My friend and fellow professional organizer Sophie O'Neill includes this saying in her email signature: "If the old doesn't go, the new doesn't come." I've read that line more times than I can count, but each time I see it, the power of it strikes me all over again.
We're so often used to holding on to things we have (or had) that it's hard to make space--physically, mentally, emotionally--in our lives for what's yet to come. If you've ever held fast to a relationship that didn't work out, to opportunities that didn't come to pass, to experiences you had that ended, or to objects that remind you of any of the above, you probably recognize what I'm talking about.
Why We Hold On
With the exception of those people who can easily shed the old, it's difficult, if not downright painful, to part with the past. We often think that letting go of that relationship that was happy and healthy for a long time (until it wasn't) is a way of protecting ourselves from future hurt. Keeping a grip on past experiences--and often the physical stuff that went with them--is a way of reminding ourselves what we were and what we've done. And keeping mementos is a way of connecting ourselves not only with our own histories, but often with the histories of those who've come before us.
Letting the New Come
As one who has boxes of memorabilia, hundreds of digital photos on my computer, and a head full of memories, I'm certainly not going to advocate walking away from the past and everything associated with it.
What I do preach, though, is the wisdom of that simple phrase I learned from Sophie: if the old doesn't go, the new doesn't come.
All of us--myself included!--have at least some old beliefs, limitations, mindsets, and, of course, stuff--that we've been holding onto for a while, sometimes for much of our lives. As we begin a new year, I challenge you to take a hard look at those things and to be ruthless in clearing out the old ones that have impeded the arrival of new relationships, experiences, and opportunities in your life. That doesn't mean tossing out the beloved old china set you inherited from a favorite relative; it means finally passing along the stuff you're keeping only because "it might be valuable" or "I might use it" someday to clear out space for the stuff you truly cherish, or simply to clear out space for new possibilities.
The new year is wide open. I hope these early weeks of 2012 give you the chance to appreciate the best of the past and to clear out whatever no longer serves you to make room for what's ahead.