Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Just Let It Go

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


As I’ve told you (probably countless times), we remodeled our house, and the last of the workmen pulled away two years ago in July. There were a lot of smaller jobs and some very large painting jobs that needed to be completed, but the house itself was done. Two years have passed, and I still have a half dozen paintings, including a couple of pieces of expensively framed limited edition pieces, that have not been hung. About every three months, I get into the closet where they’re stored and vow that today is the day that I’ll finish figuring it out. And every time I end up feeling anxious, itchy, uncertain, overwhelmed, unsure, and I shove it all back in the closet and gratefully slam the door behind me.

What’s behind this great difficulty? It’s hard to say exactly, but I attribute it to several causes:

  • Sentimentality, part 1 – I’ve always hung this piece, so I should hang it again.
  • Sentimentality, part 2 - Some of it is the children’s art that’s framed and won’t their feelings be hurt if I don’t hang it again (or worse, get rid of it)?
  • Gift – A couple of pieces were gifts. (Do not give gifts of art, unless you’re the artist. Even then, it’s questionable.) Will the gift-givers, my in-laws, or my husband be offended or hurt if one of them disappears?
  • Expense – Once the cost of framing is included, I probably have a thousand dollars worth of art that’s unhung. I must get my money’s worth by hanging it again.
  • Uncertainty about what else to do with it – There some good stuff here and some expensive stuff. How should I sell it / give it away / donate it? I paid good money for it and want someone else to appreciate it.
  • Maybe I can make it work – A different frame? A different mat? Maybe I can make it work.
  • Certainty that I still like the piece – Self-explanatory, I guess.

But here are my counter-arguments:

  • Sentimentality, part 1 – Just because I’ve done it before doesn’t mean I have to do it again.
  • Sentimentality, part 2 – One child is sentimental; the other one is not at all. Offer it to her for her room, or take it out of the frame, recycle the frame, and keep the art with her other pieces.
  • Gift – Often a tricky area. I no longer think my in-laws would notice. Frankly, my husband probably wouldn’t either because he probably doesn’t really notice what’s on the walls. I could ask him. Or not. Something to ponder further.
  • Expense – We’ve all had this hang up. We paid a lot of money, and even though we no longer value the item, we hate to waste our money and perversely feel that someone else should value something as much as we no longer do. (That thought is so twisted that it’s hard to write it in a sentence that makes sense.) Personalized art is a lot like a 10 year old computer. It may still be very nice, but it doesn’t have the same value on the open market.
  • Uncertainty about what else to do with it – I know all the local resources, but if I feel stuck, I can seek help from others.
  • Maybe I can make it work – This is like valuing a broken vacuum cleaner that you just know will be fantastic – and such a bargain – once you fix it up, but you never have. But it’s also like that saying, “Throwing good money after bad.” If I’ve lost my attachment to the art, a costly new frame probably isn’t going to solve the problem.
  • Certainty that I still like the piece – Clearly this is self-deception. If I really liked the piece, it would be up on the wall. After all, I have a lot of hanging art. My walls are not bare, and these pieces repeatedly have not made the cut.

So what did I do? I contacted a woman I know who works for a charity that has an annual garage sale – by far the biggest and best garage sale held in the city. There was a tickle in the back of my mind, which she confirmed, that they have a “designer” section, and they’re grateful to know the original purchase price of more unique items. The three most expensive pieces went with her, my mother was interested in two (she just remodeled her house so they may or may not work, but she put them in her mix to try), and three of the more generic (also known as “having wide appeal”) pieces were listed on Craigslist, which come to think about it, is where they came from to begin with. Anything that doesn’t sell on Craigslist will also go to the garage sale charity. Eight pieces finally dealt with. I cannot tell you how good that feels!

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a guilt item ~ Don’t feel obliged to keep something just because you shouldn’t have wasted the money on it in the first place. Try to sell it to recoup some money or just find a way to pass it on. Forgive yourself and move on.

