, release, release.

Have you ever bought a cool, shiny, new kitchen widget, used it three times, and then become bored with it? So, it sits there (being not nearly as sexy as it was the day you met it in the store). Perhaps you have a pair of shoes that you just had to have, but they hurt your feet and are now collecting dust in the back of your closet. Or maybe you have an ever-expanding collection of movies, music, or books that, if you were inclined to notice how much you actually use them, you’d realize most of them won’t be used again.

Why is it all still there? Most of the time, I’ve found that it’s because we’ve committed to this stuff — or so it appears — with our hard-earned dollars. We brought it in the house and, even if we now recognize that we wouldn’t bring it in again, we can’t bring ourselves to take it out.

That is one of the most oppressive illusions I find in the minds of my students and clients as they work to re-frame their relationship with stuff. Some people think it would be wasteful to give away (or sell at a second-hand price) something in which they “invested,” which would no be longer true if we thought of our investment as paying a borrower’s fee, as opposed to having made a life-long commitment.

Of course, there are others who believe the stuff they’ve accumulated somehow makes them better, more valuable. It’s simply not true. Nothing outside of you can make you more of anything worth being.

So, while you’re hoarding all of the things you’ve purchased but no longer use, the people in your community who desire those same exact things are driving to the store, purchasing new ones, and driving up the demand, so more of those things will be manufactured. Now, I know that my earth-loving friends here at Care2 can understand the implications of this.

But, what about stuff we might use again? Well, if you remember that the river of stuff flows both in and out of your life, then you’re good. Maybe right now isn’t the time for you to own that sewing machine after all. I mean sure, you bought it, but life changed and you never actually started using it. People ask me all the time how it’s not irresponsible to release stuff that they may have to go buy again later.

Honestly, I don’t believe that it is irresponsible. If you were sending it to the landfill, then yes, that would suck. But that’s not what I’m suggesting. Let’s use all of these magnificent resources we have through the Internet, non-profits, and community programs to get that which no longer serves us into the hands of someone who can and will use it… like now.

When the time comes for that thing to flow back into your life, you can trust that you will have the resources to open the door and let it in. Then, when there is something you want or need, remember to turn to all of the same fabulous sources you use when releasing your stuff. I’m not suggesting you buy at full price, release it when you don’t use it for a while, then suffer later if you’re not in a position to purchase it at full price again. There is a world here that’s filled with everything we need. We just have to expand our understanding of the flow of stuff enough to live without fear, the fear that we won’t be able to get what we want and need.

When the urge to possess an item passes, it is to make room in your life for something new. Why not just go with it?

Or is it that you think the urge hasn’t actually passed? Well, I have news for you. It has. If the urge hadn’t passed, you’d be using it. It doesn’t mean you don’t still think it’s cool, or lovely, or inspiring. It means that, even with all of its awesomeness, this item no longer serves you. That means it’s time for your stuff to go serve somebody else.

Before you throw something at me, consider this. How much of that stuff have you actually gone back to after it sat for a few weeks or months or years? I know it occasionally happens, but let’s be honest, these are truly rare experiences. Sometimes we do eventually get back to that instrument or creative outlet or appliance, but more often, we just keep it for a really, really, really long time, and then, we release it anyway. It might be because of a move or perhaps it will be taken from us by a tornado or something a little less dramatic. We cling until we are pushed, and then we let it go.

Why not let it go now? Why keep sharing your space with stuff that somebody else needs?

The people who come to my classes truly want the freedom that comes from releasing that which no longer serves them, but we’ve all been taught to cling. We are groomed to believe this story about the permanence of stuff, but what if we just decided it wasn’t so? What if we shifted our relationship with stuff, and were able to make space in our lives for what we really want?

Seriously, let’s have the courage to release these things back into the river of stuff that flows through our society. You can sell it, donate it, recycle it, or just give it away. My Sick of Being Stuck students have gotten downright crafty with their releasing lately. One young woman keeps carrying loads of stuff out to the curb with a “Free” sign; and while she does more releasing inside, there’s a serious celebration underway at the street as people find things they want and need. Others are donating treasures to museums, neighbors, or family members for whom these items now feel true. There are shelters that need donations and collectors who are looking for their next great thing. The options are really endless.

Why are your partners, children, and roommates (or whomever you live with) going to hate me? Well, you’re probably going to be the trailblazer in this situation. They were raised in the same society that you were and are probably clinging to the stuff that no longer serves them, too. You’re going to be all pumped up with the possibility of freeing yourself from yesterday’s inventory, and welcoming into your life the space, time, energy, and cash that comes from this experience. But be prepared… they may not share your enthusiasm.

Don’t worry. This happens all the time. In fact, my classes are full of people who are the first in their house, family, and circle of friends to have made the switch to this more simple, community-conscious way of living. The good news is that you don’t have to convince them to get on board. (Trust me, you don’t want to be in charge of that.)

For now, just focus on releasing the stuff that no longer serves you. The freedom you are cultivating is undeniably attractive and the people around you will want to know what’s gotten into you. Your shift will cause other shifts. That is always the case.  And if I’m wrong, which I’ve never been on this one before, you can always just tell them to take it up with me!
Click here for more information about the Sick of Being Stuck program.

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Elisa F.
Elisa F.2 years ago

Thank you...need to let go of some of our stuff. Great article.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

Hello. My name is Kathy, and I am a yarn and craft supply hoarder

Heather Marvin
Heather Marv3 years ago

Good info thanks.

Linda H.
Linda h.3 years ago

I still have a hard time with this. However, what I have been finding is I feel "richer" with less and happier knowing someone who needed something now has it. Honestly if you haven't used something in a year it's just a souvenir. Take a picture of it and give it to someone else to enjoy or just, gasp!, throw it away! Just don't keep buying things unless you really need it and try to borrow it first.

Khawaja M.
Khawaja M.3 years ago

Awesome post. I love your thoughts

harriet s.
Heather M.3 years ago

Great article, Christy!

Piper W.
Piper W.3 years ago

Thanks Vero G., I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I like hearing things I may not have thought about presented in a informative way. :)

Loo Samantha
Loo sam3 years ago


Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers3 years ago

I love the sense of release when I de-clutter.

Joanna Mechlinski
Joanna M.3 years ago

One of the best things about my condo, IMO, is the fact that I have neither a basement nor an attic. This means I have to store everything that's not used everyday within the actual living space...which in turn means I really have to give serious thought to what I really and truly need or want. It's been a good life lesson.