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Why giving brings more joy than keeping

Accumulating plenty of unnecessary things after five decades of life is relatively easy. I should know. But there comes a time when you have to decide whether what you are holding onto brings you more joy than it would if you shared it with others.

Decluttering can be intimidating because we assign meaning and memories to what we have. A teddy bear reminds us of our childhood, a shoebox filled with old birthday and Christmas cards hold all the memories of our lives, and our children’s old school reports tell the story of their journey into adulthood.

When my dad passed away eighteen years ago, I desperately wanted to hold on to a part of him. I chose to keep and treasure his Stinkwood dining room set that I knew he loved. The table ended up in a boardroom in my husband’s business. I really never had any use for it – it never matched the decor in any of my homes. A few weeks ago, Gys told me he did not have a place for it anymore and asked what I wanted to do with it.

The dining room table is not the only white elephant in my home. I have a selection of bone china tea sets inherited from my mom-in-law, silver cutlery and crockery and specially engraved glasses that I never use. I purposefully don’t use any of these items because I worry that they’ll break, they can’t go into the dishwasher, and I simply don’t have time to polish the silver.

I had lunch with clients the other day, and they shared with me how therapeutic they experienced decluttering their home. Yet my first reaction, when confronted with my dad’s dining room set, was the opposite of therapeutic – it was an emotional one. Just the thought of having to get rid of it made me feel like I was losing my dad all over again. It also made me question the many things in my home that take up space. Would my children want it? Will they use it? Of course not! Some things just aren’t relevant in today’s world anymore. It’s out of fashion and dated – just like my dad’s dining room set.

We have to start reassessing why we keep things that we don’t use and that our children may never want – and find different ways to pass our legacies along. I have decided to pass my dad’s dining room set on to a family who could use and cherish it. This would give me joy. A far more precious gift to my children is sharing happy moments and accumulating treasured memories with them. One way in which I am keeping my legacy going is by teaching them all our family recipes that have been passed to me down generations.

Sometimes giving brings more joy than keeping. Think of items in your home that you are holding on to which may be worth more to someone else. Someone who may actually need, use and cherish it. Donating unused items to charities will make you feel happy, and chances are that the things you have loved all your life but don’t need anymore will be loved and used by someone else.

There are so many benefits to decluttering your living space. Apart from creating more space to live in, going through all the things you have collected revives old memories. And sharing these recollections with your children and grandchildren will be memories they will cherish forever.

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