In her twenties, she’d shopped exhaustively for the right pair, trying on dozens of shoes before landing on the perfect strappy sandals, the pair that would follow her around for the next three and a half decades.

She’d always hoped to wear them again, maybe for an anniversary or a special date. But it had been years since those shoes fit, and on top of that, she and her husband had long since separated.

The day before trash day, she put the shoes in her trash bin—knowing in her gut that it was time to part with them. They weighed her down.

“I looked at the shoes laying there in the trash, taunting me, reminding me of my wedding day, and I pushed them in deeper. I instantly panicked, but I took deep breaths and walked away.”

The next morning, though, she found herself next to that trash bin. She dug through egg shells, coffee grounds, and dirty paper plates before spotting them toward the bottom.

The Weights We Shoulder

Do you ever feel the weight of your physical belongings resting on your chest? Or maybe for you, it’s your shoulders or lower back. When I feel like I own too much, I feel it on my chest—right over my heart. I can’t breathe as deeply or move as freely.

But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that with every item I get rid of, I lessen that weight.

Whether it’s a stack of papers I no longer need or the nine kitchen utensils I’ve never used, with each piece of clutter I send out of my home, I can inhale deeper. Move freer. Jump higher.

It almost feels like magic.

Our physical belongings have weight, indisputably. But they’re not the only things we hold on to long past their usefulness. What other weights are you carrying?

7 Things We Hold On To…

1. Relationships

Do you have a relationship in your life where every interaction leaves you feeling drained or diminished? It could be a co-worker, a boss, a friend, or a family member, but what marks this relationship as a weight on your chest is how you feel after each interaction. Pay attention to this.

2. Worry

How much mental and emotional energy have you wasted worrying about something that’s beyond your control? It’s amazing how our worries can come to feel like old friends. We allow our brains to follow the same pathways over and over, to the point where we’ve tricked ourselves into believing that worrying helps—that it’s even a way of showing love.

But wouldn’t it be ten times more powerful to ask ourselves if there’s anything we can do to improve the situation? This gives us the option of acting, not just worrying. And if there’s really nothing we can do—if the situation is 100 percent outside of our sphere of influence—what good does it do to hold on to worry?

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” — Erma Bombeck

3. Social Media

Do you follow any social media influencers who tend to leave you feeling like what you have—or who you are—isn’t enough? Or it could be an entire platform; maybe you’ve noticed that you feel down on yourself every time you open a certain app.

4. Habits

What’s one habit you long to kick but aren’t sure if you can? Maybe it’s the amount of sugar you eat after dinner or the never-enough hours of sleep you get at night. Maybe it’s the tone of voice you use when you’re tired or the amount of time you spend looking at a screen in your hand instead of the faces around you.

5. Thoughts

Do you have any thoughts that regularly cross your mind but are only holding you back? Are any of the following familiar?

  • “No one appreciates me.”
  • “I do everything around here.”
  • “I’m not cut out for this.”

This is emotional clutter.

6. The Past

Our memories can bring us so much joy… but also so much pain. Especially if we’re refusing to let go of past wounds, whether inflicted by others or inflicted by ourselves. Forgiveness is power.

7. Clutter

From paper to furniture, from digital files to expired pantry goods… Too many of us are holding on, for far too long.

A Visualization Exercise to Help You Let Go

To help you let go, can you imagine—with as much detail as you can possibly summon—that each item you get rid of reduces the weight on your chest? Imagine that every piece you donate—every toxic relationship you navigate away from, every limiting thought you decide to stop believing—takes you closer to a lighter, freer, purer version of yourself.

Finally Saying Goodbye

That morning, an hour before the garbage truck would rumble through her neighborhood, Jeanne stopped just short of grabbing her shoes out of the bin and darting inside with them in hand.

I could save the heels, she thought in that moment. But I know I can’t save us.

Parting with the shoes was painful, but in this case, holding on felt worse.

A few hours later, she watched, standing next to the sheer curtains of her front window, as the garbage truck carried those shoes away.

And just as she’d hoped, she felt lighter as those shoes—and the emotional weight they carried—finally left her sight.

Is there something you’ve been holding onto that you want to release right now? Do you long for the freedom from the trapped energy of holding on? Let it go, now. No, it’s not easy, and we have all been there at one point in our lives or another. But you won’t know the freedom until you try to let it go.

“That which you hold, holds you.” ― Tom Robbins