Why Is It So Hard to Let Go of Our Things? My Excuses for Avoiding Minimalism


Minimalism as a movement may leave a bad taste in your mouth, and that’s okay. I have my own definition of minimalism that works for me. What I’m here to talk about is why getting rid of our stuff is so damn hard… Even when those things are holding us back. Here’s my continued story on the road to achieving minimalism.

It’s official – my second month’s rent just deposited. That means it’s been over a month since I moved to Ocean Beach, San Diego!

There are still two unpacked boxes waiting for me to sort through them, and a pile under my loft that hasn’t found a home yet. I shudder to think of what my studio apartment would look like if I hadn’t made a pointed effort to reduce what I own.

You might not guess I’m trying to go minimalist by walking into my house. Sure, it’s cleaner and more organized than my last apartment, but there is still clutter. You would probably think, “Wow, lots of stuff.” In other words, I still have a long ways to go.

Have you ever wondered how you got to owning so many things? When was the last time you had to pack up and go, only to realize just how much of that stuff you forgot even existed?

The experience is eye opening. To be honest, I still struggle with throwing out those unnecessary things that cost me time and space. Today, I’m going to talk about the biggest reasons I have struggled to put those final items on the chopping block.

Maybe you’ll feel the same.

Reason 1: Reducing Isn’t a Priority

When I packed to move in, I already managed to cut down my life’s inventory in half. Now that the move is over, I don’t make the time to actively reduce what I own.

You see, I’ve been running myself a bit thin lately. Organizing my closet doesn’t make it to the top of my priority list.

There’s regular apartment cleanup, exercise, sleep, teaching classes, and being self-employed to worry about. I don’t feel motivated to fill what little time I have left dealing with inventory.

The problem is, minimizing would help me become more productive.

My energy levels would rise exponentially as the clutter disappeared, that’s just science. Even logistically, it would help: It’s 5 minutes less making room for my bicycle. Another 5 minutes I don’t have to shift everything around when it’s time to sweep the floor.

The little minutes here and there all add up, and it’s less visual clutter. It all means I have more attention to focus on the tasks at hand.

Reason 2: Getting Rid of Stuff is Scary

There are a few elements at play here, the first being that we tend to create an identity around the things we own.

There is also this thing called the sunk investment effect. It makes it difficult for us to let go of things we already spent money on, even if it doesn’t make sense to keep them.

I am terrified of what to do with all my things. One box is full of art stuff: Portfolio pieces, to high end markers, paints and pencils.

The fact is I don’t practice art much these days. But, it’s a huge mental block to know there are ultimatums to be made about my art supplies. I’ve held onto them for this long, just in case, you know?

Realistically, I get the urge to paint or draw only a few times a year, and even then I rarely actually do.

The rational decision is to get rid of most of it, because I don’t have the space for it.

But that makes me sad. (Which makes me ignore the problem, because I know how it’s going to end.)

Reason 3: Organizing Takes Effort

Finding space where the is none takes creative thinking and wizardry you didn’t know you had. There is effort involved, which you spent a lot of time anticipating and avoiding.

That’s why I always say: If you want to get something done, don’t anticipate it.

Clearing out belongings takes physical labor, which I’m not looking forward to. Not to mention, the whole process is emotionally draining. I am still not used to dealing with sentimental value in a healthy way.

So what is there to do about it?

There isn’t much to be done other than doing it. Stop thinking about what is involved, and just freaking do it.

It’s good exercise – physically and mentally – anyways.

What stops you from letting go of your stuff?

Everyone has different reasons for holding onto everything they own. I already decided it was time to start working towards my goal of less. I want the physical and financial freedom that comes with that.

These are the reasons I’m struggling now that the move is over and I’m comfortable again, when it’s an easy problem to ignore.

I want to know: What is the one thing that’s stopping you from being minimalist? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.