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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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In The Other Side of Organized, Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions. Already, thousands of clients and readers have found help and inspiration in her advice, personal reflections on change and connection, and vision of what can be accomplished when you find that sweet spot between chaos and perfection.

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« 7 Surprising Letting Go Lessons I Learned at Organizing Conference | What is the Powerful Significance Between Next Steps and Letting Go? »

8 Helpful Tips for Letting Go More Easily

For my clients, the most challenging aspect of the organizing process is letting go. The desire for organization, calm, peace, and having less stuff is real. But the process for getting “there,” especially during the editing phase can cause strong emotions like fear, anxiety, or paralysis. Have you or someone you know encountered this?

Why is it so hard to let go? How can we make the process less painful and more positive?

Our stuff represents many things including:

  • Who I once was
  • Who I hope to be
  • Places I’ve been
  • People I’ve loved
  • Projects I want to do
  • Projects I’ll never do
  • Things I love
  • Things received and never looked at again
  • Right purchases
  • Wrong purchases
  • Gifts received
  • Gifts to be given
  • Broken parts waiting to be repaired
  • Unidentified parts
  • Clothing I wear
  • Clothing I’ll never wear

The list goes on and on. 

So when we begin to face our stuff and decide what is essential to keep like the “spark joy” and practical items and let go of the things that have overstayed their welcome, choosing can be more difficult than we anticipated. You might experience heightened emotions, resistance, or avoidance. All of these are entirely normal.

Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you can’t let go. It only indicates that you might need some strategies for navigating the turbulent waters. 


8 Helpful Tips for Letting Go More Easily

1. Clarify Why 

As I mentioned above, emotions can hijack our decision-making ability, so having a clear picture of why we want to let go is crucial. Are you downsizing? Are you about to welcome a new family member to your home? Is your clutter preventing you from inviting people over? Get clear around your why.  When you’re feeling challenged with letting go, revisit your why. It will keep you motivated and focused.


2. Reach Out

Sometimes it’s better not to go it alone. If you’re struggling, it can be beneficial to enlist help from a friend, family member, or professional organizer like me. Look for someone who is nonjudgmental, compassionate, energetic, and can keep you focused on your objectives. 


3. Pace Yourself

Recognize that making decisions takes mental and physical energy. Too many decisions can cause decision fatigue, which can deteriorate the quality of your choices. Be mindful of how you’re feeling. Take breaks as needed by getting some fresh air, having a snack, sipping a drink, or taking a bio break. Remove yourself from the area and then come back refreshed.


4. Set Boundaries

If you have a lot of editing to do, especially if you’re preparing for a move or rightsizing, set goals for how much time you want to spend editing and letting go each day. Experiment with what works best for you. Use a timer and stop when it dings. At the next session either reduce or add time considering how that previous letting go sitting went.


5. Prepare Setting

Make letting go as easy as possible by making your supplies readily accessible. Have bags, boxes, bins, tape, sticky notes, markers, pens, a pad of paper available to contain and label the items that will be donated, sold, or discarded. The key is to have things exit quickly, ideally the same day if that’s realistic. If the same day is not an option, set up a waiting area for the items that will be leaving. 


6. Safe Passage

Being able to donate or give your belongings to a person or resource that will appreciate and benefit from them can ease the letting go stress. This gives your things an easier exit or safe passage. It’s worth making a list of resources that you will feel good giving things away to. The list can include friends, family, local or national charities. I am a resource collector. Sharing these with my clients is involved in the organizing services that I provide. If you need a specific type of donation resource, let me know. I’m happy to help.


7. Just Do It

I know that Nike coined that phrase, but it’s a good one to keep in mind especially when your resistance surfaces. The amazing thing is that the more you exercise your letting go muscles, the more relaxed and less painful the process becomes. Action breeds success. Success encourages progress. Progress gets you from where you are to where you want to be. Trust the power of action, even if it’s one small step. Don’t deliberate. Do.


