Trained Professional Organizer, Vision Coach & Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator

Letting Go:The Story of a Punch Bowl


As a Professional Organizer, I spend a lot of time supporting people as they decide the fate of their items.  Sometimes it’s a quick and easy decision to keep, sell or donate, but sometimes it takes time, months or years even depending on the attachment.   Everyone has a unique level of investment in their belongings and whether that’s financial or emotional, it tugs at us and makes decisions challenging. 
 Being an organizer doesn’t make it any less difficult for me to let go of my own belongings.  I’ve gotten fairly ruthless in the past few years as I notice how my physical environment and mental headspace benefit from less clutter, but there are items that trip me up.  So I will share the story of the process that led to letting go of this punch bowl. 
This is a punch bowl that I brought home 11 months ago.  I spent part of March Break last year organizing with my sister in Windsor.  This was an item we found in a box at the back of a kitchen cupboard, still wrapped in newspapers.  “Mom gave this to me because she thought we could use it for parties, around the pool.  I kind of forgot about it but I know we won’t use it.  What should I do with this?” Now, my response should have been, “If it's not being used, if it isn't serving you as a practical or sentimental item, then it goes in the donate pile.” Instead I heard myself say, “I’ll bring it home to Toronto.  Might be fun to pull it out at Christmas.” Then I told myself I would give it a year. 
It came home with me and stayed in the box on top of the dog crate for about two months.  I finally took it out of the box, tossed the 1980’s newspapers it was wrapped in and placed it in a cupboard with my cake platters.  Isn't that the perfect spot for special occasion items?  I felt good that it was finally seeing the light of day and it was one step closer to serving its purpose. 
I’ve thought about it over the past few months, wondering if I should have a party just to use the punch bowl. However, the twelve month self-imposed deadline is approaching, and I've not pulled it out once.  Well, I did today so I could look at it and see how I felt about it.  Turns out I'm still ambivalent. 
Now you might be thinking, “It was your Mom’s; there’s sentimental value.”  Nope.  I don’t remember this punch bowl and I have zero memories associated with it.  There’s no financial investment in this item as I did not pay for it. It's not rare or special or "valuable."  So why the hesitation? I’ve decided it’s the guilt of not following through on a vision for the item.  I love vintage things and enjoy throwing parties, so this set should be perfect.  Yet I haven’t done anything with it and probably never will.  Sadly, the punch bowl will always be in the cupboard. 
I run into this a lot with my clients.  Many of us have great ideas that we never get to: the InstaPot we plan on using, the chair we will definitely reupholster someday, the outfit we’re going to wear when the right moment comes …. The balancing act is whether we have space to accommodate the “it will happen someday” items.  Sure, I have room in my cupboard, but do I have room in my mind for the "I should ..."?  Is the future potential of using the punch bowl worth the present guilt of not using it?  When our possessions start having an effect on our mental well-being, it's time to re-evaluate.

How much will it really impact me if I don’t have the punch bowl?  Very little, actually.  Now that I think of it, I’ve only made punch once, and it was thirty-two years ago for a university party.  I used a clean bucket.  So realistically, letting go of the punch bowl is really letting go of the "idea of the punch bowl" and what it represents.  More often than not, that's what holds us back. The "I should ...."

The process of coming to the decision of letting go of this particular item was fairly simple as it wasn't a sentimental or valuable item.  That said, it still took time and energy to think things through. If you are challenged by an over-abundance of items that need to be sorted, let me know if I can be of assistance!  I’d love to help you through the decision-making process.  There is lightness in getting clear about why we're hanging on to things. Whether the items stay or go, intentional choice makes the difference.