What It Really Looks Like to Let Go of My Ideal Self

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So you want to say goodbye to your “ideal self” and embrace who you truly are. But what does that actually look like? Let’s walk through it together!

I’ve spent the last five years minimizing and simplifying my house.

And while I’ve had two garage sales, sold hundreds of things and donated thousands of items to charity, I realized there was something still hiding in the corners of my house.

My Ideal Self. (Read more about finding out who she is here.)

saying goodbye to my ideal self

And while I was eagerly decluttering things that my daughter had outgrown or that weren’t in wearable condition for myself…this idealistic chick was hoarding boxes and shelves of stuff “just because…someday”.

While I’m knee deep in rooting her out, I thought I’d share a little about what this process looks like for me.

Identify the Weak Spots

It wasn’t hard to recognize the main categories where my Ideal Self stashes stuff:

  • Keepsakes from childhood
  • Scrapbooking & hobby supplies
  • Books on topics I’ve moved past (or could have just checked out from the library)
  • Paper. (Why? I don’t know. She’s always loved paper…all the paper…)

With these categories in mind, I started digging. Here’s what I found.

schoolwork bin keepsake box














First, a plastic bin of schoolwork from my childhood including Kindergarten workbooks, handwriting practice pages, and grammar tests. I managed to par down to my very favorite artwork and stories, and let go of the rest.

Second, a shoebox full of “keepsakes” from childhood. Trinkets and jewelry and cards from family and friends. I selected a small handful of my most precious cards and trinkets and took pictures of the rest to upload into my “Treasures” folder on Google Drive.

Third, I pulled out the extremely heavy “keepsake” plastic tote.

keepsake tote

Each member of our family has one of these totes and it serves as a limit and boundary for our sentimental items that can’t be currently used or displayed throughout the house. As I decluttered things my Ideal Self wanted to hold onto, (oh I just must keep everything from my childhood because I will need it later!!), I realized I needed to combine all my items into one tote.

Letting go of my Ideal Self looks like this… Handing over my childhood Beanie Babies to my daughter so that she can play with them and get enjoyment out of them. Instead of keeping them as “collectibles”, stored away in a hot attic.

It’s letting go of that notion that our precious stuff “might” be valuable and “might” be rare and realizing that in most cases (of course there are some very rare and priceless antiques out there–I certainly don’t own any though!), our stuff is just stuff and it’s meant first and foremost to be used and enjoyed by people. If not us, then someone else.

Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t store anything. I’m just saying most of us store far more than we should. Letting your stuff go ends up setting you free!

decluttering stuff

I was able to part with things I know have little value and no purpose in my future. (My daughter will not want my half-finished embroidery projects from elementary school. Nor will she care about all the birthday cards I’ve received over the years.)

Letting go of those two extra boxes was freeing as well and I’m looking forward to creating even more open space as I discover deeper facets of my Ideal Self and what she’s hiding away.

I still have to go through the pile of journals and notebooks in my Keepsake Bin, and the numerous files of childhood stories in my filing cabinet, but at least it’s downsized from three boxes to just one!

Acknowledge When You’ve Moved On

I’ve lugged numerous boxes of craft and scrapbooking supplies from house to house, every single time I’ve moved in the last decade (five times). Sure, I’ve parted with a few sheets of paper here, and a stack of di-cuts there, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are still multiple boxes full of materials that I have not touched in the last five years.

I used to tell myself that I would take up paper crafting again, and in fact, I do enjoy hand making cards. But scrapbooking is not a passion of mine anymore. My sister even graciously gifted us one of those gorgeous pre-made baby scrapbooks that we could just stick baby pictures into, and I’m ashamed to say that I have only completed the first few pages. I do plan to finish it…before my daughter graduates from high school…

But the reality is I will not be making fancy scrapbooks in the future. It’s not something I get excited about anymore. It’s a part of my Ideal Self.

I want to accept that, and move on. And free up the space for kid-friendly craft supplies. I also let go of project-specific sewing materials I know I am unlikely to use as well (I have basic sewing skills — my Ideal Self is a polished seamstress).

decluttering crafts

So, goodbye empty and abandoned scrapbook albums. Fancy sewing materials. Tools that are in such excess there is just no purpose. (Side note– those edged scissors are poor quality and often get stuck. I kept the 5 good quality ones for my daughter and me to use with crafts.)

Always remember that your Ideal Self is out to keep you well-stocked for ANYTIME you might want to do ANYTHING, because your Ideal Self truly believes you can do EVERYTHING. I’m sorry, but you can’t. While you may well want to re-take up a past hobby, be honest with yourself about whether you actually enjoy or WANT to ever do it again.