8. Be Patient

It’s easy to get discouraged when you spent three hours sorting and editing, yet there’s still so much more to do. This is how it is. Be patient with the process. You collected your things over a lifetime. Editing them won’t take a lifetime, but it will take some time. Keep your big goal in mind, be kind to yourself along the way, release the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” and continue on until you’ve let go of enough. You determine what enough looks like.

What have you encountered with letting go? Do you have a favorite strategy that’s helpful? Do any of these resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I invite you to join the conversation.





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Reader Comments (18)

Linda, I love your list of things our stuff represents! I never thought of it in quite that way before and I think it will be helpful for me the next time I feel the urge to purge.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Linda, you've done a great job of summarizing what our stuff means to us, and you've provided so many wonderful tips for letting go! Thanks for this valuable information; I am going to share this post with my clients and followers.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Haworth

Decision fatigue is definitely a real thing. I have express it in words. "I think I'm hitting a wall," or "I'm losing steam," or "I think I need a break." I totally affirm people when they articulate their feelings. When we acknowledge how we feel, we can adjust our plan of action.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

I love your 8 helpful tips, Linda. They are well thought out and easy to follow. My favorite is setting boundaries. Boundaries are great for time as well as things. It is often helpful to define how long to keep some things - like newspapers or magazines. Defining how many (black pairs of pants for instance) helps in the editing process also.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Janet- I'm so happy that you love the "stuff" list and that you will find it useful when you're on your next editing adventure. That's wonderful!

April 1, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Nancy- Thank you so much for your enthusiastic response and your ongoing support. You are the best!

April 1, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Diane- Many thanks. I'm so glad to know that you find the tips doable. Your expansion of the boundary tip is terrific. While time spent editing is one way we can set a parameter, using that same concept as a way to cap the "how many" or "how long to keep" questions is another excellent use of boundaries. Thank you for adding that aspect.

April 1, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Seana- Ahhhh. The decision fatigue phrases that you listen for are terrific. It's great when our clients can articulate their feelings so well. And if we're not paying attention, it can be easy to miss those words or indicators. The fatigue can also appear in other ways. One thing I watch for is the quality of their choices. If they start to keep everything or conversely, begin to let go of everything, it's an excellent time for a break. The tired takes over for them, and it becomes easier to stick to one canned response that looks like a decision but is them just needing a break.

April 1, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Why is one of my favorite questions to ask clients when organizing. It also helps me in my own home. If I don't know why, I also ask my husband to see if he has a reason why we are keeping the item.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Sabrina- "Why" is powerful. I like the point you made that if you aren't sure about why you ask someone else. It's a great way to start a dialogue and dig down to the answer. Very often, but not always the conversation results in allowing us to let go. Asking questions is integral to the organizing process, and why is right up there.

April 1, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I find if my clients know their "why" the work is so much easier. You have a great list of "whys".

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Schiesl

@Janet S.- That why is key, and you're right that when we know the reason why we are doing something or why we want to get from a to z, it makes all the difference. There are times when that why takes time to figure out. I'm glad you like the list. Thanks so much.

April 1, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

For my clients, tapping into their goals is powerful. It helps them remain in the moment as a tough decision happens.

April 5, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Ellen- Decisions can be challenging and keeping the goal or why in the forefront helps, as evident by your clients' successes.

It was wonderful seeing you this week. Are you ready for the big exhale as you wind up your NAPO Presidency? Thank you for all that you've done to help NAPO grow and thrive.

April 7, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

That was very good helpful tips for letting go more easily.

April 8, 2019 | Unregistered Commenternetworld77

@Networld- I'm so glad to hear that these tips were helpful.

April 8, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I’m a Chinese reader,thanks for your summary on letting go. As a fresh organizer, sometimes I feel stuck and don’t have many ideas when trying to let go of stuffs, since very few secondhand shops are available in China, which is a roadblock as I think.
I like your posts and will keep focusing on your updates.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTracy Sun

@Tracy- It's fascinating to know that secondhand shops are not available in China. What happens when people want to let go of clothing? Do they give to friends or family? Or do they throw things out? I can understand how not having a place to donate to could be a roadblock to letting go.

September 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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