The Sinister Six, part 3: Investment
Welp, we’re continuing with our examination of The Sinister Six; so far we’ve discussed Potential and Control/Perfectionism. Here’s a recap of all six fears and excuses that make us hold on to things for too long:
- Guilt and Obligation
- Loss of Connection
This week let’s focus on why we keep things we don’t need based on investment.
Throwing things away that never got eaten, or donating clothing with tags can feel like watching little dollar signs get stuffed down the sink disposal. We think of the hours at work we put in to earn the item in question, and we feel guilty. But investment isn’t just monetary– think about the time, energy and attention that we can invest in our items too: A never-worn t-shirt may be hard to let go of, based on your small financial investment. But a t-shirt from a play you were in that you spent days/weeks/months rehearsing for? That can be even tougher to place in the donation bag, based on the time/energy investment that you made during that time in your life. Our culture encourages materialism by equating physical items with accomplishments and feelings of worthiness. We do this with trophies. Medals. Oscars. Wedding rings. Framed diplomas. Keepsake t-shirts. Playbills. If we let these things go, it’s like it all never happened, right? Or… Here’s a biggie… What about people in our lives that we have invested so much time in? Your partner or friend may be toxic for you, but there’s years worth of history between you two. Are you just going to throw that all away? What exactly are we afraid of happening if we let something go, that we were keeping based on investment?
Examples I often hear when working with clients, for keeping INVESTMENT clutter:
- “I spent so much money on that, just let me wear it once before I donate it!” (as if I’m going to tell them no! That’s up to my client. 🙂 )
- “Okay I’m fine with getting rid of it, but I want to sell it. That way I get a little bit of a return on my investment.”
- “My daughter and I spent hours making that diorama for her history project. We had a blast and really bonded over it. I’m not ready to get rid of it yet.”
- “My boyfriend and I aren’t really happy, but we’ve been together for eight years… I gave him my youth. I can’t ignore that.”
Frequently kept things based on INVESTMENT:
- Clothing with tags.
- Unfinished crafting projects: you’ve come this far, why stop now?
- Expired foods.
- School projects, posters and papers.
- Broken relationships.
- Awards from major achievements.
What we are really saying when we keep based on INVESTMENT:
- The only way to get my return on this investment is to keep it longer.
- Without this thing to remind me, it’s like it all never happened.
- Letting go is losing.
- Letting go would be admitting to myself that I’m wasteful or have bad taste in [clothing, friends, etc].
What I have kept too long in my own life, based on INVESTMENT:
In 2004 I bought a brown belted blazer (ew) at Zara in Singapore, thinking it would be perfect to wear to job interviews. It sat in the closet in my old room in my parents’ house in New Jersey for TEN. EFFING. YEARS. Tags and all. It wasn’t until I took classes to find my best colors/styles that I was able to look at it and say “enough of this.” I abandoned all hope of selling it, and just donated it to Homefront NJ. Which is what I always should have done. And I dragged that thing with me from across the planet!!
What else have I held on to for too long based on investment? Relationships that made me feel caged. Friendships that didn’t lift me any more. Things that felt at the time like they needed to be kept, because I had already invested so much time and mental effort in them. Decluttering can be a long journey: I’m still releasing wherever I feel discontentment.
More thoughts on INVESTMENT:
I can promise you this: If it’s a thing, then the moment it leaves your house, it will stop haunting you. It’s only hurting you now while you have it. Once it’s gone, you won’t think twice. If it’s a relationship or a friendship, it may haunt you for awhile before you can really release it from your thoughts. It’s one thing to throw something into the trash or the donation hamper, but if you feel like you are still being haunted after you physically release something, you may have to emotionally release it too.
My own definition of clutter is a material clue that something needs to be emotionally released.
I’ve heard good things about meditation. It’s not really my thing, but it works for many. Pillow work/anger release is a good one. I recently tried hypnotherapy and loved it a lot. Journaling works for some. Doesn’t matter- just do what you need to do to release and move on.
One last thought about investment: It’s a little easier to let go of things when you thank them for what they’ve taught you. Never-worn clothing teaches us what we will realistically wear. You can keep that knowledge forever, but you don’t have to keep the clothing itself. A school project that we put our heart into did its job while we were doing it, and taught us to relish the journey: the destination feels good until it starts collecting dust. Lastly, letting go of a long-term relationship or friendship can teach you more about yourself; what you will and will not allow in your life. If you look at things this way, EVERYTHING that enters your home and life has value, and you never have to keep it to retain the lesson.