Today’s Declutter Item

I don’t have a guilt item to declutter today in fact I don’t think I have any guilt items left. I hope so anyway. I have however finally decluttered all the cookbooks I am willing to let go of. The only ones left are my self made one with all my mum’s old recipes and the favourites I have discovered over the years and a Jamie Oliver one that has several favourites in it. My daughter bought it for my birthday one year so if I decide to decluttering it I will offer it back to her.

More Cookbooks

Something to be grateful for today

 The third fine day in a row, just when I really needed to get the washing done. Yay!

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. It is your home and if you love the art, then hang it up! If not, find someone else who will love and enjoy it or sell it and use the money to buy something you really want instead. It is the thought and intent of the gift that matters, not the material possession itself. You know your in laws and husband care about you and tried to show it in buying you something. It is a good reminder for all of us when we buy gifts for people, that maybe it really isn’t what they want in the first place. Maybe a shopping trip together to pick it out and make a memory as well as get something you wanted would have been a better idea. Sometimes I get frustrated if I give a gift and find out that they gave it away, but I am not frustrated at them. I am frustrated at myself for either not knowing them better to know what they would have liked or for the wasted money I spent. I spend more time in thought before buying something, and find out something that they really want instead of just buying something. I know we should be grateful for any gift we are given, but I would rather give a gift that they will enjoy than one that will just be given away. Gift cards are a good option for this. But, I think the best thing is to just go shopping together and maybe out to lunch and enjoy the day as well as finding something they want.

    • Actually, my in-laws previously were in the habit of buying things for their sons on vacation – t-shirts, mostly, but also sometimes art. Little prints of historical buildings that remind you of your vacation don’t do a lot for the folks back home IMO. After 15 years of marriage, my in-laws have stopped giving me gifts, and that works just fine for me.

  2. I feel so accomplished today! We’ve been cleaning our rental house out, and we discovered that we (my boyfriend and I) don’t actually have nearly as much junk as we thought we did. There’s still plenty that will be decluttered, that’s for sure, but much of the clutter belonged to the roommates that are moving out.

    We have two living rooms, and I provided ALL the furniture, except for two twin size beds that the others brought, and one desk. When we divided things up for cleaning and move-outs, it was discovered that everything my boyfriend and I have is either furniture (and we’re even storing beds for friends) or fits in the 4ft by 4ft closet – stacked almost to the ceiling, but still. We have literally condensed three couches, four beds, two large tables, a coffee table, several lamps and end tables, and ALL of our personal stuff – clothing, bedding, toiletries, kitchen stuff and other “junk” – craft stuff, school supplies, etc. into a living room and small closet.
    The two moving out have one bed (we have the other bed in our half right now), two desks, and all of their personal stuff – it takes up a large bedroom and living room, and it’s fuller than our side.

    I know the two moving in don’t have much, as I am friends with them and am helping them pack. I’m going to be SO happy when it all gets done and we can spread out.

    My only regret is that I packed away my camera. I guess photos aren’t really necessary, I’ll just be happy to have seen the difference myself.

    • I love moving and I hate moving. really. I hate moving myself, because I just cant be bothered to pack and unpack. at the same time, I love “ending and starting over” very much. and its great fun to stand in an empty room and place your stuff in your imagination… I just love that.
      I was just thinking the other day in the morning waking up, how I could rearrange the bedroom. now that my drawer went out and the stacks of paper will be gone soon, I have enough space to actually try it =)

      • I understand just what you mean! One of these days, I would like to move and not take anything with use except a carload of stuff at the most and just start over. No moving costs! A lot of the stuff we have is used and we would probably make more money selling it than we paid for it!

        • Oh how I understand this one. I know that at some point my mother will no longer be with me. When that happens I will have a big sale of everything in the house but my bed and a few needed essentials and then move somewhere smaller and more compact. Other than the bed, it will all fit in my car.

    • Sounds like a happy and productive day!

  3. Congrats Cindy on your final decision, that sounds like a reasonable thing to go for considering all your attachment to it! I was laughing when I read your counter-arguments. thats what I was thinking reading the pro’s… This is a perfect example of how it can help to write things down, figuring out the complex feelings attached to those items. sometimes you can only really grab the problem and face the core of your feeling when you take your time and really start pulling off the layers. you have to make this a deliberate act. I often ask myself why – why do I own it, why do I love it, why cant I let go? and as soon as I can answer a why question, I am often satisfied. as long as there is an explanation, I can deal with it. I have a hammock in mind that could use a good peeling of that sort….

