I don’t know about you, but my home is packed with things I don’t need. It seems like I went through a period where material items were a way to define my status in life, my stability, and my interests, even though I really didn’t care about the items.

I believe our society has created monsters in us. We collect, we hoard, we buy-and-toss items we didn’t need or that break often. Our homes are packed full of things we don’t need, some we don’t even want. We hold onto things for sentimental reasons, financial reasons, and because we don’t even know they exist (in that dark corner under the stairs). I’ve always been a packrat but I didn’t realize the extent of it until I had to move this past year.

Many of us hang onto the past, whether it is material or in our minds. We associate feelings with items and memories and refuse to let go. For example, I have several items that were my grandmother’s. I cherish them and it reminds me of the love she had for me. That’s a positive association. I also have a shirt that I spent, well, a lot of money on. I think I’ve worn it twice in three years. However, I feel guilty about getting rid of it because of the money I spent. Just like I feel guilty getting rid of an item that someone else bought for me, but that I don’t even use. Those feelings are negative associations.

Our thoughts and feelings also play an important role in our households. I’ve always believed my household reflects what’s inside of me. So, please, don’t come over and judge. My house is a mess (but I just moved!). Even here, you can get a sense of the associations I place on my house, “don’t come over and judge.” I want a clean house for my sanity and to lower my stress level, and that should be enough. However, when company is coming, I “freak out,” hollering at my kids to help clean, running around vacuuming, dusting, and doing whatever else I can. I turn into a monster. I’m afraid of being judged, not by my behaviors or personality, but by my house.

Before moving, I sorted through totes upon totes of clothing and toys. I set goals (e.g., age group A must all fit in one tote, not two). I threw away things that were broken or didn’t work (even though I was going to figure out how to fix them – someday). I gave things away. I donated to fundraisers. I refrained from all garage sales (that was torture for me).

And I was left with a lot of stuff. In fact, there’s still stuff in my old house that needs moved or trashed.

I have a goal for myself. This year, I’m going to get rid of 2,016 items. I even get an extra day to do it (thanks, leap year!). So, on average, I should eliminate 5.5 items a day. I’ve already started. It’s close to the end of January and I have tallied around 10 items. Go me. I’m positive I’ll improve my ability to sort and toss both items and negative thoughts as the year goes on.

I’m going to simplify and “let go” of the guilt or other negative feelings associated with items. If I don’t wear it, it’s gone. If I don’t use it, it needs to go. Negative feelings or memories are more difficult to “let go,” but I’m going to focus on letting go of the negative “it’s not fair” thoughts that have been invading my mind, such as “It’s not fair I had to move and leave all my friends, a great job, and a wonderful town” or “It’s not fair that I’m stuck at home, going stir crazy, while my husband is going out to lunches and getting to interact with people older than 7.” Yes, time to let go of those thoughts because they just open the door for depression and other illnesses.

I look forward to less clutter, having fewer things to dust and feeling free. I’m sticking to the goal of getting rid of 2,016 items. Are you in a position where “letting go” would be beneficial? I know 2,016 items may seem like a lot, but I bet you, like me, have more things in your home than you realize. Here’s to letting go and being freer!

I dare you…2,016 times, I dare you!

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.