When we’re struggling with decluttering, and in particular, decluttering sentimental items, asking the right questions is key.
One tool I’ve found helpful for getting to the root of our attachment and really understanding our reasoning behind keeping something is using the “5 Why’s”.
Ask yourself, or the person you are helping to declutter, “why?” five times.
Your conversation may look something like this:
“Why should we keep this vase?”
“Because grandma gave it to us.”
“For a wedding gift.”
“Probably because she needed to give us something and this worked.”
“Because people feel obligated to give gifts at weddings.”
In this example, we didn’t even have to get to Why #5- we found our answer at Why #4: Grandma gifted us a vase because she was obligated to give us something.
In this case, how does thinking about the vase in this way change the value of the vase, where it is placed in our home and our willingness to let it go?
Since we have eliminated the sentimental attachment, we can easily ask questions about the usefulness of the item and whether or not we want to keep it:
- Do I love it?
- Do I need it?
- Does it help me live the life I want to live?
Sometimes when you ask “why” it may not be the actual word “why”:
“Why are you keeping this antique?”
Because it’s been in our family for generations.”
“Grandma wanted it to stay in the family.”
Because her father grew up in the depression and believed you shouldn’t get rid of anything, he instilled that in her.”
“Everything was hard to come by back then.”
“Does that still apply to us?”
“No, it doesn’t.”
Now that we’ve gotten to the root of the issue, which happens to be a fear that has been carried for 4 generations. How is that going to affect our look at that item?
How freeing it is to know that they were keeping it out of fear. Their fear, is not my fear. For me, useful items are extremely easy to come by. If I can’t purchase the item brand new, it’s very easy to find things at 2nd hand stores or even borrow them from friends and neighbors. We live in a time of abundance and have no need to hang on to everything. In fact, when we hang onto everything, we it has much more negative impact on us than if we keep things “Just in case.”