by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: If you're not certain that you can let go of things connected to your aspirations, put the items in a box and label it with a date six months into the future. Creating this distance between yourself and these things may help you realize that you feel freer letting go of these expectations.
We get caught up in clutter conundrums when we hold onto items that we think we need to keep … even though we know we don’t use them.
Some of the trickiest stuff to declutter (next to sentimental items) is aspirational clutter. Aspirational clutter includes the books, courses, equipment, supplies, and so on that would allow us to be someone different. To do or learn about something new that would change our identity (even subtly).
You buy a stack of books on astrology. You purchase skis and the appropriate clothing for skiing. You get a kayak. You sign up for a wine-of-the-month club. You buy an elliptical machine or treadmill as motivation to exercise.
You envision yourself as the person your friends go to, asking for advice based on their horoscope. You’ll be the person who heads out each Friday afternoon during the winter with plans to go skiing … or, in the summer, to paddle down a local river. People will ask for your advice about what wine to serve with dinner. You’ll get thin and fit.
If we used the items that would allow us to reach our goals, well, yeah, perfect. However, how many items get shoved into the back of our closet or hidden in the garage, attic, or basement to hide our disappointment with ourselves for aspiring but not doing?
Act on Your Dreams
List 10 things that you already own but that you don’t use. Are you ready to sell these items or give them away? If not, make a note in your calendar when you’ll use each of these things. If you can’t make yourself do this, this is your answer – you can let the item go.
If you are thinking, “I spent so much money on this stuff,” how much dust does it need to collect to justify the money you spent? It just doesn’t work that way. See if a friend wants this equipment so you can enjoy the vicarious experience of knowing someone is using the stuff.
Identify Your Goals
Consider why you haven't decluttered items that belong to your fantasy self. When you look at your list of the aspirational items you have around the house, ask yourself how you thought you’d feel owning – and using – those items. Would you have felt smarter, more athletic, more confident, more spiritual, more free-spirited, happier, cooler, whatever?
Do you notice a pattern with how those aspirational items would have helped you to feel? If you focus on one of these key feelings that popped up a couple of times, can you think of five-to-ten things you could add to your life, that wouldn’t cost a penny, but that would help you to feel the way you want to feel?
Avoid Future Clutter
I’m not suggesting that you should never try anything new. However, find out if you can borrow or rent supplies from a friend or business before buying anything. Also, plan for when you'll use the stuff. I know I’ve been guilty of buying things thinking that owning them would magically create time for me to use the things.
When you think of something you want to do or learn that requires equipment or materials, engage in some creative thinking and consider how you could do that thing without acquiring something new. Could you take a snowshoeing class (that supplies the snowshoes) and see if you enjoy the activity enough to invest more time and money into it? Can you ask a friend who does the hobby to show you the process or maybe lend you some simple supplies?
Holding onto aspirational clutter can be discouraging. You end up frustrated that you failed to develop an interest, hobby, or aptitude. Releasing these objects (that you may have been holding onto for years – or decades), not only frees up space in your home, but allows you the mental energy to pursue new interests.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, loves learning and sharing information about organizing, productivity, and habits. She also likes reading young adult novels, crocheting, and spending time with her cat and husband in their riverside home in Massachusetts.