    • Thank you. After I parted with those pictures, my husband got rid of his “secret” art stash. It had already been reduced to just one piece, but a year ago, there was no way he would have relinguished it, even though it also hadn’t been hung since the remodel.

  4. Oh Cindy – I am so with you on this one – I love your statement “I shove it all back in the closet and gratefully slam the door behind me.”
    I’ve done this so many times – filing pictures in the ‘too difficult’ pile. My dad gave my OH and I a painting one year and we think it’s awful. OH also has a painting he was given by an ex who had it commissioned for him (after he’d said he didnt want anything) – you can imagine the guilt attached to both these pics – which of course have been in the cupboard for some time.
    I finally decided to speak to my dad (and discovered he’d been stung by the artist and paid more than he’d expected to for the painting) and explained that it didnt suit our tastes/ the house etc and offered him it back – he declined and actually took it all really well – he’d never asked why we hadnt hung it – I suspect he actually regrets buying it – just to add to all the guilt piled up in the thing, lol. He suggested we sell it and buy something we like. I’ve also suggested to OH that we sell his painting and use the money to buy one from the same artist (who is a friend) – but a painting that he likes and has no negative memories attached. All I have to do now is find out how on earth you sell paintings by current artists….
    Stuff really can be such a trauma – that’s why I love this blog! It really helps :o)
    (next on my pictures shelf is my own work – argghhh – I managed to get rid of my school portfolio by taking photos a few years ago but I still have my final college portfolio with my degree show stuff in – from 20+ years ago I should add – I did design but never went into business with it – ho hum – think i’ll just shove the door shut again and breath…)

    • I have photos and scrapbook stuff that is still taunting me. Don’t give up Fruitcake!

      • Hi, Fruitcake…I still struggle with getting rid of my own artwork and supplies too. Sometimes I just decide to throw everything away. I’ve done that before and had my husband ask me why I did that.

        I just tell him I get sick of looking at it, and I can always create more.

  5. I used to have the same issues and perverse logic about such issues, especially expensive gifts. But in the end, I had a talking with myself about these items which were not honoring the giver by sitting in my closet and if giver wasn’t seeing the gift displayed, what was the difference between stashing in closet or donating them to Goodwill? Either way, neither I nor the giver were enjoying the beauty.

    Why do I let the price tag hang up my decision to keep or donate an INANIMATE object that I don’t need or like???

    • Hi Gail,
      For me, Price tags signify wether or not I can afford to replace the item if I decide I need to replace it at a later date. It too slows me down but you said something that has helped me; “what is the difference between stashing it in a closet or donating it to Goodwill??”. A very good point.

      • With a piece of art, if you’re never going to hang it again, what difference does it make whether you can afford to replace it or not? You’re not using this one anyway.

  6. “even though we no longer value the item, we hate to waste our money and perversely feel that someone else should value something as much as we no longer do.”

    That was excellently put. We call it the “but someone would -love- this” syndrome at my house, which makes it especially hard to get rid of quirky things (a Spock doll, a 60’s style coffee mug) that surely someone is dying to have (because we did at one point), but the general public at Goodwill is unlikely to appriciate. My SO had a $90 amine poster bought during the sleep deprivation of a convention that we never hung up, and took forever to find a home for.

    • Whisper ~ I can guarantee you that it isn’t just the general public that shop at good will. At the thrift shop where I work there are regulars that shop to sell who know the value of things. Ceramics, records, art, old books, china, old dolls, jewellery… are all popular with these buyers.

      • I totally agree with Colleen on this one. I recently went to a flea market (definitely post-worthy) and all those goodies had to come from somewhere. Even I have not been immune to the buy then resell temptation. My best deal was a $8.50 item that I resold for $50 in the same week.

        • Oh yes, I’ve gotten some fabulous deals at the thrift store myself. I can recognize this as mental stumble that keeps me hanging onto things I don’t want to keep – the thought that I can’t give it away unless I can -see- the appriciation. I kept a couple of Hummel figurines (that my Granny had given me) for years, never getting around to selling them, “unable” to donate them, until I made a friend who collected them.

