Today I am continuing my Disassociation Series, and this week we are dealing with obligation clutter. This is a tricky one because it is easy enough to identify these items and know you want to get rid of them but there is a fear that you may offend someone else should they find out you have .
What is obligation clutter? These are items that someone gave you that you no longer want, and sometimes never wanted in the first place, but you now feel obliged to keep it so you do not upset or offend the giver. They are often…
- Unwanted gifts
- Gifts that were once well used but now no longer suit your needs
- An object given to you of sentimental value
- Objects made for you
- Family heirlooms (Probably the hardest of all to deal with)
I have to be honest here in saying that the only thing really standing in the way of getting rid of these objects is YOU!
- You are afraid it will hurt a friend’s feelings.
- You are afraid it will hurt your relationship with family.
- You are afraid to approach this person and offer the object back if that is the best solution.
- You are afraid of communicating your feelings when people offer you these objects in the first place and accept them whether you want them or not.
- You are afraid of a little discomfort should someone be bold enough to confront you on the absence of an object.
- You are probably falsely attaching too much importance to the object based on the person who gave it to you.
- You may also feel it is somehow disrespectful to part with objects left to you by a loved one who has passed.
At this point, I know I have probably offended a few of my readers with my suggestions. I am willing to take that risk in the attempt to help you to take a risk to make the space you live in be the best, most comfortable, most rewarding, easy to care for, tranquil place it can possibly be. It is after all * Your space * Your home * Your sanctuary * Your life * Yours to take care of * Your time * Your freedom to do with it what you please.
I hear you saying but, but, but, and there are a lot of buts…
- …but my mother is the type of person who gets really offended over this sort of thing.
And that situation isn’t going to change if everyone keeps pandering to that behaviour. If she confronts you on the issue, politely explain to her that you no longer wanted to keep the item for whatever reason and let her deal with her own feelings on the issue. She is your mother and I am sure in the end your love is more important to her than stuff.
- …but my mother-in-law loves to knit me stuff and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
If she cares that much for you she will understand. Communication is what is lacking here, she probably keeps making you stuff because you keep accepting it. All you need to say is that you appreciate everything that she does for you but you don’t need any more (fill in the blank) as you have more than enough already.
- …but my father handed this desk down to me, it was once his fathers and his fathers before that.
That may be a good reason to keep it but if you truly don’t want it, ask your father to entrust it to another member of the family who will cherish it in their home. He cared enough to offer it to you I am sure he cares enough for you not to hold a grudge against you for not wanting it.
I know you are probably thinking “You make it sound like it is so simple, but it isn’t!” and in some cases you are probably right. What I suggest is to give it a try, get rid of one thing on your obligation clutter list and see what happens. Pick an item least likely to cause a problem and be brave. If the person involved doesn’t mention its absence or doesn’t suddenly start giving you the cold shoulder then you can consider it a success and move on to the next object. Quite often the situation is only as big as you blow it up to be in your own mind.
Just to prove that people do survive these encounters I will give you some examples.
One of the first things I decluttered was a silver tea set my parents gave me for my 21st birthday. Yes, I did consider at the time that my parents may notice its absence. My parents have since visited my home and I have visited theirs and nothing has been mentioned about the missing tea set. I can only assume that they either didn’t notice or they did and weren’t mortally offended. Either way I am happy not to have to polish it any more.
My son brought out a batch of T-shirts to be decluttered last week and among those was one that his dad and I had bought him when we were in Italy last year. I knew he had never worn it, I also know he is very particular about what he wears and I am not offended that he has decluttered it. He also knew when he gave it to me to declutter that I had given it to him but he is clearly secure enough in our relationship not to be concerned about my reaction.
When I went to visit my mother recently she offered me to take whatever I wanted from her china cabinet. Her plan is to offer these items to each of her children and grandchildren, so these treasures end up with those who truly appreciate them. I politely declined the offer because, although she has many beautiful things, I have no need or want for them. If she was offended she sure didn’t show it and she is still phoning me to say hello so no problems there.
Some years back my mother suggested I buy her a set of salt and pepper grinders for her Christmas gift and I did so. I chose a good brand with a lifetime warranty. As I had moved overseas, it was three years before I visited my parents home again. This gift was nowhere to be seen even though the warranty suggested they should have been around for many years to come. What happened to them? I don’t know because even though I noticed their absence I was not at all offended by it and wasn’t about put my parents an awkward position by inquiring.
My point here is that ultimately its our relationships with people that truly matter not relationships with stuff. Anyone who truly cares for you will not be offended by the fact that you decluttered something that they gave you. Yes, they might notice but etiquette should prevail in such a situation and, if an inquiry of an item’s whereabouts is made, provide an honest response that should also be accepted with grace.
Today’s Declutter Item
I have been selling some items on ebay again and this Tupperware bread keeper sold for $15.50. I underestimated the postage on this item and lost out there but this is the first time I have made that mistake so I’ll chalk that up to experience. Postage can be a case of swings and roundabouts sometimes because I overestimated on the postage for an item some time ago that more than makes up for this mistake.
Something I Am Grateful For Today
Getting to the bottom of my to do list. It wasn’t a big one but it always feels good to get commitments our of the way. Having my chores out of the way early makes me feel that everything else I get done is a bonus. I have a busy week ahead so it is good to get a jump start.