The Simple Mindset Shift When It’s Time to Let Go
There is a beautiful Portuguese word that has no direct translation in English. It’s profound and palpable for a highly sensitive soul like me. The word is Saudade.
“Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. Saudade describes a state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.”
My artist friend created this poster with her definition of Saudade and I look at it dozens of times a day. It hangs on a wall dividing our family and living rooms. Recently, after a quick glance on the way to undoubtedly pick up forgotten toys, it dawned on me how this idea of a longing that something will never return, or the emotions we feel about an object, is often a stumbling block in our minimalism pursuit.
Maybe it’s because I tend to be overly sentimental or day-dreamy. Sensitive to the core, I feel deeply the longing of moments that will never return. I have a picture a friend took on a beach in Mexico where I’m so lost in saudade it’s like a veil over my face. She told me later she couldn’t help but capture the intensity of the moment. I didn’t want to leave the beach and the longing already began even as my toes still dug in the sand.
And I brought back parts of that beach to the city. Bags of sea shells. I had never seen such amazing and beautiful sea shells and I gathered as many as I could. I used to decorate the many homes I lived in the years since. Jars of shells that contained my longing to return to that moment.
There are many things that we acquire throughout our lifetime that hold immense sentimental value. Things that we could never imagine parting with because it would feel like a betrayal to a memory or a loved one. We fear the longings wrapped up in saudade.
But with a simple mindset shift our saudade can transform into a gift. The gift of gratitude.
Shifting our mindset to gratitude removes the power we’ve placed on the object to hold our most precious memories, and allows us to replace our longing with gratefulness. Then with gratitude we can begin the work of letting go.
Let go of expectation
Often our sentimentality toward an item is an expectation that it preserves or recreates the past. Our energy is placed on the thing instead of the memory itself and we fear that losing the thing is losing the memory.
If we redirect our energy into the memory itself, we pour ourselves into a life-giving version of saudade – a longing that turns into gratitude for the meaningful experience.
Let go of the physical to feel the emotional
When we place an emotional attachment to an object we aren’t fully able to process the emotion. The emotions we should feel internally, we project externally onto the item. And then we stare at it, waiting for something to happen – waiting for joy to increase or sadness to decrease.
Removing the source of projection creates the physical space we need for emotional healing.
Let go of the past to be present
Saudade takes us into a deep longing for something we know won’t return. It can seem depressing. But I have started to take saudade into the present with me, wherever I happen to be. The longing for what won’t return is the perfect opportunity to appreciate what I have right in front of me.
I don’t want a box full of old photos or clothes or baby shoes. It want my kids playing on the floor. My husband walking in from work. A blank page to use my words and ideas creatively. A friend who needs a hug. A stranger who needs a hand.
Things can’t make the past come back, but presence can make the present pretty great.
Let go of distracting clutter
Boxes or stacks of things whose sole purpose is to validate our memories and emotions are not living up to their purpose. In fact, these boxes or stacks are more than likely distracting you from your purpose.
Intentional living assigns a purpose to everything. Everything else is clutter and distracts us from our intentional life goals. Your precious memories and experiences should be alive in your soul, giving you life and perspective as you travel your current path – not trapped in a box or stack collecting dust.
Let go of our masks
One problem with our obsession for things is that our identity is tangled up in it all. One by one, as we de-own our things, we discover a little more freedom to be true to our self. Clutter, especially sentimental clutter becomes a mask to hide our vulnerability. And the world needs more people who embrace their vulnerability.
Freedom is found when we take off the badge of who we were then and pick up the crown of who we are now. It might be chipped and missing some jewels or bent and crooked, but it’s real and it’s you.
Saudade becomes a gift of gratitude, allowing us to finally let go of the sentimental and step into being fully alive and experiencing our emotions. It’s a mindset shift that keeps your things things and your memories the markers of your soul.
And for the record, I decluttered my shell collection a few years ago. I’m filled with gratitude to have had my feet in the soft sand and to have held those shells of another world. And gratitude is enough for me.