          Luckily, as the years go on, I have fewer of these things. Either I’ve gotten tired of lugging them around and thrifted them, or found someone to take it off my hands. And new unwanted things get pushed back out the door -before- I get that attached to them.

  7. As for gift art; I saw a SIGNED print from Annie Leibovitz (it was the famous John Lennon and Yoko Ono, New York City 1980) at an auction preview in April in NYC….Annie had even inscribed it–something along the lines of ‘To Jim and Mary on your wedding day! 6/7/1989 Love, Annie’….

    All I could think was, “Maybe Jim and Mary got divorced? Or fell on hard times and needed the money?”

    Then again, Maybe Jim and Mary just needed a break from John and Yoko.

    Gift art: rarely a perfect idea

    • Wow. You would think that would be one to hang onto. Wow. I’m sure there’s a lesson there – don’t buy art? Don’t presonalize it? Eventually you get tired of everything??

  8. Guilt would be my biggest one to deal with personally. If someone gave me something, then it always feels like I need to have it on display. I loved your statement about liking a piece and then if you “really” liked it then it would have been on the wall.

    My wife will ask me if she should throw something away and I will actually tell her if I have not used it or asked about it in a long time, just assume it can go. If you ask, I may think about it! (not good)

    Closets, attics, and basements are great filters. If you have not touched it in over a year then it can probably go somewhere else. Someone may need or want what we are not using (I hope).

    • The peace of having a decluttered home outweighs any guilt we choose to place on ourselves. I would rather feel peace instead of guilt and have things in my home that I don’t like and don’t give me pleasure.

      • Good point Spendwisemom, the person who gave the gift probably couldn’t care less what you did with it meanwhile the receiver is holding on to it with unhealthy negative feelings. People have to remember that their home is their sanctuary and it is not up to anyone else to decide what goes into it.

        And Larry, although avoiding the decision making may be getting more things quickly out of your home I feel it would be healthier and a growth experience for you to confront these objects to build up your strength for letting go.

    • Hi Larry – I love how you’ve said “closets, attics and basements are great filters” – I know exactly what you mean! The first level of seperation. Unfortunately it backfired on me and I ended up with a garage full of stuff I knew I wanted to be rid of but (then) couldn’t face the effort of the actual getting rid of stuff part.
      I have now been working on my garage for six months, unfortunately the project merged with the ceiling storage (the second degree of seperation) but I could get a car inside the garage now if I wanted.

    • Ah Larry, It’s easier to get forgiveness than it is to give permission? That’s good advice for your wife to follow.

      • Or I should say, That’s good advice for you to have given your wife.

      • Hi Cindy – my hubby tried to implement that concept…..that it was easier to get my forgiveness than my permission…….didn’t go over too well at all. Mind you that wasn’t about decluttering… was about him disappearing fishing or buying something he knew I’d say no to. 🙂

  9. Larry, I wish more people had your wisdom!

    I have a firm rule in my new home, that all my art/photos must be framed and displayed. That’s it. NO lurking in cupboards. So I have spent a pretty penny on framing, and everything is on a wall, except for two frames – which are pesky cause they are mostly glass (ie no backing board), so I need a tiny hook/nail and my latest hardware purchases haven’t quite been small enough. They are on display though, as the frame are ‘thick’ enough to be able to stand on a ledge.

    As for my parents, who have a ‘proper’ house (ie, many rooms, with walls, rather than my loft), have a surplus of art not displayed. Which they are a-ok with (but drives me a little batty as it used to take up precious space in places I used to share!) A lot of it are posters from art shows that have been mounted onto some sort of solid backing (hardly any ‘value’). Oh well… maybe I shall slowly plant the seeds. I’m sure there are some that could go (my mum’s a good declutterer – in certain categories!)

    • Do they ever rotate their art? I’ve known two people who did that. One was a decorator and one was an attorney with a decorator’s sole. I guess if you truly will shuffle and reuse, then it can be saved, but as for me, I hate doing that.

