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  • Caitrin McElroy

Getting Rid of Gifts

Does anybody else have a hard time getting rid of gifts?

Jonathan and I were out of town this weekend, so we spent yesterday catching up on Days 14, 15, and 16 of the Minimalism Game. I’ve exhausted my closet and bathroom for items to purge by now, so I turned to the shelves where we keep knick-knacks. Staring at a book that was gifted to me when I was born, (and sent to me by my parents when they finished downsizing earlier this year), I was struck by nostalgia-fueled guilt. Then, a bizarre thought:

I don’t own my own stuff.

It sounds ridiculous, even illogical, saying it out loud. And still, it is the only way I know how to describe the way I feel about letting go of inherited items or gifts. Those things were cherished or chosen by someone else. Someone else cared enough to think about passing those things on to me. Am I dishonoring or disrespecting that care by letting go of the things that they invested time and energy in?

The answer, I have to remind myself, is no.

As I come across the gifts or keepsakes in my home that I struggle to get rid of this month, I’m trying to keep these things in mind before stashing them back on my bookshelf until my next Minimalism Game:

1. I own my stuff.

At the end of the day, I’m in control of my space. If that gift or keepsake isn’t providing any value and only triggers guilt when I think about letting it go, it might just be time to take control and let it go. If I’m still worried about what the givers and gifters in my life would think...

2. The person that gave this to me trusts my judgment.

We get keepsakes or gifts from the ones closest to us, so there’s a pretty good chance they love me, (or at least like me a little). I will remind myself to let go of the guilt, and know that they’ll still love me even if I get rid of my baby book or grandma’s favorite Christmas ornament.

To get rid of my baby book is not to dishonor or disrespect the care my parents put into choosing it, keeping it, and passing it on to me. Instead, I'll give it away with gratefulness for my parent's care, and hope that the next person to receive it will feel loved the way I did receiving it.

It's not an easy choice, but getting rid of gifts is a choice that I make to live and practice what I believe in: my possessions do not make me who I am. My things will not be my legacy. My joy is not found from stuff. Living with less, for me, means living more.

What are some of the ways you’ve coped with getting rid of keepsakes or gifts? Share your tactics, practices, meditations, and mantras below!

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