When “Good Enough” Isn’t
I’ve had a cotton swab container in my bathroom for years. It’s actually a sugar bowl that I bought to use as a Q-Tip holder. It’s been quite effective, what with a matching lid to keep the swabs out of sight. But it’s that lid that finally did me in.
For a while now, the clanging noise the cover makes against the bowl has been driving me bonkers. It’s super rattly and, as someone who is easily affected by energy and loud noises, it made me rattly. I finally decided it was time for it to go.
There it is in the donation box on its way to the thrift shop. —->
Some might question why I would get rid of something that still has life in it; that still functions; that isn’t broken. Isn’t that wasteful? Nope, it sure isn’t. Not when it costs me more energetically than it’s worth.
I recently spoke to a caller on my radio show, Transformational Clutter Clearing, who struggles with this exact thing — giving herself permission to let go of something she no longer loves even though it still works “well enough.”
She prides herself on living minimally, supporting the second-hand economy, and being intentional about letting things go. And while that’s admirable, it’s a slippery slope when you do it at the expense of yourself.
She talked about a window fan that was slightly broken, but still worked if positioned just right. It bothered her every time she saw it and used it, but she felt guilty replacing it since it still served its intended purpose. She didn’t want to add to the landfill just because it annoyed her.
I reminded her that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so instead of throwing it away, she could list it on Freecycle or in a local Facebook group to see if someone wanted it to tinker with. And I encouraged her to get herself a fully functioning fan since she had the budget for it.
Because she’s worth it.
Because she deserves to have things that function properly whenever possible.
And that’s when we got to the real clutter — her belief of being undeserving and ungrateful.
As we wrapped up our call, I left her with four assignments:
- List the broken fan for free
- Get a new fan
- Spend at least on Pom round journaling about her limiting beliefs
- Work on flipping those beliefs to ones that are far more empowering.
I heard from her a couple weeks later that she had, in fact, replace the fan after finding a loving new home for the broken one, and she’s working on validating her new beliefs by taking more action to show herself that she is deserving and worthy.
When reconciling the dilemma of getting rid of items that still have life left in them, there are a few different “costs” to look at:
- The actual price of an item,
- The lifetime cost, and
- The energetic cost.
Ten years ago, I paid $8 for that sugar bowl.
It cost me $0.80 per year to use it.
Energetically, it bankrupted me. Seriously. That clanging noise threw energy out of my body every time I heard it.
The above calculation, for me, results in a definite “buh bye” to the sugar bowl. No question about it.
Even if something is in good condition and serves a purpose, but you no longer love it, consider the cost to you to keep it; how much it drains your energy; what negative connections you may have to it; or the space it’s taking up in your life that something much better could fill, whether related to that item or not.
If that isn’t enough for you to let it go, dig a bit deeper. What story are you telling yourself about why it’s not ok to get rid of it?
Peeling more layers can help uncover some things you may not have realized were there. Maybe you, like my radio caller, have an old story telling you that you have to take what you can get, or that you should be happy with what you have, or that you don’t deserve nice things.
Whatever your inner dialogue is telling you about why you should keep something you no longer love, need, or use is the real clutter.
And therein lies the gift of the item you’re struggling to let go of — it’s giving you the chance to clear some much deeper clutter — limiting beliefs that are likely holding you back in many areas of your life.
Working on clearing clutter is the best way to uncover the message in the mess as it stirs things up and puts you face-to-face with the challenge.
To make this a regular habit, try this:
Put an empty box by your front door, and every day, find something to add to it. Then, at the end of the month, send it off to the thrift store.
As you look for things to put in the box, pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and inner chatter to hear what your resistance has to say. Jot them down in your journal and use those messages as prompts to dig deeper.
It’s this digging and excavating that will help you discover What Your Clutter Is Trying to Tell You!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Talk to me in the comments below.
Love it. I do this more these days, recognising when there is energy being expended on something like that, either noisy, ill-fitting or bit ratty-tatty. And often it’s a habit just putting up with it until I recognise those thoughts in a present moment. My main thing too when I’m wrestling with thoughts of, ‘It’s still functional’, ‘It’s still got some life in it’ or whatever is cluttering my truth, is to then say to myself, ‘I’m worth more than that’ or simply not putting up with second-best. It’s quite an empowering shift when I treat myself better and it can happen with the smallest or cheapest of things. Anything where I get stuck, I examine a bit closer to discover what’s really going on. Thanks Kerri.
Yes, Vicki! Great stuff. You hit the nail on the head — you’re worth more than that. And, chances are, there’s someone out there who would love the item. I’m sure my sugar bowl/Q-Tip holder has already found a new home! Thanks for joining the conversation.
I love what you are talking about, our stuff carries energy and drains us, finding the reason why we keep something is the key, thank you so much.
I am a tasker for Task Rabbit, and help clients organize,
The things I have seen are shocking, you just helped me to help them.