      • Good point, maybe I should start with ‘let’s get these pictures in storage a time on the wall’ and if their response is ‘why, I don’t even like that one’ or ‘I like what’s on the wall more’ we might start to get somewhere!

  10. “… even though we no longer value the item, we hate to waste our money and perversely feel that someone else should value something as much as we no longer do.”

    Well said!

    I just started my journey of letting go, and already I’ve been confronted not with the idea that I’ll be wasting my own money, but that I’ll be wasting someone else’s…

    There are couple little figurines that I was planning to just give away, and the person who gave them to me said, “Well they’re collectibles… you could sell them.” The idea hadn’t even crossed my mind until she said something… and the guilt of getting rid of a gift flooded right in. (One of my biggest obstacles – letting go of gifts.)

  11. Good post Cindy. I went thru a similar dilemna when we moved from our first home to our current home. Our first home was a do-upper in a neighbourhood of do-uppers, so a community established of young families turning up to help each other with renovations, decorating and landscaping. It was a lovely time for us all. Eventually we all outgrew our houses (they were tiny) and so we all moved on, though recently we had a reunion which was great.

    While we were living in our first home, I convinced my hubby to do a lot of art for our home, and it gave it a fun artsy colourful vibe. When we moved to our current house, the majority of the art didn’t suit the house, so we stored it away. My hubby did some more art but it was quite different to the first house. He was a little bit over the whole DIY thing and so I ended up finding an artist who was marketing her work thru Trademe and that filled the last gaps.

    As we still own our first house as a rental, we returned to it recently for an inspection and to decide whether to sell or not. I realised that even if we were to ever return to this house I would not put up that original art again as it represented an era in our life, that has now passed.

    It was really hard but I decided it was time to let that art go and donated the lot of it to goodwill. I understand it went quite quickly and I hope that it has gone to a family who are also decorating their home on a shoestring.

    Fortunately there was only my hubby and I to consult.

    And with saying all that, I recently found a roll of canvas digital prints my hubby did at his work, of photos. They weren’t done to quite the way I wanted and so if we used them they wouldn’t be ‘right’ in my opinion. I have put off getting rid of them as I felt bad for his effort and the cost of the canvas and so tucked them away. I have decided today is the day that they go.

    • Moni – Good luck getting rid of the canvas prints. I hope it goes OK. My husband is not an artist, so he doesn’t have that kind of attachment to any pieces we own.

      As for your comments about your house. I loved, loved, loved my first house. More than any other house I have ever lived in or owned. I drive by it about once a month when I’m in that area of town. But my life has changed too much. Even if it was offered for sale, I wouldn’t buy it. (Although I’d go to the open house in a heartbeat.) I was single in that house and then Dan and I were newlyweds. Now we’re oldy-weds with two kids. Different house, different needs, different lifestyle.

      • Hi Cindy, roll of canvas in the dumpster at work. It had gone mildewy and covered in cat hair for some unknown reason. Maybe the cats liked rubbing up against it.

        First homes are special! I think its because you are so excited and hopeful for the future. I still look forward to the future but its a different kind of hopeful for the future and it revolves alot around my teenage kids. My hubby has hinted we could move back to the old house once our oldest leaves home (possibly next year) but I don’t think we would be as happy again.

  12. I have waaay too much framed artwork. I’m not sure how I accumulated so much artwork either. How did I not notice that I had more artwork than I had walls to hang it on? Plus it’s all stuff I’ve bought & had framed – so none of the artwork was gifted to me.

    Lord knows I’m certainly not about to swap out my currently displayed artwork on a rotating basis with the stored away artwork. That’s not even remotely fun sounding let alone ever something the likes of me would even consider. LOL

    I literally have a closet full of framed artwork all propped up against one another. Imprisoned in the closet with no known release date or chance of early parole.

    I don’t think I realized any of this until I read Cindy’s post. Great. Now I’m getting all itchy uncomfy knowing I have been hoarding artwork. This one’s gonna be a toughy for me to figure out what to do. All of a sudden I feel like a deer in the headlights.

