Dear Annie: Next month, I’m moving into an apartment that’s smaller than my current one. So in the meantime, I’ve been going through all of my stuff, trying to purge anything I don’t use. I have been donating a lot of clothes, books, DVDs, knickknacks and the like to Goodwill. I used to have trouble letting go of things because of sentimental attachment, but after a few moves, I’ve gotten pretty good at detaching feelings from objects.
The one place where I’m running into problems is when it comes to gifts. Anything a friend or family member has given me, I have a hard time throwing away. I feel guilty. I think about the person excitedly picking the thing out for me. For instance, my aunt always sends me jewelry, but I only wear it when I see her, a couple of times a year. I don’t really wear much jewelry normally. And my mom and dad have gotten me countless T-shirts from their travels over the years. They’re great T-shirts, but I must have over 30 T-shirts. My dresser drawers are overstuffed. But every time I put one of the T-shirts in my “donation” bags, I end up digging it out a few hours later. How can I get over this, Annie? – Can’t Give Away Gifts
Dear Can’t Give Away Gifts: Perhaps a little thought exercise will help you to clear this mental hurdle. Think of a gift you gave years ago to a loved one – your aunt, let’s say. Now think of that gift sitting on her closet shelf, gathering dust and giving her pangs of guilt every time she sees it. Would you want her to keep it just because you gave it to her? Of course not. You’d want her to donate it and make space for things she loves. And she’d probably want you to do the same. You might also let her know you have plenty of jewelry now, to save her from spending money on it in the future. As for the T-shirts from your parents, you could repurpose them into a quilt or simply keep one or two of your favorites and donate the rest.
Remember that just because you don’t love a gift doesn’t mean you love the giver any less.
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