Cleaning out the Closet: Learning to Let Things Go


Perhaps you’ve heard about the newest decluttering phenomenon, the KonMari Method. It seems to be the latest fad in home organization these days. I have some friends who have tried it and enjoyed it. I even picked up one of Marie Kondo’s books to look at for myself. But I just couldn’t get into it. Truthfully, going through everything in my house would be completely overwhelming and. And my husband and children would not appreciate it in the least to have me declutter their clutter, so I wouldn’t get very far even if I tried.

I do think, however, that letting go of things is an important life skill that we need to have. Holding on to things or feelings that do not add to our happiness (the KonMari method uses the word “joy”) clutter our homes and our heads. Cleaning out our closets can be an immense source of happiness and contentment and I’m not just talking about our physical closets.




I am a list maker. There is not much that gives me more satisfaction than to write it down and then cross it off my list. Done! Completed! I remembered to do it! If only letting things go were as easy as crossing them off a list. I do think that practice helps and the more you practice, the stronger the habit or skill can become. Let’s look at ways to practice letting go.


Letting Go of Physical Stuff

Believe it or not, letting go of physical things is related to letting go of negative feelings like stress, anger, and frustration. You can practice letting go of things by cleaning out your cupboards, closet, or garage. A lot of the reasons behind our physical clutter are emotional.

That shirt that never fit properly that you haven’t gotten rid of? Maybe it’s because you feel guilty for spending money on something you never used. All those boxes in the garage that you’ve moved 10 times and have no idea what’s in them? Maybe you’re hung up on “what if I need something that’s in them?” The fear of “what ifs” can have a lot of control over our lives. If you haven’t needed it in the past 5 years, what are the odds that you’ll ever need it again?

Start small

Pick one cupboard or closet or bookshelf (just kidding, I never get rid of books!). Go through everything in it and see what you really want to keep. Do not give in to your “what ifs.” Keep what is useful (and by that I mean, you’re will use it in the next few months or sooner), what is sentimental or nostalgic (but you don’t need to keep every drawing your child has ever done), and what makes you happy.

Try donating the stuff you’re getting rid off. It can be a double reward to clean up your space while giving needed things to someone else. So many people in our world are in need of the basic necessities. It will feel god to lesson their burdens while alleviating your own.

When you’ve competed one small area, stop and take note of how good it feels to free yourself of some of that stuff.  If you find something rewarding in decluttering, you’re more likely to keep moving forward at it.


Letting Go of Emotional Stuff

Putting old clothes in a bag to donate is much easier than getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings, but if you make it a habit to declutter your physical life, you will develop habits that can help you declutter your emotional one as well. Here is a list of things to try when you’re ready to let go of anger, stress, and frustration.

  • Try Meditation 

    There are so many user friendly apps out there to try. They can guide you through mindfulness exercises that will lower your stress levels, help improve your sleep patterns, and help you focus on the now and let go of the “what ifs.” I have been using an app called “Headspace” and I like it a lot.

  • Exercise

    I know that some people think this is a bad word, but any physical activity will do. You don’t have to rush out and join a gym or start training for a marathon (although many people report that both of these strategies work). Go for a walk. Work in the garden. Give the house a deep-cleaning. Play ball with your kids. Physical activity decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins. It might also help with those clothes that no longer fit you. So it’s a win-win!

  • Schedule it

    I  keep a bullet journal and I write everything down and schedule it in. Many therapists recommend scheduling in some “negativity” time. You give yourself 15 or 20 minutes or so to moan, complain, cry, wallow, vent…whatever it is you need to do. You can also schedule “worry” time if you are a worrier (like me). Give yourself a set amount of time to worry about the “what ifs” and then move on to other tasks. 

  • Start Something New

    If your negativity is coming from feeling stuck in a  rut, try something new. Maybe you need a new hobby, a new haircut, a new pair of shoes, a new job.

  • Be Creative

    Humans are made to create things. It’s in our biology. It gives us great pleasure and satisfaction. See my post about creativity and happiness here.

  • Look at It Another Way

    It is a simple thing to say “change your perspective,” but it is another thing to actually do it. When we focus on what we have control over instead of dwelling on things we can’t, we empower ourselves. Ultimately, the only thing we truly have control over is our own attitude and thought process.  There is a quote that has been attributed to many people. “You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Trouble will come and bad days will happen. People will undoubtedly hurt and disappoint you. Most of the time, we don’t have control over a lot of things, but we can choose our reaction to them.

  • Remember, Laughter is Good Medicine  

    Read a funny book. Watch a good comedy. Do something silly and fun with someone you love.  Laughter releases endorphins which , in turn, make you feel better. There is an Irish proverb that makes me smile and nod: “A good laugh and a long sleep sleep are the two best cures for anything.”

  • Find a Good Quote

    There are so many great quotes out there and you can find them many places. Look on Pinterest or Google something like “happiness quotes.” Print them out and put them up where you will see them daily. I have one or two taped to my bathroom mirror at all times. They help me keep things in perspective. Here is one of them: “So much in life depnds on our attitude.” – Thomas S. Monson

  • Look at the Facts

    Many times our negative thoughts are based on assumptions or worries instead of actual facts. Take another look at your situation and ask yourself these questions: What is the worst case scenario? What will you do if that happens? Is it likely to happen? Are your fears realistic? Most of the time, they are not. Just try and remind yourself of that fact.

  • Give Yourself a Break

    We are usually our own worst critic. We give other people the benefit of the doubt, but expect ourselves to be perfect. Stop it! Be nice to yourself. Give yourself credit for the good things you do and have done. Make a list of your accomplishments (however large or small). The quote in my bullet journal for the week is “Good enough is the new perfect.” I tried to write it fancy and failed miserably. I love it!

Is it time to declutter something in your life? Are you ready to make room for more happiness and contentment (and/or maybe more clothes in your closet?) Whether it’s a closet or some long-held bad feelings, get started today. Let it go and move forward.

Thanks for reading and please share!