I recently asked for questions I could help you with and received this one that I think is very common:
How do YOU handle (or how do you recommend other people handle) the guilt from other people when decluttering?
You know the ugly ceramic from your sister-in-law or a birthday gift you will never use. A sweet gift from a spouse. How do you declutter without hurting feelings?
And let’s not forget the relative that is always giving you something from a distant relation and laying on the guilt about receiving it and keeping it.
This is the kind of scenario that happens all throughout our lives. Wanting to have autonomy on our homes and our lives and having well-meaning people we don’t want to hurt, interfere.
One thing to remember, is that guilting someone is a form of manipulation to get someone to do what you want. Most parents or grandparents have done it at some point with their kids and/or grandkids.
But, as adults we don’t have to buy into it. At some point we need to take ownership of our choices included keeping something because we were made to feel guilty or refusing and feeling badly.
What are some ways of refusing gently?
Perhaps, “Wow this is wonderful. I wonder if the local historical museum would enjoy it so more people can see it. “
or, “Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I have been trying to declutter. I don’t have enough space for our stuff, much less other’s people’s things. I’m sure you understand.”
“Wow, Aunt Marilyn had great taste. Unfortunately it’s not my taste. It deserves to be shown and I would just hide it in a box. Who else do you think might like it?”
“I love you so much and am happy you want to keep memories alive. But, I don’t have the room to be a historian. What else can we do with it?”
What if you already have it and think they might visit?
This is up to you. If you know for sure it would hurt their feelings and you just can’t, put it away until they come over.
But, I think most of us are adult enough to know that not everything we give is a perfect fit. We try, but it doesn’t always work.
I can’t recall things I have given, so I wouldn’t even notice if something was out or not. I’m sure there are a lot of people that way.
If someone does notice, you might have to gently explain why you had to let it go (not enough room, moved on from that hobby, someone else asked about it and really wanted it). It’s not something wrong you did. You just didn’t keep something you didn’t want in your space.
Some people may get terribly offended. You know who they are. That’s why you get to use your discernment to see if it’s better to keep something or allow someone to be offended.
There is a choice. We may not want to make it. But, that’s how we create the lives we want. With the choices we make. Sometimes you will end up disappointing someone or hurting someone’s feelings if you are creating your life with your choices.
We also don’t get to choose how other people re-act. So think if you want to live your life basing your choices on hopefully never offending or hurting someone’s feelings or in the way your soul is actually leading you.
In a normal life, unfortunately, you will disappoint someone or make someone mad or offend someone if you try to live a simpler, soul-driven life. But, the alternative is to tip-toe through life, never making waves (and limiting your impact on the world). Be kind always. But, that doesn’t mean you need to bring other people’s guilting into yourself.
Be kind. Be loving. And start noticing how many times you trade “being nice” for living how you choose. Too often and you start living other people’s lives instead of your own.
Need some support in letting go and dealing with other people in the midst of it? Join the Declutter Group.