The Art of Letting Go

The art of letting go

Our industry gathers each year for our NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) conference.  It’s our annual family reunion where we learn and hug!  This year we were privileged to hear The Minimalists.  Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write a blog about living a meaningful life with less stuff (for 4 million readers.)  They shared their powerful stories of transition to simplicity.  They shared some powerful stuff.


The Art of Letting Go

Josh and Ryan are best friends from way back. Both chose a new path to having less and experiencing more because of transitions in their lives.  Originally living more traditional lives, they chose to let go of what is meaningless to them.   It required them facing situations that were emotion charged losses.  It made me think about how a sad and difficult situations can create the opportunity for change.


The Art of Letting go comes from the perspective of our new assessment of what our stuff means to us.  Our stuff does not define us.  Our memories are within us, not in our stuff. We can share our stuff with others who will find it useful.  We can remember without the stuff.   It all came down to this question about our stuff.  The question they asked of us…how might your life be better if you owned fewer material possessions?  Are you ready to embrace a life that means more without your stuff holding you back?

Getting started

Are you ready to simplify your life?  The Minimalists offer their solution to get started called #MinsGame. You eliminate one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, eliminate two things. Three items on the third.  It’s contagious! And who doesn’t like to play when you are an automatic winner?


I love the baby steps here.  Not only do you feel the emotional lift of less in your space, #MinsGame offers a daily dose of paring down in a small way.  It can be anything in your space that you choose to eliminate.


I love that decluttering takes on a powerful reason.  It shifts your focus from holding on tight to what you have just in case to keeping only what is most meaningful and useful.  Your decluttering and letting go will give you more opportunity to live the life you have imagined. 


(I first heard of this game last year.  Join the game and play with colleague Andrea Sharb.)


A final thought


The Minimalists resonated with me because of this quote they shared. Love People. Use Things. The opposite never works.  It’s in the art of letting go that we find what is being camouflaged by stuff and see what’s important to us.  That’s what’s empowering about organizing and simplicity.  Isn’t that what we are truly want?




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18 replies
  1. Andrea Sharb
    Andrea Sharb says:

    Ellen, So great that you were able to see the Minimalists and that you connected with their message. I love their blog and play their #MinsGame ( Thanks for the link to my blog posting on it! ) I released over 900 items playing their game in October 2014 and February 2015. Though each time I thought I wouldn’t make it to the end, I did. What’s very interesting to me is the mindset that the game instills in the player. In fact, I was just telling Linda Samuels the other day that I find myself almost craving the need to release. It’s a craving that feels good to give in to. I have a long way to go before becoming a “minimalist”, but I look forward to continuing to work towards that end goal.

  2. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Love your insight as you have “played” the #MinsGame so well. The #MinsGame makes releasing a comforting emotion rather than a fearful one. It’s another way to empower ourselves and our clients with ways to let go.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Seana Turner
    Seana Turner says:

    This is so “right on”. I even grabbed one of your opening sentences to post on my FB page:) It’s amazing how we relinquished so much power to physical belongings. I love the MinsGame too.

  4. Kim Oser
    Kim Oser says:

    I am far from a minimalist. I think many people don’t realize how much they own. They buy new either for want or need but they don’t let go because they don’t make the time to make that decision. Yes- for many they fear “they might need it someday” so they don’t let go but I think a majority would rather avoid the decision. I removed 56 pieces from my closet last night. I took a good look and decided I was never going to wear the same business suits I wore when I was in the corporate world 11+ years ago. Some still had tags… I don’t keep a lot so I still had plenty of free space in my closet even with them in there but they served me no purpose so goodbye they go.

    There were many points from The Minimalist that strongly resonated with me (including the one you highlighted) but I think the minimalist lifestyle to the extend which they live is not for most people.

    Thanks for the great post.

  5. Ellen Delap
    Ellen Delap says:

    Great points Kim! I am not a miminalist but believe in simplicity. If we know what we are about, it’s much easier to live our lives in the best way. Love that you were able to eliminate so much and feel so good about it (despite the tags.)

  6. Autumn Leopold
    Autumn Leopold says:

    Andrea put it so well in her comment. Sometimes I go through phases of letting things go and other times I go through phases of accumulating. As I get older I find it’s easing to say no on the accumulating part. I want to simplify and minimalize certain areas. I loved what these guys had to say.

  7. Janet Barclay
    Janet Barclay says:

    Great post and discussion! I’ve been gradually letting go of things over the last few years and I love the feeling. I find that it’s much easier for me to let go of something if I make the decision immediately (I’m not using this to store teabags anymore… give it away) rather than putting it away in case I think of another use for it. Like Kim, I unloaded a lot of clothes last year that no longer fit my lifestyle, but there are a number of pieces that I haven’t worn in the meantime, so it may be time for some more letting go!

  8. Ericka Samuels
    Ericka Samuels says:

    I was so bummed that I couldn’t make it to Conference, and missed the Minimalists. Your post made me feel a bit more like I was there. Thank you for bringing it home and to your blog for us.

  9. Linda Samuels
    Linda Samuels says:

    It was wonderful seeing you in LA at the NAPO conference, Ellen! Like you, I also enjoyed hearing Josh and Ryan talk about their journey towards living a minimalist lifestyle. You pulled out the best highlights.

    I just love how you phrased this: “It’s in the art of letting go that we find what is being camouflaged by stuff and see what’s important to us.” Just beautiful.

  10. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Truly this is the case Linda! Our stuff can be a barrier to the life we want to live. Letting go gracefully or with a game makes our lives full and empowered. So glad to spend time with you in LA!

  11. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Way to go Janet! I know that our clothes can be the hardest to give away. Giving it away ASAP makes it much easier!

  12. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Thanks Autumn!

    It’s true about accumulating and letting go. At times we find there are greater needs for stuff in our lives, at work and at home. Having heard the Minimalists I know for both of us it will keep us more aware of our true needs and what we choose to bring into our lives.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] help during the flood, it was still difficult to bag up clothes and home goods.  There’s an art to letting […]

  2. […] and the simplest first step.  It’s possible to achieve your dream with a plan.  Start with letting go of what’s easy and move to what’s more difficult.  In paring down not only do we decide what’s […]

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