My two-year-old son, Hayden loves animals. He can’t get enough animal toys. Each one is as precious to him as an individual pearl is on a necklace. If one of them is missing, he notices right away.
A few weeks ago he lost one of his plastic animals. It’s maybe three inches long. He looked all over the house but couldn’t find it. The last place he looked was under our couch. He asked me to recline the couch so he could look underneath it. When I did he noticed there were a lot of other toys there as well.
So he started to crawl under the couch to get them. Here’s a picture:
He got so far into the belly of our couch that the poor little guy couldn’t get out. My wife tried to calm Hayden down. She told him to let go of what he was trying to reach and to come back out. But he wouldn’t. He kept crying, grasping for the toy that was out of reach to him and ignoring all the ones that were.
Watching my son, I was reminded of an important principle:
Sometimes letting go is the best way to go.
It’s easy to laugh at a story like the one I just shared (especially if you’re a parent) but I think we, as adults, have a tendency to do the same thing.
Last month I came across 15 stats that show Americans are drowning in “stuff.” Here are a few:
1. British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily.
2. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.
3. Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items. The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list.
4. Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago.
It’s no secret that we own too much stuff. As the saying goes, “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”
But it’s not just physical possessions that are cluttering our lives.
Maybe you are holding on to a relationship that isn’t healthy. Maybe you are holding on to a hurt that continues to steal your happiness. Maybe you’re holding on to an expectation of your family, your boss, your co-workers, your church, or the world that’s they just can’t (or won’t) fulfill. Or maybe your holding on to guilt from your past that is slowly corroding your soul.
The best thing you can do with the clutter in your home and life is to simply let it go.
Get rid of the junk in your garage. Give away all the clothes you’re not going to wear anymore. Throw away all the stuff you don’t need or want in your closet and living spaces.
Break up with that bad boyfriend. Stop dating that girl who thinks she’s too good for you. Forgive the person who hurt you and stop thinking about them. Accept the people in your life for who they are, love them, and minimize the time with those who are a negative influence on you as much as possible.
And forgive yourself. Realize that you made some bad decisions in the past. We all do. Learn from them and decide what you’ll do differently going forward. If needed, connect with the people you have hurt and apologize for what you did, ask them to forgive you and ask what you can do to make things right. They may or may not respond positively. You can’t control that. All you can control is what you do going forward.
Loosening your grip on the desire to control the outcome can keep you from losing yourself.