Friday, October 17, 2008

Client Questions - Strategies for Letting Go!

A client recently expressed the following frustration:

"I have too many casual-use dishes, and they are taking up a lot of space in my cupboards. But I can't bear to part with any of them. One set (of about eight) was given to me by my late mother and includes a set of casserole dishes, mugs, coffee pot, salt and pepper shakers, butter dish with cover, and so on. These are my favourite, but they're not microwave safe. The second set (of four) was given to me by my daughters when they were younger, one of the first gifts they bought for me with their own money. They're pretty, and I like the shape of the bowls, but some have broken so now there aren't enough. And they don't go with anything else I have. The third set are plain white, which is practical because I can use them to supplement my good china. All three sets came with cups and saucers, which I never use and would give away, but I don't like to separate them from the rest of the set. Do you have any suggestions for how to reclaim space in my cupboards?"

This is a classic expression of the frustration we all experience when objects pile up and emotional ties prevent us from letting them go. Here are some suggestions that might help you in this situation:

  • If you like the objects, get them out of hiding and use them.
  • Consider that your mother probably did not expect you to keep the dishes forever and would be very sad that you were experiencing so much stress over them. Who would she suggest that you give them to or what would she have liked you to do when you were finished with them?
  • Move the dishes out of the cupboard and lay them out in a different room. Taking items out of context often helps the sorting/separating process by changing perspective.
  • Play the strangers, acquaintances, friends game. Which of the dishes are friends and which are strangers? Send the strangers away.
  • The emotional attachment in this case is not likely to the dishes, which are at the end of the day, just dishes you are not using. The attachment is to your mother and your daughters. Rather than keeping a cupboard full of dishes, pick one or two which serve as a representation of the love you have for them and send the rest away.
  • Often by giving items which hold a strong emotional memory to someone or someplace of significance to us, the emotional attachment to the object can be diminished by the emotional experience of the giving. Are your daughters setting up their own homes yet? Could they use the dishes? Do you know a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet? Would she enjoy some lovely dishes? You get the picture.
  • Take a picture! Get a friend or family member to take a picture of you using the dishes and with the entire set. In the case of the dishes your daughters gave you, have them in the picture too. You can now save the picture to remind you of the dishes and to elicit the same feelings of love for your family members without keeping all the objects.

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