8 Ways to Let Go of Things – and Simplify Your Life

by Jul 21, 20226 comments

Change Your Mindset

Give Yourself Permission

It can often be difficult to get rid of our things, even when you are determined to reduce the amount of stuff.  Even when you have decided it is the right thing for you – and your family – and have gotten yourself psyched up for the change.  Sometimes, you even start and then get discouraged.  Or make real progress and then plateau.  In those cases, it can help to shake things up and try something new – or return to something that has worked in the past.

8 Strategies to Make Letting Go Easier

Set a Timer and A Category

Give yourself a limited time (10-15 minutes is a good place to start) and identify a clear space (Nightstand, junk drawer, hall closet….) or category of things (books, coats, toys, craft supplies).  Even when you don’t feel like starting, some constraints give you direction and the confidence to tackle it.  It no longer feels like a endless task and you can get right too it.

Get Rid of Duplicates (not sets or pairs, of course)

Grab a box and gather up all the things that you have collected that duplicate something else.  Things like extra spatulas or pink t-shirts or dish towels or holiday decor that you don’t use or need.   Donate everything to a person or place that can use it.

Start With a Clean Slate

Instead of trying to select a few items from an area to discard, empty the shelf/drawer/closet/box and return only the things you need or want to keep.   Get the rest out of your space immediately.

Clear clutter ord cloud

Create a Ritual

Have a routine that helps you release things to a new home.  This might be as simple as moving things in a particular order or having a grace period of a few days, weeks or months before making the final call.  Courtney Carver (BeMoreWithLess.com) suggests speaking aloud to your items to thank them for what they have brought into your life.   Sometimes, I take a picture, print it and write a short description or story on the back.  Find something that helps you feel comfortable to let go.

Take A Picture

If you have sentimental items that don’t suit your lifestyle, take pictures and write the meaning behind the item.  Save the pictures in an album or in a frame as part of the process of letting it go.

Let Go of Gift Guilt

If you are holding on to things because someone gave it to you, remind yourself that someone who loves you would not want you to keep things that do not inspire you or make you happy.  You can love the giver and the thought but release the gift.

Read more in my post Don’t Keep Things ONLY Because of Guilt

Ask for Help

Get a friend to help you reduce and make decisions.  Have an accountability partner.  Or even ask – or hire – someone to pack and remove things – with your direction.  There are 

Find it a New Home

Sell or donate items you don’t need.  List them in marketplaces, post on Buy Nothing sites, take them out to the curb with a ‘FREE’ sign, or pack them up and take it to a non-for-profit or thrift shop (remember to call first to see what they need/want).
Donating your stuff to a good cause, or giving it to someone you know will love it, makes it much easier to release it and get it out of your home.  

It’s a Journey

Some things will be harder to let go than others and some days you will be more in the zone or have a better mindset to clear more things.  Recognize that things change, stuff happens and some days you will need encouragement. Celebrate progress and make a plan for days (or weeks) when you are not feeling it.  Those can often be the times you need it the most.  AND the times that it is most rewarding to accomplish even simple changes.

Questions for you

Do you find it challenging to let go of things?  Why or why not?

What are your favourite strategies to let go of stuff?

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


  1. Tamara

    Did you write this post specifically for me? It sure feels that way. I needed to hear every single bullet point.
    Our house is sooo cluttered.
    One of my main challenges is my husband who’s a hoarder, and we’ve gotten into ugly arguments when I wanted to get rid of his cr**.

    Another difficulty is that in Switzerland donating items isn’t as simple. Organizations such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill will triage your stuff and refuse to take half of it.

    However, I’ll make a committment here and now: within the next two weeks I’ll go through my kitchen cabinet. I’m pretty sure groceries that are way past their expiration date will show up 🙁

    • Mary Elizabeth

      LOL. Thanks, Tamara – glad that the post resonated with you. It is frustrating to have someone in the house not wanting to be part of the decluttering / minimizing.

      Maybe these posts will give you some new ideas about how to deal with that challenge.

      Like you, I have struggled with places to donate stuff, even really good stuff. You are right – it is not always simple. Recently, I have been having good luck with the Buy Nothing Sites – although there is the challenge of people now showing when they say they will.

      Good luck with your commitment.

  2. Kebba Buckley Button

    Mary Elizabeth, what a beautiful post! You are so right in all you say. I love that, at the beginning, you call out mindset and our ability to give ourselves permission to release. I’m working on a program about letting go of life matters. So important!

    • Mary Elizabeth

      Thanks for your kind words, Kebba. Getting in the right frame of mind to clear does help, I think. I struggled with it more until I realized that letting go of those things that occupy space and don’t suit the life we want to build makes way for things that are more important. I know that you have been going through this process for a while too — continued luck with your journey.

  3. Paul B. Taubman, II

    One of my favorite strategies to let go of stuff is to donate it to charity. This way, I know that my unwanted items are going to a good cause and someone else will be able to use them. Another strategy I like to use is to sell my unwanted items online or at a garage sale. This way, I can make some money back from items that I no longer need or want. Lastly, I sometimes simply throw away items that I don’t want anymore. This is usually reserved for items that are damaged beyond repair or are simply too old to be of any use to anyone.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      I am with you on all counts, Paul. It is definitely easier to let things go when they are going to a new home – and it is really helpful to make a little money if possible. Like you, I sometimes, regretfully, throw things out, usually after making sure any reuseable / recycleable parts have been removed.

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