Lessons in letting go

Release!
Release! (Photo credit: Destinys Agent)

This last week, over an extended Easter break, I’ve been endeavouring to put some yoga into practice.

I’ve been taking yoga off the mat … and into my cupboards.

Prompted by an impending house move, I’ve been sorting through my possessions and de-cluttering; deciding what  to keep, what to throw and what to send to charity. I’ve been learning to let go.

So much stuff … so little space

But blimey, I have so much stuff!

Two large wardrobes packed to the gills with clothes, shoes and boots, hats, bags, scarves (my husband has to squash all his clothes into any space he can find!). And I’d blush to tell you how much jewellery I have accumulated over the years. Not to mention all the ornaments, nic-nacs, pretty crockery I rarely use, candles, pictures, and lots and lots of paperwork … the list goes on.

And books.  Aaah, my many lovely books!

I studied English Literature for my degree so I have lots of classic literature books, plus some modern novels. Then there’s my interest in arts and crafts, painting, cookery, works of a philosophical bent and of course yoga. I have many and varied books about them all!

… All of this takes up a LOT of space.

Weighed down by baggage

And when material possessions take up a lot of physical space, they can also take up a lot of energy too.  The sheer physical presence of all of your material possessions can weigh heavily around you – and when you’re about to move, like I am, you really feel their presence!

But you also invest your possessions with emotional attachments.  Attaching memories to them; attaching the possession of certain items to your sense of identity. It creates baggage – literally and metaphorically.

Yoga in practice

So I decided to go through every room and let go of a few things.  And this has taught me some very interesting lessons about the yogic principles of non-possessiveness (Aparigraha) and non-attachment (Vairagya ).

I had a lot of books I’d read once and, to be honest, I was not likely to read again even though I like seeing them there on my bookshelf. So I decided to put non-possessiveness into practice and box some up for charity to make space on my bookshelves, to release some stuck energy, and help a charity in the process.

But some things are easier to part with than others. And it can be fascinating investigating within yourself why this is so.

I noticed there were some clothes I could easily make a decision to take to charity; quickly and easily decided that they no longer suited me and I hadn’t worn them for ages. Others, even though I hadn’t worn for a year or two, I found myself wanting to hang on to, but not being quite sure why.

Skirting around my identity

There’s this black cotton skirt I have – a bit 50s-style I suppose. I bought it from H&M about 6 or 7 years ago. I think I’ve worn it twice. It’s not that special and a bit more flared than I usually like to wear. So I put it in the charity bag … then took it out again … then put it back in … then just before my husband was going to take the stuff to charity, guess what? I took it out again!

Why?!?!  I got to wondering what was going on here… Then I wondered why I bought it in the first place. I think I saw a colleague where I used to work wear something similar. And she always looked so smart. But more than that, she always seemed so confident in herself and her abilities. Something that, at the time, I felt I sorely lacked.

So I’d unconsciously made this simple black skirt a symbol of the kind of person I wanted to be. I was attaching a sense of the identity I thought I should have – seven years ago – to a piece of material. And this attachment was still pulling emotional strings now! Crazy!

Get non-attached

So I tried putting non-attachment into practice: I began to get interested when I was resisting letting go of something and asking myself honestly why.

I’m not talking about getting rid of things for the sake of it. I’m not about to chuck out my wedding photo album, or items of jewellery bought for me by my husband or family, or clothes I love to wear.

But when you have clothes you haven’t worn in years; books you’ve read once or never read and aren’t likely to; or 16 wine glasses when you never entertain on that scale; or hats which make you look older than your years; or paperwork from previous jobs you’re holding on to; or things you just don’t have the space for; try asking yourself why are you keeping them?

What emotional investments do you have in them? Are they positive and healthy? Or would you be better off letting them go – letting go of the possession thus letting go of the attachment?

Do try this at home

Put non-possessiveness into action and clear some clutter. You might find a greater sense of clarity in your life and feel lighter and freer as you relieve yourself of the weight of stuff in your home. Pass things on to charity – give them a second life.

Put non-attachment into practice and stop identifying your material possessions with who you are.  Attaching to false identities is so limiting. Honestly enquiring of yourself what you are attached to is the first step in learning to let go.

We are much more than our possessions.  We are often much more than we think we are or can be.  If we let go a little, we can learn such a lot… We can learn to be our true, beautiful, unfettered selves.

What could you let go of today?


Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a flowing and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.

6 thoughts on “Lessons in letting go

  1. I got married 13 years ago, and for 13 years my wedding dress had hung on the back of one bedroom door and my husband’s wedding suit on the back of another. Why? Because of the emotional attachment both of us had for those items of clothing. Because of his kidney transplant, Steve hadn’t been able to fit into his suit for a number of years, and although I could just about fit into my dress, was I ever likely to wear it again? No. So, we both decided to let them go to the charity shop. Has our love for each other diminished or been changed in any way? No.
    We’ve both had to clear out our parents houses over the last couple of years, and it made me think about how much ‘stuff’ we also have in our house. It used to give me a feeling of security to hold on to stuff, but now I think it just weighs me down and stops me moving forward. Little by little, I’ve started letting go and have felt so much lighter – it feels good to have more space around me. I’ve still got much further to go, and there are some things that I’m still not ready to release my hold on. Like you’ve said, I think questioning why you can’t let something go is very revealing.

    1. Thanks for sharing :) I love your point that “It used to give me a feeling of security to hold on to stuff, but now I think it just weighs me down and stops me moving forward.” That is sooo true! Contemplating moving (again) was making me feel anxious about the sheer amount of stuff we have to move and find space for in our new home.

      I’ve decided to have a round 2 (3 and even 4) of sorting through and de-cluttering before we move. It’s so therapeutic! xxx

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