How to Decide What to Let Go Of – Getting Rid of Things Part 2

365lpgAs I dive into radically simplifying my life to create more true freedom, I decided my next step was to tackle my storage area downstairs. We pretty much live upstairs in our two-story house, and use the downstairs only to visit the laundry room or to prepare the guest rooms for visitors.

There is a lovely large living-room-sized area that most would use as an entertainment room, but we don’t watch TV and only rarely have time for movies these days, so it goes largely unused by us…except for the space I take up with storage.

There are boxes and boxes of books down there (and more in the small storage-cottage in the backyard that needs to be fixed up still). There are also bottles of potions and herbs and tinctures. Tubes of lotions and creams and samples I’ve received over the years. Layers and layers of clothes that I haven’t used in months, maybe years…All tucked away for “just in case” moments, or to “maybe give someone to use when they’re visiting.”

There’s old mixed tapes given to me by high school boyfriends, exquisitely written love letters that I received in my 20s, photos of when I thought I looked particularly hot when I was 13 and had big hair. Birthday cards, ticket stubs from trips to Paris and Istanbul, notes from my father who passed away in 2008.

And in my process of simplifying, I admit that it is very, very hard to decide what to let go of. Isn’t an exquisite love letter worth holding on to? But what am I really holding on to? Am I holding onto the idea that someone actually loved me that way, just in case I feel unloved – or worse, unlovable – someday?

What about the memory of the person that wrote me the birthday card, or the images that ticket stub from my first Turkish bath experience brings up?

And my books…I LOVE books. When I moved up to Alaska, so much of my U-Haul was filled with books. That was probably dumb, as I likely could have bought all those books again for the same price it cost me to create room for them in a larger U-Haul. But the reality is, I have a connection to those books. I held them. I took notes in them and dog-eared the pages. I had major ah-has and joys and new ideas and adventures that came from them. It was worth bringing them up. And the scent…ahhhh the scent of my books…

downstairsstoragesmallBut check out the mess all these “memories” creates. And this is just my downstairs storage area after I’d already been at it a few hours! I was so caught up in getting going, I forgot to take a true “before” photo, when the boxes where stacked 4-5 boxes high and I was trying ti “hide” them with a Guatemalan cloth draped over the top. Grant it, it is a bit more messy because I unpacked several of the boxes, but you can get an idea of the amount of “stuff” down there. Zoiks!

There are even more boxes out back. They stack 4 high as well, some super heavy with books, others with pillows and picture frames and potpourri sachets…

I was able to sift through about half this stuff in an afternoon and set aside a bunch of things for the thrift shop or consignment or the garbage can. But it’s the small things – the letters, the ticket stubs, the cards – that I struggle with letting go of.

photoOne thing I have to remember is this: letting go of the thing doesn’t mean letting go of the memory. I think at times we worry that if we let go of something, we may even forget the memory of how good it felt, or the joy.

But the reality is, that memory is always there. The “thing” can be a trigger for the memory, but if we held onto things for each memory we wanted to have, our lives would look way messier than even my downstairs storage area.

Of course, there are some things worth holding onto for the memory it jogs – like the notes from my father that bring a sweet tenderness to my heart.

But the old love letters? I don’t really need those anymore. I wish there was a place we could send good love letters when we were ready to let go of them, so that they can be appreciated by others, though…

There’s also a lot of other things I am ready to release, even though they make me feel good when I think of the memories they bring up.

I am learning that letting go involves a deep sense of confidence and courage. In order to let go, I need to trust and know that I would be able to create that once again in my life, if and when I should need it again.

When I let go of an old love letter, I have the confidence that I can call in love like that into my life again should I need to. When I let go of a ticket stub up the Eiffel Tower, I have the confidence I can go back there whenever I would like. When I let go of a sweet birthday card, I have the confidence that there will be many more of those to come.

Ultimately, in order to let go, I need to believe that I am lovable, worthy, and capable of manifesting whatever I wish.

No wonder this shit is so hard to do!

I’ve come up with a few questions I’ll ask myself as I make these decisions:

1) Is the energy I receive from this thing received on a regular basis? If not, how often?

2) Is the energy I receive more than the energy I put into holding onto this thing – whether energy in the form of physical space in my life, mental or spiritual energy, money, or time?

3) Am I holding onto this because I am afraid I would not be able to manifest the type of memory it creates in me again? If so, I need to seriously consider letting go and instead working on my confidence, courage, and manifesting the feelings and life I want in the present moment.

4) Am I holding onto this because I am afraid I will forget the memory it stirs? This alone is not a reason to let go of something, but it is a point of reflection to begin an honest discussion with yourself about the reasons behind holding onto it.

I’m hoping these questions will continue to help me clear out the clutter. They have been super helpful so far!

