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To Paint or Not to Paint

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

As a person who is interested in the psychology of clutter, I sometimes wonder how we become so connected to the things in our lives. The objects that live in our homes, the gifts we receive, the items that we keep for reasons we don’t understand. Even as a Professional Organizer I struggle with letting things go sometimes.

For instance, I majored in Fine Art in college and explored my creativity through all sorts of mediums – acrylic, charcoal, pastel, watercolor, sculpture, and glass. I enjoyed painting and glass the most. Today I have quite a few pieces of stained glass that I have kept and hang in my home. I appreciate and enjoy them daily.

Although I studied painting during my Fine Art days, I never displayed any of my work. Most of the paintings that I did were the result of exercises with a technique or skill to learn in mind. The subject matter was very basic – a strawberry, an airmail envelope, a ribbon. Nothing worthy of framing.

So, I’m curious, why does it feel so difficult to throw away my paint palette?

I purchased my paint palette in 1981 when I went to college. I think about the hours I spent in the studio mixing colors. It is stained with magenta, splashes of teal, and ochre green. The feeling of being in the studio, light streaming through the windows. The smell of the paint.

Is my reluctance to let go a way to hold on to the memory of a particular time in my life? Or a representation of an art that I no longer create? Part of me thinks that I will paint again and that it will “come in handy.”

But, I haven’t used it since 1985. I have been storing this paint palette for 36 years! Am I really going to paint? If I do, wouldn’t a new palette be nice? Letting go feels emotional. I think I’m holding onto the hope that I will paint sometime again.

I share this story with you to highlight a misconception and illuminate a truth about the decluttering process. The misconception is that “organized” people let go of things easily, and “disorganized” people don’t. We can ALL struggle to let go of things. As a Professional Organizer, it's important to me that my clients never feel judged or pressured to let go of things unless they feel ready.

And the truth is that all things happen in time. We may not feel ready to let go of something because we are doing some mental processing around it. Perhaps we’re accepting something from the past, or clarifying our desires for the future. These choices can take time, and you are the only person who will know when you are truly ready to let go. There is no shame in holding on until then.

So, my paint palette sits waiting, near my back door – to go into the trash. I’m not ready…yet.

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