Have you ever looked around and felt a sense of unease at all the stuff in your living space? Or left a get-together with a “friend” only to feel worse off than before you’d seen them? Are you troubled by regrets, replaying your mistakes in your head? Do you feel the urge to let go of things that might be weighing you down but don’t know quite how to let go of things?
In life, it’s natural for things to accumulate over time. The problem is, without some regular cleanup, all these things start to weigh you down.
Imagine a fish tank with a broken filter that hasn’t been cleaned in months. The sides are covered with algae, the water is murky, and all the surfaces have a coating of slime. Even the most amazing fish in the world won’t be able to shine in a setting like this.
Part of living intentionally is being selective about what you allow to take up space and energy in your life. This goes for physical things, thoughts, and people.
To be able to enjoy life to the fullest, you’ve got to have ample room for the things that matter most—those that bring you joy. This means ditching the things that are only a drain on you.
If you’re feeling unsettled or off track, a great way to get a boost is to do a spring cleanup of your life, no matter what season of the year it is.
Let’s talk about how to let go of things that may be dragging you down. I’ll go over a few big categories to get you on the right track to lighter and brighter days ahead.
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How to let go of things weighing you down
1 Declutter Your Space
People sometimes underestimate how big an impact physical surroundings have on our psyche. Those of us that have worked in windowless offices far from any glimpse of sunlight or who have gone to school in buildings reminiscent of prisons can attest to the difference a space makes.
I like to have a clean house before I go on vacation, because I don’t want my vacation high to be ruined by coming home to a messy space. You don’t have to be a neat freak to have examples from your own life that illustrate the concept of a cluttered space increasing stress and unease.
Even if you don’t recognize it yourself, I bet it’s there underneath the surface.
Things enter your home every day, and unless you are a serious practicing minimalist, it can be hard to stem the tide. These things pile up over time, whether they deserved a place in your home or not.
Now they’re here, blocking out things that do really matter to you and becoming the algae on the walls of your fish tank.
Reclaim your living space!
It’s time to reclaim your living space into the peaceful and joyful setting it should be.
Learning how to let go of things is an important skill. I’ve used Marie Kondo’s method of whole-house decluttering with overall great results.
No matter which specific method you use, the point is to go through all your things and rid yourself of those that don’t make you happy, or “spark joy,” as Kondo would say.
Be very choosy about what you keep, and I bet you won’t regret it.
Get rid of those clothes that you hope will fit better one day and those with the tags on them that sit in the back of your closet.
Give yourself permission to let go of items that have served their purpose. Donate the things that you’ve been telling yourself “might come in handy” but haven’t been used for years.
Sentimental items can be some of the most challenging to let go of, but they don’t always carry positive energy. Don’t feel you have to keep something out of respect for the person it came from. Your loved ones would want you to have a space you enjoy.
There are other ways to honor and remember those you care about rather than keeping their old stuff around out of obligation.
The decluttering effort will take some time and hard work, but it will be worth it. Your living space should be one you want to spend time in and that makes you feel good.
2 End Toxic Relationships
Now that you’ve figured out how to let go of things cluttering your space, your next step is to tackle the people in your life.
A great thing about being an adult is you have choice about who you include in your life, and yes, this even goes for family.
You are in control here. Take a serious look at the relationships in your life. Where do you want to focus your energy?
Who are the people you can count on and those that lift you up? Keep them in the warm, loving space of your heart and make sure to prioritize these relationships.
On the other hand, are there people in your life who drag you down? Those who aren’t supportive of you? Perhaps they are always questioning you and passing judgment?
Definitely put anyone on this list who is using you solely for their own benefit. If you constantly have to make excuses to yourself or others for why you associate with this person, chances are they belong on this list too.
It’s ok to let go
I’m here to tell you: it’s OK to let these people go. You don’t necessarily have to have a big breakup with these friends or family members. Simply put your energies in other places.
You can tell them you’re too busy to hang out or call, which will be true, because you’re off doing better things. Eventually, they’ll get the picture.
If they persist, you can choose to tell them the truth. There’s a slim chance they may change their ways, but don’t hold out hope.
The same guidelines go for associations on social media. If the happenings of your online connections are making you feel bad, give them the heave-ho.
You can choose to only keep the meaningful and positive online connections or even drop your participation altogether. You don’t have to be on these social platforms at all if they are not adding anything to your life. Yes, it is possible to let go of social media.
With some careful pruning, you should be left with the people in your life who lift you up. Nurture those healthy, mutually beneficial relationships and let the others go.
3 Let Go of Regrets
This last category may be the hardest, because it involves forgiving yourself. I want you to choose up to three mistakes you’ve been hanging on to and beating yourself up over. They can be recent or ones that have been lingering for a while.
Write each of these on a piece of paper and fold it up.
Now pick a favorite mode of destruction to get rid of this regret once and for all. You can cut it up, light it on fire, or put it in your blender. Just kidding, don’t do that to your poor blender.
You get the idea. That regret is toast. You’ve acknowledged it, and it is not doing you any favors by hanging around.
Say out loud, “I messed up, and I’m letting this go. It’s in the past.”
See if you feel lighter already.
This symbolic effort may not erase your regret 100%, but it’s a start. If you find your mind wandering back to this mistake, remember the image of destroying it and remind yourself you are letting go.
You are worthy of your own forgiveness. We are all imperfect, and we all make mistakes. Most of us do every day!
If there is something you’d like to do differently should this situation occur in the future, then by all means, make a plan for that. However, you will not benefit from using hindsight to repeatedly beat yourself up.
There is a difference between learning from something and letting it drag you down.
Keep working on this practice of letting go of your mistakes, and it will serve you well in the future.
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Become the master of your life and letting go of things
Are you ready to practice letting go in your life? You won’t believe how great it feels on the other side. Learning how to let go of things that are weighing you down can benefit so many areas of your life.
It will be a lot of effort initially, but I urge you to do the work. Prioritize yourself by shaping the life you want.
As you move forward from this cleanup exercise, chances are you’ll be more selective about the people and things you invite into your life.
I hope you’ll also be able to better dismiss negative thoughts, because you’ll have had some practice with forgiving yourself.
Turn these big exercises into small day-to-day ones, and you’ll be in maintenance mode of your best life. That’s what intentional living is all about.
Relish in the positive relationships and relaxing living space you’ve curated for yourself. You deserve it!
About the Author
Gina Morris writes on the Steps to Self blog. As a mom of four, she’s learned the hard way the importance of self-care. Her passion is helping other moms attend to themselves and live their best life. Find her and follow her here on Pinterest