Pay Attention to Expiration Dates

I work with a client who, like me, loves paper notes. There’s nothing like a little slip of paper to write down your latest awesome idea or to-do list!

But here’s the thing about these “grand papers”. Whether it’s a recipe we pull from a magazine, a printout from a website, a newspaper clipping, or a stack of well-intentioned hand-written notes–it’s vital that we acknowledge these things are gathered in the moment, and they have a natural expiration. A Statute of Limitations so to speak.

What does that mean?

Well, say you rip out a recipe in June for a 4th of July dessert. But you don’t make it, and it enters a huge stack of paper for the future. Sure, in a couple of years you might run across the recipe and decide to make it, but in all likelihood, it will be expired, meaning, your window of opportunity to use it for the purpose you desired to, is long gone. You very likely will never make that recipe. Let it go!

Same goes for all those “great ideas” we creatives jot down. I used to keep an “idea file” of story ideas. I put every slip of paper in there. Ten years later, I went through that file and laughed hysterically at what I thought were “amazing!” ideas. How did those expire? Simply put, we grow and develop.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t write down ideas–you totally should! But, keeping them in one notebook, or electronic file will be a much neater way to stay on top of them and delete ones that have “expired”. If you want to have a physical file for notes, great–but you must cull through it frequently!

This same concept of expiration can apply to papers and books (gasp!).

decluttering books

bags of books













I found stack after stack of books that I bought because I thought they would fix all my problems, and while I skimmed through some of them, three boxes still made their way to the library donation bin.

Young adult books I held onto because I loved them way back when…but I will never read again. DVDs that I once loved, but will never watch again. There are parts of my childhood and adolescence that I hold dear, but I don’t want to relive them. Part of letting go of those books and DVDs, even some painful journals and letters is letting go of the tough things I had to walk through to become the woman I am today.

Decluttering is a type of therapy for most people, but you have to actually feel the emotions and let. them. go.

Letting Go of Aspirational Hopes & Dreams

It’s not easy to let go of hopes and dreams. Selling my piano keyboard after it had been in storage for eight years was a crushing acknowledgment that I am not going to become an accomplished pianist. Why not? Because it’s not my passion anymore. Donating the music books, and passing on my dance outfit. Those things hurt, but reality tells the truth. They were nothing more than attic relics of the past.

I know without a doubt that I don’t enjoy sitting at the piano practicing over and over. I didn’t like it as a child and I certainly don’t like it now. It’s not my thing. I’d rather be over here, writing. Learning to know yourself and what you truly absolutely love will set you free. Can you have more than one hobby? Of course! But you have to actually enjoy and do your hobbies. If not, pass them on.

donation boxes

There are some things that we revisit during different life stages, but you’ll have to use your own discernment to know what those are, and also aren’t. As I fine tune who I am today, and where I want my life to go in the future, I’m totally okay with letting go of old DIY supplies, fancy kitchen tools, bridesmaid dresses that don’t fit, home decor from years past and even most baby things (yes, I do still have a bin of keepsake baby things–mostly for her to play with her dolls though).

Stuff is nice, and it makes us feel “secure”, knowing if we could ever want something again–it’s stored in our homes. But this security comes at a high cost. The clutter of stored and unused items takes up precious real estate in our homes. It weighs on our minds, stresses us out as we fret about cleaning out and maintaining it. Some of us even pay for storage units to keep our stuff.

I would rather keep only what I know I want and need for the future (in limited amounts), and let go of the past that just makes me feel guilty for not doing and being it all.

Final Thoughts on Aspirational Clutter

Holding onto my ideal self wasn’t doing me any favors (it probably isn’t offering you much value either). By taking the time to know myself and part with pieces of my past (and future) that I know are just holding me back, I’m able to better appreciate the moment.  It also makes more space for what our family actually likes to do together and this puts makes our days simpler and more organized.

Today, I encourage you to think about one way your ideal self holds you back. Let go of five things that you’ve been keeping aspirationally. Just five things. How does that feel to let go? You’ve got this!

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  1. I got really nostalgic as I read this because I can only imagine how hard this was for me. I left my home in Romania about 6 years ago and I don’t have to go through this process for now. But I think that whenever I do go back, such a decluttering moment will be accompanied by many tears and so much nostalgia. I truly admire you for being so brave and having the guts to put your real self over the ideal-self. I loved reading the post!

  2. I’ve never heard of the “Ideal Self” and it’s so interesting to recognize it. Part of you wants to do everything, and that’s definitely true. This post have given me so much to think about! Time to start going through my boxes of yarn and crafts haha.

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