The "5 Whys" to Disconnect from Sentimental Attachment

 

The 5 Why's to Disconnect from Sentimental Attachment

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.”

“Why?”

“For a wedding gift.”

“Why?”

“Probably because she needed to give us something and this worked.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Why?”

“Grandma wanted it to stay in the family.”

“Why?”

Because her father grew up in the depression and believed you shouldn’t get rid of anything, he instilled that in her.”

“Why?”

“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.”

Click here to read about the positive impact we get when we let things go.

 

About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.

9 Comments

  1. Andie on 10/18/2014 at 3:28 PM

    Rachel, this is a fantastic article! I particularly appreciate the way you’ve walked through specific examples, with different kinds of items.

    I think an important question missing from the heirloom example, though, is that the fear may not be one of scarcity, but rather fear of losing the memories and hi sorry that object holds for the family. I know simce worked with people who honestly feel they don’t have the right to get rid of family heirlooms, that they don’t belong to them, that they are just entrusted to them for the time.

    • Rachel on 10/20/2014 at 11:20 AM

      Thanks for that Andie.

    • Ruth on 05/03/2017 at 12:37 PM

      I understand that. I don’t have any obvious heirs – no children, nieces or nephews – but if you do, and they are old enough, perhaps you can find out if they like and want anything. If they do, you can either give it to them now, or keep it for them until they’re ready, and dispose of what none of them want. This way you’re not keeping a load of stuff “just in case”.

      I find myself keeping things for the rest of someone else’s life – for example, a garment that matches one I made for my mother. I also realized that someone was no longer going to come to my house and so took down a picture they gave me that has never done anything for me. I suppose I could have done it before but it never occurred to me – now we look at a picture we both actually like.

  2. Ruth on 11/19/2014 at 2:37 PM

    Well written, thank you! I’m sure these steps will be something I consider now.

  3. Diane on 12/31/2014 at 6:46 PM

    I appreciate this Rachel, nicely thought out, expressed simply . Sentiment can really grab hold and cloud your thinking. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on sentiment regarding the way birthdays and holidays are celebrated, as kids grow older, families grow larger and change.

  4. sophi on 02/19/2015 at 2:49 PM

    I appreciate this. I’m due to give birth soon and I am finding that my nesting phase is more of a decluttter than actual scrub cleaning. I have been reading on minimalis and I feel very inspired

    • Rachel on 02/19/2015 at 5:20 PM

      Congrats Sophi! It’s definitely nice to not have to deal with clutter with a little one.

  5. kATHY on 11/15/2016 at 12:13 PM

    I was trying to help an elderly friend declutter AS SHE WAS DOWNSIZING. She was an only child and had trouble letting anything go that she inherited from her parents. sHE KEPT SAYING THAT SHE NEEDED TO KEEP IT ALL IN THE FAMILY, SO i ASKED HER A SIMPLE QUESTION. “iF YOU DIED RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD YOUR KIDS DO WITH THAT STUFF?” hER REPLY WAS THAT NONE OF THEM WOULD WANT IT AND THEY’D HAVE gOODWILL PICK IT ALL UP. i SUGGESTED THAT SHE SAVE THEM THE TROUBLE AND DO THAT HERSELF. iT WORKED FOR A LOT OF STUFF, BUT NOT EVERYTHING.

    • Rachel on 11/15/2016 at 5:21 PM

      That is an excellent question to ask!

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