How to Let Go of Guilt and Be Happier at Home

Guilt is the ultimate clutter. It takes up an awful lot of physical and mental real estate. It is one of the biggest obstacles to feeling happy at home and enjoying our space. In the home, guilt often manifests around physical possessions you no longer like, want or use (such as expensive or ill-fitting clothing, gifts, sentimental items and memorabilia etc) or items relating to unfinished projects.

Internally, guilt tends to show up in the form of the word ‘should’. I should hold onto these clothes I don’t wear anymore because I spent decent money on them, I should keep this gift I received even though I won’t use it, I should keep grandmother’s tablecloth even though it makes me feel terribly sad every time I see it.

‘Should’ speaks from a space of obligation, of resistance and reluctance. It deprives us of ease and agency. When we are making decisions based on guilt it’s hard to find satisfaction, fulfillment or peace at home because there is always something to do, or to keep, avoid or navigate around that makes us feel bad.

So how do we gently release the hold that guilt can have on us? Here are a few suggestions on how to let go of the ‘shoulds’ and start living with more ease.

1. Ask yourself the question – ‘Why?’ Next time you catch yourself saying, ‘I should ….’ ask yourself why. Why do you want to keep that item, undertake that project, buy that new thing, store that object etc? Asking yourself why can unearth your underlying motivations (such as worrying about what others will think, or feeling bad about having spent money on something, or having changed your mind), which can help provide some clarity around how to take action in a way that serves you better.

2. Reframe it. Instead of saying ‘I should’ try replacing it with ‘I will’ or ‘ I want to’ . This gives you a greater sense of agency and an active frame of mind. You’re much less likely to resist or feel bad about doing something you want to do, or have decided to do.

3. Consider what it’s costing you. What is the price of holding onto the guilt (and any associated objects and clutter taking up space in your life) – is it affecting your health, your relationships, your space, time, money? If it’s not worth the cost, it’s time to let it go.

4. Give yourself permission to release the guilt. Whatever it is you’re holding onto, you’ve already paid enough. This is especially helpful to remind yourself when you’re clearing out your wardrobe! Clear out the mental and physical space that the guilt is taking up and allow yourself room for what matters and makes you happy in your life right now.

5. Trust yourself. Guilt and the fear of regret often show up together. We hold onto things that no longer serve us because we worry we’ll regret letting them go in the future. Trust is a powerful ally in keeping the fear of regret at bay. Trust helps guide your decisions from a place of authenticity. When you trust that you have your best interests at heart it becomes easier to let go of what is holding you back.

6. Practice gratitude. Guilt tends to live in the past and the future – either in things you did in the past, things that remind you of the past, or in things you think you should own or activities you should do. Enjoyment, ease and satisfaction live in the present. When you make time to notice and appreciate the good you already have in your home (shelter, comfort, a place to rest and spend time with loved ones) you can enjoy your space from a place of presence rather than guilt.

Depending on the source, guilt may or may not be visible in your home and your life but it has weight. Your soul feels it even if you might not consciously be aware of it. 

When you let go of the guilt you’ll feel so much lighter and clearer. You’ll create space in your head and your home for what is truly important and for what makes you feel good right now.

Lighten your load. Declutter the guilt.

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