We use tools for everything, in every aspect of our lives. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, we need some sort of a tool to help us.
Some tools are self explanatory. When we cook, we need at least a pan and some heat and maybe something to stir with. When we sleep, we need at a place to stretch out and a blanket for warmth. We need a toothbrush to brush our teeth and clothing to cover us. When it gets dark, we need a lamp to see.
Some tools are for fun. We played with toys as a child, or rode a bike to get somewhere. We have hobbies and use tools for them, as well.
When we went to school we used tools. We wrote papers, got handouts and report cards. When we decluttered our homes, some of us used the book the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to teach us how.
Tools are made to be used, and used up. Some things, like clothing and toothbrushes wear out, and it’s obvious it’s time to let them go. They become unusable and no longer do the job they were designed to do. Those are the easy things to decide to replace.
Other tools, like the pan and the stove may take a little longer to break, but they do, eventually. We may even wait a bit to replace them, because of the amount they cost. We’ll repair it, or ignore the problem. In the end though, when it’s time to get something new, we’ll know. When we’re sick of repairing it, can’t find parts for it, or hurt ourselves using it, we’ll let it go.
But what about those not so obvious things? Those things like our college papers, yearbook, and handouts, are they still useful? Do we need them or are they just sentimental? There is nothing wrong with them if they are sentimental, but it’s good to think about why we’ve kept them
Then there are the intangible tools. What about our thoughts and ideas; what about our plans for our future? And what about those treasures from the past, the ones that work to remind us of past joys and feelings? How do you tell when is the right time to say goodbye to them? Or do we even have to?
Here’s the thing: it’s strictly up to you. It’s your life to live. You are the best expert as to what is necessary for you. I’ll give you a few things to think about that may help you decide. But in the long run, it’ your choice.. There are no “shoulds” about it.
Here are some of the things I ask myself when I’m deciding if it’s time to let something go:
- The obvious one is, does it spark joy. I don’t mean “meh” joy. I mean “true” joy. True joy is more than just pleasure. True joy is strong and intense and unshakable. I used to save a lot of things that I thought brought me joy. It took some doing to realize that true joy was a lot whole more admiring something, or liking it because it was similar to something else that I loved. I loved a lot of things. But not very many of them were awesome enough to make me want to give them a permanent home in my life.
- Do I really use it? Not, do I think I will use it somehow, somewhere, someday. But do I use it now.
- If I want to keep it, but don’t use it, what is the reason? It is pretty? Does it remind me of something else that I love?
- If it reminds me of something, is the memory strong enough to survive without the item?
- If it’s a book or class notes, then I ask if I have learned everything I can from it? Does it serve any other purpose? Even Marie Kondo’s books can go if they have nothing more to teach us.
- If it’s a life plan or personal belief, I’ll question that, too. Does it still fit into my life? Do I really believe in it? Am I committed to it? Or have I learned something different about it or myself, that means it’s time for a change? Have I changed?
- Lastly, if I’m thinking that I may need it in the future, I ask is that really likely to happen? Will a new tool be available? Will this tool even fit the need when I do need it? Could someone else use the item better, or need it more, now?
Even after asking all of those questions, I still might keep something that I don’t have a clear answer to. I’m a very sentimental person, so I do keep things just because they make me smile. I have a rock that I picked up on a hike with my dogs about 13 years ago. It’s very special to me. The dogs have passed away, but the rock is still here. It has a spiral in the center that is really cool. I found it the day my dogs played with the wild mustangs near our house. It is an awesome memory for me. The rock used to sit on my desk, now it’s on a shelf near the bed in the guest room. One day, I may decide it’s time to put it back in nature, and it will go in my garden. It’s a tool. It’s a memory keeper. One day the memory will stand on it’s own and I will let the rock go.
It’s bittersweet, but it’s life. We let things go so we will have room to grow into something better. We need space to discover new things and to go in new directions.
While it can be scary to let go, it’s a very freeing thing to do. Sometimes, all that is holding us back is a tool we no longer need.