Ready to work on letting go? How did your relationship with stuff as a child affect you currently? Can you brain be affecting whether or not you are holding onto to things? Do we tend to collect more or release more as we age? Learn more about the psychology of stuff and letting go.

Thinking what is going on with all the clutter and this may support a lot of people and put it in a context for that AHA moment. Not for an excuse but it may help some with awareness.

Sometimes your possessions become extensions of yourself. I ran into this trap with what I did. When I finished my Reawaken Your Brilliance show, I felt this hole because it was such a big part of my identity. This can happen with stuff, too.

We use our possessions to show others and ourselves who we want to be and where we want to belong. And they become our legacy. Some might even say our essence lives on in what once we made or owned. 


From an article from the Psychologist in the UK:

Our relationship with stuff begins early. A study by Ori Friedman and Karen Neary in 2008 showed that aged between two and four, kids make the assumption that whoever is first in possession of the object is the owner, regardless of whether they later give it away. Kids get that they can own something by age two, although not as complex as adults do.

As children mature into teens, we see possessions starting to act as a crutch for the self. In 2007, Lan Chaplin and her colleagues interviewed participants aged between eight and 18 and found that ‘materialism’ peaked at middle adolescence, just when self-esteem tended to be lowest. In a follow-up, materialism was reduced in teens who were given flattering feedback from peers to boost their self-esteem. ‘Giving children or adolescents a sense of self-worth and accomplishment seems to be quite an effective antidote to the development of materialism,’ the researchers shared.

Letting Go in Adulthood 

As our lives unfold, our things embody our sense of self-hood and identity still further, becoming external receptacles for our memories, relationships and travels.
How much we see our things as an extension of ourselves may depend in part in how confident we feel about who we are.The medial prefrontal cortex was activated when participants rated how much various adjectives described their own personality. The study found that areas of the brain involved in thinking about the self also appear to be involved when we create associations between external things and ourselves through ownership.

As well as shoring up our sense of identity, our possessions also allow us to signal something about ourselves to other people. As our belongings accumulate, becoming more infused with our identities, so their preciousness increases. People whose things are destroyed in a disaster are traumatized, almost as if grieving the loss of their identities.

Later in Life & Beyond 

Older people don’t just form bonds with their specific belongings, they seem to have an affection for brands from their youth too so letting go can be hard.

As with human relationships, the attachments to our things deepen with the passage of time. Elderly people are often surrounded by possessions that have followed them through good times and bad, across continents and back.

A common theme was the way cherished objects come to represent particular memories. These possessions can be a particular comfort for older people who have to leave their homes and enter supervised residential care.

Planning end of life

How to Help Let Go of Stuff

First, you might not have all the answers you need. For example, check in with your accountant and lawyer to see if you can let go how.

Many feel they need to have permission to let go of stuff, especially if you had trauma as a kid.  Give yourself permission to let go.

Don’t know how. Read a book, hire a pro, or watch a video. I have over 500 episodes in my podcast Clear Your Clutter Inside & Out filled with how to’s and actionable items.

Borrowed and held onto too long and aren’t sure what to do. Return the library book or ask for help.

Out of sight, out of mind. Commit to going through everything you own. Ten minutes a day is over 60 hours in a. year. You can get a lot done.

I may need it someday. Trust you will get what you need when you need it.

Someone else may need it. Let other people worry about themselves.

Sentimentality. You memories are in your heart and head, not in your objects.


How can you reverse the psychology of stuff?

Experiences vs. Stuff. Ask for experiences, travel, gym memberships, cooking lessons, pet care…Don’t get another thing to dust.
Collect memories. Remind yourself that your memories are in your heart and head, not in the object.

Live in the present: ditch the dress you can’t fit into, let go of the hobbies you don’t do anymore.

Retrain your brain. Do some research and see what you’d like to try.

Begin to build better habits. Regularly declutter and organize. Say no to gifts. Have an accountability buddy.

Get support. There is no shame in asking for help.

Take Actions from Today’s blog on letting go and decluttering your stuff:

  • Spend time thinking about your childhood, adolescence, and your relationship to stuff.  What was it? What was your parents relationship to stuff?
  • Examine what your relationship is to stuff right now.
  • Create a plan to rethink your relationship to stuff.
  • Begin to release stuff. Get help or read a book.

Certified life coach, author & award-winning professional life organizer Julie Coraccio shares steps and tips to support you in creating the life you choose, deserve, and desire through decluttering your life, mindfulness, and how to organize your life.

About Clear Your Clutter Inside & Out Declutter Podcast

Clutter is stuck stagnant energy and prevents you from creating the life you choose, desire, and deserve. We discuss clutter in all its forms: energetic, spiritual, emotional, mental & physical, relationships, health, finances, and more. We share tips and take action steps for clutter-free living and how to organize your life and death with end-of-life planning. We’re thinking outside the box on areas where people might not realize where clutter is blocking them. When we remove clutter from our lives we can discover our passions, lead the extraordinary lives we are all meant to live, and share our gifts with the world.

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