Do you have other questions to add to this list? Do you have similar experiences to share? Please let me know below  – I’d love to hear it!

Note: This is one post in a year-long series about me committing to radically simplifying my life over the next year. To see where it began, click here. You can read additional Simplify 365 posts by heading to the Blog.


Simple Freedom – The Beginning of My Journey Into How to Simplify Life

deewilliamsWhen I was at the World Domination Summit, one of the speakers I found particularly inspiring (and hilarious!) was Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings and author of The Big Tiny. That’s her over there in the superhero cape (she absconded with a Delta airlines blanket). She gave an absolutely motivating talk on minimalism and choosing SIMPLE. She lives in a 84 square foot swelling – and LOVES it.

Listening to her describe the joy of selling her house and building her 84 sqft dwelling and loving every minute of it reminded me of the absolute contentment I felt when I lived out of my car for 7 years.

Everything I owned was in the back of my Volvo station wagon. My prayer flags were hung along the rear windows, and I’d fall asleep under the stars in a place like Joshua Tree, feeling so at peace knowing that all I needed was with me, and that I could go anywhere I pleased and do anything – climb, hike, raft…without having to pack;) I had no utility bills, no cell phone bill, no marketing deadline I had to meet.

I had a PO Box in Santa Cruz that I checked whenever I rolled into town. I forwarded my mail to strange and remote parts of the country if I knew I’d be there awhile. When I needed a shower, I always found one. People took me into their homes and fed me really good food and offered me to sleep in cotton sheets (cotton is so yummy when you’ve been in a sleeping bag most of the year).

Obviously, that’s a whole lot easier of a lifestyle to live in your 20s when you don’t have kids or own a home. However, I’d be amiss to say that having that feeling was impossible as an adult, with or without a family and/or a home.

I know there are nay-sayers who have the excuse that this isn’t possible once you “grow up” and have responsibilities. Our society accept stress and chaos as the norm. We argue that it’s a part of life in our society that we have to accept – most certainly if you’re a successful entrepreneur. But I’ve made a mistake.

In my own way, I’ve let myself get lost in that belief.

I lost sight of my goal – true SIMPLE freedom.

That FEELING of ease, contentment, relaxation along with freedom.

Despite all I have learned about creating freedom in life, I let myself believe that being a successful entrepreneur means being location independent at all costs, that I “have” to blog once a week, that I must have a constantly updated sales funnel, network at all times, and be interviewed on as many podcasts as I could.

I let myself believe that I wasn’t fully living unless I was learning EVERYTHING that I possibly could. Reading in all my free time – or listening to an audiobook or streaming a lecture. I filled every possible minute with something awesome, productive or geeky. I made myself So. Damn. Busy.

Then there’s the STUFF.

When I worked on my money mindset early on in my business (I grew up VERY poor and had to work on the whole money-is-evil thing) and accepted abundance into my life, I let it manifest as feelings AND things: a condo in Telluride at the base of the ski mountain, a home with killer views and an adorable sauna on the hill above the theaters in Ashland. Clothes made of delicious fabrics, a Subaru that was only a year old and Certified Used (I still can’t bring myself to buy a new car LOL;). Vacations where I’d not think twice about the cost. You get the idea.

It was in my mind that as long as I let these things flow and come into my life with ease, that my life would be full of ease as well. However…

My current experience (and I’m open to it changing) is that I was totally wrong.

The reality is, the more stuff you have and the longer your to-do list, the more you have to deal with – whether it’s with ease or not.

It doesn’t mean more stuff is “bad.” You all know me too well to think that I would judge abundance as bad. I’ve worked too hard on my mindset to let that happen;) It just means that whatever and whomever you allow into your life, you have to care for it.

And that takes energy.

This goes for people, things, thoughts…all of it.

When you have a relationship, you need to check in, create time to connect, compromise, talk about what to do for dinner, and have finance meetings. When you have kids you need to make lunches and drive them to school and events and talk to teachers and go to multiple birthday parties.

It means that when you have a condo in Telluride, even though you may put your mortgage and all bills on autopay, you still have to repair fans that break, replace deck furniture, or have someone shovel snow in the winter when you’re not there…

It means that when you have a house on the hill, you need to schedule your utility bill payments, fix plumbing leaks, keep up the landscaping. You need to flip your mattress and touch up the paint and get the moss off the roof.

When you have nice clothes you need to make sure to wash them on gentle cycle and pull out the ones that need to be hung to dry. You need to have hangers that don’t snag. You can’t trust your husband to do the laundry;)

The tchotchke around the house needs to be dusted and moved around to find things.

When you have a business, you need to keep the energy flowing and give and create and let the world know about it so you can help more people. When you have multiple programs and care for them immensely, you revisit them and improve them. This can all be fun – for me it IS.

Most of the time.