    • Sorry to have shone the cruel light of reality onto your art collection Jane, but now that you’ve seen the light, you’ll have to deal with it. Great!

      I hope you have an easier time than I did.

    • Jane, your post made me laugh. I guess everyone has his/her own deer in the headlight moment (mine was books). its an excellent phrase.
      but please get out of those headlights, we dont want you to get run over. reconsider your shopping habits and then wait a bit, maybe your solution is even closer than you think. (thats the ray of light then ;-))

  13. Ditto the “like” on this hilarious statement:

    “…even though we no longer value the item, we hate to waste our money and perversely feel that someone else should value something as much as we no longer do. ”

    So true! Thanks, Cindy, for ferreting out the absurd rationale we use for hanging onto this kind of clutter. So helpful to have it put in that way.

  14. Hi Cindy, great post. Sharing your personal decision making process can help guide other readers around their own decluttering road blocks, steering a person past their personal hangups on an item and onto a more rational path. It pays to investigate both sides of the argument, “Why am I keeping this item?” ” Why I should let it go.”

  15. I’m working at my “closet” or what you may call it at the moment. It’s a little room without windows which holds the washing machine and storage shelves. This is my main storage space in which we store tools, seasonal decorations, cleaning supplies, sports gear, luggage, shoes and anything else that has no other place. We got an old matress out that was stored there and now the shelves are finally easily accessible again. And I realize that they still hold a lot which could easily be disposed of.
    No artwork though, but a few “handy” or “pretty” things which really can’t be that useful or pretty, as we don’t really miss them.

  16. This is a great post, Cindy. This is what we are going through right now. We have come to the place where we are dealing with Mom’s sentimental stuff. It’s art work, collectibles, and “pretty” things that she got from family or at the time of her marraige. A lot of it she doesn’t want but won’t sell unless she gets way too high a price for. She has an inflated idea of what things are worth. We are talking this out. Thankfully, I have been able to find a lot of it on eBay and can tell her what they are getting things for.

  17. Julia St. Charles

    Ah, cookbooks! After a time in my life when I had many, cookbooks, I did a major, deep weeding out when I realized there is so much on the internet now.

    I only keep a treasured few, hard-to-come-by or out-of print cookbooks and a few “old faithfuls.” I’m a good cook, so I don’t fly to a recipe every time I go to the kitchen. We now own only 16 linear inches of vertically shelved cookbooks … an ancient copy of the “New Orleans Times-Picayune Cookbook,” “The New York Times Cookbook,” “The Apartment Vegetarian” cookbook (full of wonderful ideas for one to four servings), “The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook,” “River Road Recipes” (you’re not allowed to live in the South without that), “Traditional Sonoran, Northern Mexican and Southwest American Indian Recipes” (decades out of print), “It’s All Greek To Me!” (a small, excellent book) a hardcover booklet entitled, “The Essential Pocket Guide to Herbs and spices,”… and an out of print, small book called, “The Breadmaker’s Bible.” Several boxes of cookbooks no longer live at our house.

  18. When we purchased our house from my mother-in-law, she left several pieces of “artwork” on the living room walls. One was a 3D picture of a vase of flowers. It was hideous. Whenever you moved around in the living room, the picture looked different – like those 3D comic books from when I was a kid. So, I took it down. My MIL hit the ceiling. Why did I remove it. It was a work of art, etc. When I asked her why she didn’t take it to her new home, she said it wasn’t her taste. I said it wasn’t mine either but she still was furious. She was trying to make me a gift of something that neither of us liked. I think from that day forward, we never got along. But why on earth was she mad at me disliking something that she didn’t want either? I think if it wasn’t that picture, it would have been something else. Anyway, I hung a nice mirror on the wall where that picture was and loved it. She just had to get over it. She didn’t live there anymore and therefore it wasn’t her home to decorate but she had a hard time acknowledging that.

    • Hi Maggie – I find this a very bizarre situation – you bought the house not the art. You don’t like the art and she doesn’t want it. And the problem is what?

      Did she pay a lot of for it? If so, isn’t that her problem.

      I personally don’t like the sound of the picture, and I don’t agree with gifting art as it is too personalised and permanent. Stick to your guns!