Decluttering possessions can be hard, but as I’ve discovered, it is nothing compared to decluttering your dreams. Our hopes and goals are such a large part of who we are. But they evolve and change.
Just like our homes, our goals can become cluttered. We need to let go of old goals to make space for new dreams to flourish.
Thankfully, many home decluttering tips are equally relevant to decluttering your dreams.
Identify what’s most important to you.
You need to choose what is most important to you now. Having too many goals will detract from those that matter most.
Since moving to a rural area two years ago, we’ve lived in a shed and then a rental property. We delayed building a home on our little farm because we didn’t want to go any further into debt. Selling our city home would have funded the build but we couldn’t bring ourselves to sell it. We had renovated it as our “forever home”, adding all the sustainable features – insulation, solar hot water, photovoltaic solar system, rainwater tanks and a passive solar extension. But we’ve finally accepted that it is no longer our dream home.
An old dream was stopping us from living our current dream.
So we’ve moved back to the city for a little while to do what we should have done two years ago. We’re renovating and selling our city home so we can build our country home.
Start small and take your time.
A common decluttering tip is to start small and not tackle too much all at once. Let go of easier, smaller dreams first and tuck the big ones away for a while if needed.
I don’t regret being back where we were two years ago. It’s taken us that long to accept that dreams change. If we’d sold our city home two years ago, I’m sure we would have regretted it. Some dreams take a little longer to let go of.
One in, one out.
One in, one out is equally applicable to goals as it is belongings. There’s only so many dreams and aspirations that will fit into one lifetime – at any one point in time.
My career was a recent casualty to my decluttering efforts. It was important to me, but not as important as my family or health.
My daughter was one year old when I first heard the then governor-general Quentin Bryce advise young women that, “You can have it all, but not all at the same time”. I stubbornly thought she was wrong. I thought that I could balance work and family and still live a sustainable and meaningful life. It took six more years of juggling work, a back injury, and time with a Buddhist monk for me to accept that being a single-income family suits us better right now.
Don’t keep things out of guilt or obligation.
Don’t feel obliged to live a dream that is no longer yours. For me, I felt committed to my career after devoting 20 years (and a PhD) to it. But as American author Seth Godin advises, "Used to be", is not necessarily a mark of failure or even obsolescence. It’s more often a sign of bravery and progress.
Letting go of old dreams or goals doesn’t mean they weren’t good dreams. It’s just time to move onto others. Let a couple of old dreams go, so that new ones can soar.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 5th January 2015.