You’re welcome, Cheryl! Yes, people are not their “stuff.” If they struggle to let go of things, there is more going on. You can read a whole lot more about this in my book, What Your Clutter Is Trying to Tell You. It’s a Kindle deal on Amazon for the month of May — just $1.99! https://amzn.to/2wjsL4j 🙂
I like your approach. I hate most minimalist literature. More is not usually really more, of course. But less is also not necessarily more. I want the right amount of the right stuff to have what is a rich, full, happy enough life for me. A minimal amount of what is unimportant to me. But a slightly generous amount of what is most important to me, including friends, dogs, reading opportunities, and physical activity. None of those seem to require vast amounts of stuff, but for me it would definitely not fit comfortably in 230 square feet of floor space without very high ceilings and elaborate pulleys! My current house has a comfortable 590 square feet of floor space and except when travelling I do not want to go smaller!
Hi Kit, thanks for joining the conversation. You got it — each of us gets to decide what’s clutter and what is not; what is the perfect amount of stuff for us and what isn’t. There is no one size fits all. It’s more about what makes you feel nurtured versus what makes you feel stressed. It sounds like you’re on that!
But I also do not always feel that new is better either. Jeans that get softer with wear or well oiled leather moccasins are better than brand new. The key is knowing yourself, what you value.
Exactly, Kit. To each her own. I, too, love a worn pair of jeans, but a broken fan would drive me crazy! Clutter is all about what you define it as.
Hi – thanks so much for writing your book, I have been reading it and dog-earing some pages. I have been decluttering for about a week and it has actually made me cry. I was so excited after successfully paring down my underwear drawer, I thought everything would be that simple, but it has proven very hard emotionally. At one point I felt like “I was losing myself or my identity” And I would start crying. Other times I was exasperated, or completely unsure and unable to make a decision. My husband died a year ago and I feel like this could help me “move on”, but at the same time the memories this had brought up clearly shows I have “more work to do”…….intellectually I understand that decluttering can And will set me free, but deep down and emotionally I miss him, I miss having someone else help me with decisions, someone to talk to, and I feel “funny” being just “me and the dog”……I felt stumped when asked at the doctor’s office what my martial status was. I feel insecure. Maybe a little scared. But I also WANT to find the new normal and the “new me”, but I don’t know what that is or means or looks like. I think where I am the “most” stuck is stuff “I might need”…..like something as little as a rubber band (I might need that one day) to something like a stereo that is actually broken and is already outdated (as fast as electronics change now, I think it’s from 2009), but “what if I want to use the stereo some day”…….these things weigh me down but also present the biggest challenges to me. Often I do use things that I am “saving for a rainy day” and I guess that’s where my hesitation lies, like I saved a large rubber band for months, and then one day I did need it, and then I get excited when I “have these items on hand”, but I don’t really have room to keep all these “what if’s”. I feel so jumbled. I don’t know how to set “boundaries” with “maybe items” (kinda like in the book you talk about holding onto “skinny jeans” or clothes that are too large “just in case”)……and I wondered if you could help give me a push with such items. Thank you. Linn
I’m so glad you wrote. Doing so is such an act of self-love so I really want to commend you. The loss of your husband must be incredibly difficult. I’m sending you lots of love. A couple things I learned after my father passed away: grief is an unpredictable ride and we don’t get to decide when we’re done with grief. It decides when it’s done with us (if that is ever!). I share this in hopes of helping you to be patient and gentle with yourself. Always, be even moreso as you’re still very much on the ride.
You’ve done some great excavation work already on the messages your items have for you: that yourself and your identity are wrapped up in the stuff; that you can’t make progress until you’ve finished your emotional “work”; etc. What if the first step in releasing some physical items is to give yourself more time to grieve? To feel any and all emotions that come with that process? You might just be putting the cart before the horse. Sometimes we need to work on the emotional and energetic clutter before we can let go of the physical. So right now, I wouldn’t worry so much about that stereo or the rubber band. Instead, schedule intentional time for Linn. Pamper her. Love her up. Spoil her. Hold space for her. I bet you’ll find that stereo out by the curb in no time. <3
Your response Kerri, to Linn’s comment, was so heart warming and beautiful and I’m sure, helpful. Linn being so open and honest also hit home for me and I can imagine others because we often have the same stories but with a different background. So I just want to thank you both for your touching posts and know too Linn, we are alongside you on this decluttering journey in spirit and send you love. Kerri, you’re amazing.
Thank you Kerri – I guess that’s why I am so “driven” to de-clutter, is to be “DONE” with my grieving…..like you surmised, I think I have those two things (decluttering and being “done” grieving) linked in my head. I find it painful to grieve and sad and I don’t particularly want to keep doing it, but I understand what you mean, it’s a ride we can’t stop or get off really. Like getting rid of his dress uniform, it just hangs there in the closet and makes me anxious. I will do as you said in your book with the fellow with the tuxedo and move it out of my sight, then work on getting rid of that uniform (I actually don’t know where I would take it, since it’s not really a regular used re-sale item, but I’ll figure something out).
I appreciate your kind words about pampering Linn…..I think of it as “Little Linn” the little vulnerable girl inside. Having the dog (Yogi Bear) helps a lot, because he gets me outside and in the woods and is so in the moment, which is helpful to see. I told my brother about your book yesterday, and about how he and I both do the “what if we need this” cluttering, and he laughed and said he would like to read your book, so I will give him one (he has commitment issues).
Thank you again. Bless you.
Best wishes, Linn