But it is really easy to let it get out of control as an entrepreneur. There are so many things you can keep doing, and the task is never done. I’ve watched so many videos about how to create a proper work day when you work from home/wherever you’re at, and taken workshops on time management, avoiding overwhelm, and how to create systems in your business.

And I implement what I learn. I delegate. I have a Virtual Assistant and people who help me do tasks at home. I…try my best.

Yet the bottom line is, running a business, having an abundance of things (even if they’re awesome!), traveling a ton – it takes effort to keep them going.

While all of these things are not bad (and are actually quite yummy!) they are not SIMPLE.

Some will say, “Let it be easy, Ana! What if you let it be easy and effortless?” I ask my coaching clients that sometimes. “What would happen if you just let this be easy?”

The reality is, it would be easier – but it would still be more stuff in my life that I had to care for – even if it was caring for it with more ease!

Again – more ease, but still NOT SIMPLE.

We are here on this beautiful planet with this one precious life (at least in this incarnation) and no matter how “easy” we can make something, the more you have to deal with, the less time you have to NOT deal with things. The less time you have to JUST BE. To stare at the clouds. To sit quietly with a friend.

multitasking Check out this really vulnerable photo I’m sharing of me below. It’s a photo of me breastfeeding, checking email on my iPhone, and looking something up in a book. I’m holding a pen in my mouth (I like to take notes) and while you can’t see it, I’ve got my computer open in front of me on a stand streaming a lecture. And my baby is like…6 weeks old.

None of this was anything I HAD to do. I planned for my maternity leave and pre-wrote emails and posts and had my VA helping me out on social media and with my groups. I LOVE learning and was taking this time to soak up more info, make the most of my time off, and geek out.

Something in me had deep FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and was not ok with simply BEING.

My husband took this photo and showed it to me with a joking smile. I laughed back.

I looked at it later and cried.

I had forgotten l’arte di non fare niente: the Italian saying for The Art of Doing Nothing. Hell, I even wrote a blog post about it once. And it was high time to tap into it again.

I wasn’t about to waste this precious time in my life with my new baby on catching up with my FOMO needs. I am so grateful my husband took this picture because it was a big ol’ bitch slap in the face about how present I was being in my life.I was doing cool shizzle, going to cool places, experiencing the miracle of birth and life…learning a TON too! Yet while all these are good things, it was too much.

Here’s the deal: you can earn more money – with ease – and have more yummy stuff – with ease – and do tons of amazing things, be location independent…

But in the end,

Freedom Is a Feeling (tweet this)

And for me, that feeling is supported by simplicity as well.

No matter what your life looks like on the outside – whether it is one filled with travels, adventures, financial abundance, location independence, or none of the above, if you don’t FEEL free, you aren’t.

photoThat’s why meditation and cleanses and spiritual practice are such an important part of my life. I constantly need to cultivate that inner freedom. Freedom from my own sh*t.

Many of you know about my Full-On 365 blog, where after another cancer scare I committed to living Full-On EVERY DAY for a year. It literally transformed my life.

So I stand before you today, fully aware of my need to bring back simplicity and presence into my life, and am committing to a deep process of simplification for the next year.

365lpgLet’s call it Simplify 365, shall we? 😉

I’ll be entering into simplification like I’ve never seen it before. Letting go of things, people, thoughts, and experiences that no longer serve me. I will get rid of many of my nice things – not because they are bad, but because I don’t want to have to take care of them anymore. And I will definitely chuck my not-so-nice things.

I will practice saying, “No” to all that doesn’t create flow and joy in my life. I will reign in my finances so that I understand them and they are easy to assess instead of not paying attention to things simply because it’s never been a big problem (the not knowing creates mental chaos that I need to undo!). I’ll lay out my crap in front of you so you can know that it IS possible to have true simple freedom too. For me, that’s the point of writing about it, after all.

I’ll be blogging about my journey regularly, sharing what Simplification goal I’ll set for that day or week or month, and let you know how I’m doing – my challenges, my successes, my embarrassing truths.

I’ll be using lots of tools as I learn more about how to simplify life: blogs and tips from masters of this art that have been practicing this consistently for years, books, interviews with Simplification masters…and YOU all, who I am sure have lots to offer me on this journey as well.

vulnerabilityBrené Brown inspired me to do this even more authentically when she said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” I’m bankin’ on it!

So feel free to join me on this latest adventure. Maybe it will inspire you to even join me with each challenge I set before myself – or create your own!

My first step? Getting rid of some of my nice things that take up too much energy:

I’m selling my condo in Telluride. At the base of the ski lift. Right on the river. On the top floor. In a crappy real estate market. Ouch. Stay-tuned to see how that goes…

Share your tips or challenges with simplification below – I can tell I’m going to appreciate any help and camaraderie I can get!