We made it! It’s been a full month of providing you with content and tools to help you master this year’s featured New Year’s resolution at Postconsumers – learning to separate emotion from “stuff.” We like to think that over the course of this month we’ve guided you not only to understand that you (likely, as all of us) do assign emotional value to stuff, but also given you concrete projects to help you (and others) change this habit.

When we were selecting this resolution to feature this year, we based it on feedback that we get from people we talk to about postconsumerism. We weren’t surprised that there were “things” that they loved – but we were surprised by how many things inspired emotion in them. That’s the revelation that led us to our very last project we’ve designed to help you separate emotion and “stuff.” We like to call this project: Make a List. Check it Twice. However, a name that would be just as good would be: Oh My Gosh! I Didn’t Know How Much I Did This!

Step One: Get Your Materials and Get Comfy

The first part of the project is, frankly, pretty easy. You just need to get comfortable and get organized. You’ll need something to make a list on, so the question is “What works best for you?” For this Postconsumer, the answer is a paper journal that I keep notes in day-to-day. For the woman in charge of managing Postconsumers’ content, the answer is absolutely an Excel spreadsheet on her laptop. For many, one of the list-making apps on a tablet or phone is the answer. You may even be the kind of person who will work best with an artist tablet and crayons or an audio recorder. You pick what works for you. Then get into a nice, restful mind space. Maybe that means a hot cup of tea in a quiet room, or maybe it means a pint of beer at your local pub. Wherever you go to clear your brain and relax, that’s the environment we want you to be in.

All set up? Good. The next step is the hardest step!

Step Two: Brainstorm That List Out

We’ve already acknowledged that it can be difficult to realize how many items you’ve developed an emotional attachment to. But, like most projects, if you open your brain and start down the path you’ll be surprised how many things you think of once you turn the faucet on. That’s why we think it’s so important for you to be in a relaxed environment without any distractions. (Though of course we know that some of you operate at your best when there are dozens of distractions!) That said, your only job now is to open that faucet. Free style your list of items and the emotions that you assign to them. Begin with easy ones like heirlooms or gifts that you feel emotion about. Then mentally walk yourself through your home, your closets, your drawers. Visualize the items. Realize if you have an emotional response to them. Put them on your list. Repeat. Do this until you really can’t think of any more.

Step Three. Walk Away. Then Come Back.

We think this is a great step for you to take in any project, not just this one! Almost nothing is perfect on the first draft. Trust us, this article wasn’t! Walk away from the project for a period of time. What’s a good period of time? That can depend on you. We think that at least a full day is probably necessary, but it could be as long as a week. We wouldn’t recommend longer than a week though because if we’re being honest the chances that you’ll come back to this project after longer than a week are slim. Now, go back to your list. The first thing you’ll realize is that in the week or so that you took off, you thought of other things that should be on the list. You may also figure that you can take some things off of the list. And you may realize that the emotional reaction you associate with an item is different from the one you thought you did. Update your list. Your second draft will be better than your first!

Step Four: It’s Time to Get Critical

Go back to your relaxing place in a comfy chair with a cup of tea or a warm pup with a pint, because now you have to really get critical and honest with yourself. Go through each item one-by-one. Is the emotion you’ve applied to the item valid? We’ve conceded that while things can’t inspire emotions some items inspire enough memory of emotion to be valid. However, it’s likely that most of the emotions that you’ve associated with “stuff” on your list are actually emotions that you feel (or would like to feel) for other things and the “thing” is just a surrogate. You need to be somewhat brutally honest with yourself if that’s the case. Allowing yourself to embrace the surrogate emotion of a “thing” will likely only keep you from finding true happiness and satisfaction. Really take the time to think through whether the “thing” on the list warrants an emotional reaction, or whether you want to let go of that association of emotion and “stuff.”

For our purposes, this project can stop here. What’s most significant is that you elevate your self-awareness to the level where you know if you are unhealthily associating emotion with “stuff” so that you can begin to be present and active about changing that habit. Of course, there’s a final step if you feel like purging!

Step Five: The Optional Purge

You don’t have to purge as part of this project. The project is about awareness and being present. That said, getting rid of unhealthy “stuff” is always a good move. We’d suggest taking another pass at your list and, again with rather brutal honesty, making a “check” next to things that you’re clearly holding onto for no real reason or that you hold onto because of negative emotions like fear or regret. Those items should be the first to go!

This project puts a wrap on our month of talking about how to separate emotion from “stuff.” Whether or not you decided to follow along this month, you can always start working on this project at any time. We’ve packaged it up and put all of the articles and tips into one place right here.

We hope your 2016 is full of emotion … but not emotion associated with “stuff.”

We want to hear about how this process impacted you! Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: Chris Lott via Flickr