It's surprising how much our "stuff" can impact our wellbeing.
Our possessions can make us feel burdened, weighed down, or even trapped. It's time to shine a light on those things that aren't making you happy, and say goodbye to them once and for all.
Just because your great auntie’s gravy boat has been passed down to you though the generations, doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Especially if you never use it.
"We hold onto heirlooms/gifts even though we don't like or enjoy them because we feel guilty giving them away," says psychologist and author Dr. Susan Bartell.
"They weigh us down emotionally and cause physical clutter. We keep things that don't match our sense of style, and we then don't have space for items that would truly bring us joy."
2. Broken items
How many times have you pulled out a chipped plate and felt annoyed at the sight of it?
"My theory is that it's a feeling of lack," says Anjie Cho, architect, certified feng shui consultant and founder of Holistic Spaces.
"We're scared of not having enough, it's a poverty mentality. Which really is about not feeling "enough" or worthy in ourselves. The fear of letting go of things. But cultivating the poverty mentality only perpetuates it, and surrounding yourself with broken items creates a similar broken energy in our inner and outer lives."
We often collect things during specific times in our lives – but that interest doesn’t always last a lifetime.
"The collection is associated with memories of a time in life or a person, and so the difficulty with parting can be the unconscious feeling you are abandoning the memory or person," says Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and host of "The Power of Different" podcast.
"It helps to create your own very tiny memorial to the memory, like a note describing them or one piece that signifies the rest of the collection kept in a special place so you can know that removing the rest is not forgetting the person or memory."
4. Piles of paperwork
It’s amazing how quickly that stack of ignored paperwork can grow.
"Paperwork is overwhelming and tedious. Old greeting cards and correspondence is often just like broken items, it represents old memories that people are afraid to let go," says Collette Shine, professional organizer and founder of Organize and Shine.
"Big piles of paper clutter can bring on anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, shame and definitely stress."
5. Your childhood keepsakes
It’s so easy to accumulate stuff from your childhood, but so hard to let it go.
"Facing up to the fact that a former treasure no longer holds its old magic is to acknowledge that we ourselves have changed. And often that realization forces us to ask ourselves, okay, what now would be a source of happiness?" says Waters.
"Change always brings up questions of who we are and what we want out of our lives. To find that the collection of dolls we've had since childhood no longer enchants, is to be forced to grow up. Always a tricky prospect."
6. Freebies or discounted items
We tend to place extra value on a freebie or something you've scored in a sale.
"This type of clutter is annoying and my clients have a hard time getting rid of this stuff," Shine says.
"The conference swag also always seems like it would be useful, but it usually just ends up rattling around your kitchen or junk drawer. It's hard to let an item go when it's free or on sale, because of the perception that you got a good deal or you think it must be worth something."
7. Books you no longer love
Books take up a lot of space in our home – literally and emotionally.
"Books inspire such strong emotions, because they have been portals into other worlds, they gave us other lives and expanded imaginations," says Christina Waters, PhD, author of Inside the Flame: The Joy of Treasuring What You Already Have.
"We tend to keep those that have been with us during important times in our lives. It's like giving up a piece of our lives to let go of a beloved book."
8. Your children’s things
Kids have their own special type of clutter – and it tends to spread quickly.
"Kid clutter makes parents anxious, because it is so difficult to clean up and to find a space to keep it, so it worsens the feeling of being out of control — a feeling that so many parents already have around raising kids, when things aren't going smoothly," says Dr. Bartell.
9. Unused craft items
We often start craft projects with the best of intentions – but what happens when we don’t complete them?
"Abandoned or unused hobby supplies are a form of aspirational clutter. It's much easier to collect the materials for a hobby than to make the time and effort to pursue it," says Francine Jay, the blogger behind Miss Minimalist and author of The Joy of Less.
"And we feel that as long as we have a closet full of yarn, we're a knitter — even if we haven't touched our needles in months (or years!)."
10. Heavy curtains
Heavy drapes can make us feel cocooned and comfortable, but they’re not altogether good for our entire wellbeing.
"Generally, the heavier your furniture and window treatments are, the heavier the atmosphere feels," says Laura Benko, holistic design expert and author of The Holistic Home: Feng Shui for Mind Body Spirit Space.
"There are certain times when a space calls for a substantial, weightier drape, but choose your window coverings carefully and remember, 'light and airy' will make you feel light and airy!"
How to let go
It can be extremely difficult to part with our possessions. The secret to letting go? Think about all of the space you’re getting back.
"Value your space as much as your stuff," says Francine Jay.
"We need space to engage in activities we love — be that play with our children, do yoga in our bedroom, or dance a tango in the living room. It's what we do, not what we own, that makes life memorable and meaningful."