Gawd, I’m obsessed with decluttering thoughts. I’m always analysing why I/we get so caught up in our clutter and how can we overcome it. So many times, I have heard people say how overwhelming and exhausting clutter can be in our lives, but why is it that decluttering is so hard? WHy can’t we simply get rid of the stuff that we don’t use, or have been stored so long that we can’t even remember what we have and where it came from?
One of the reasons, I believe, is fear. All the what-if’s that run through our mind when we’re evaluating whether we should get rid of this or that. What if I put all that weight back on, then I’ll need these clothes? What if I end up with grandkids – I’ll need these toys/clothes/furniture? What if we go through a financial rough patch, we could re use this? And on and on it goes.
But if we can remove the emotion out of it – ie the fear – then things become much simpler. I have found that if I identify fear as the hurdle between me and decluttering, I use some cognitive therapy approaches and go through each argument and address each what-if with a rational and calm reasoning.
These can include one or all of these steps:
- I think about how much space we have to store stuff (not much as we live in a city terrace);
- I visualise the life I want to lead especially how I want my home to look, feel and function;
- I take an honest assessment of the chances of all those possible but unlikely (or no time soon) scenarios that I’m using to hold onto stuff – chances are they won’t happen or if they do (eg grand kids) it won’t be for such a long time, that its quite ridiculous to even consider keeping things
I once had the most delightful client who had 2 large wardrobes full of old work suits that she’d been holding onto for years (in some cases, decades!). The reason she got me in to help was that she now has 3 kids and a hubbie and no where to store their clothes!!! She was holding onto these clothes because she just might get back into the corporate world (maybe….when the kids grew up) and the clothes were all designer brands and therefore had cost alot of money. The other interesting twist to the story was that she had so changed her lifestyle that she was now at least 2 -3 sizes smaller than the suits, so they looked terrible on her (yes, we tried every single one). After much talking, some tears and a few cups of tea, we worked out that: chances of her returning to full time corporate work within the next ten years was slim at best. That the suits were already a bit outdated and would cost alot to alter (especially as they now swam on her). And, that her fears were creating absolute mess, chaos, disorganisation and frustration (both her and her husband’s) by having their current clothes stacked on book cases and chairs etc. ANd on top of ALL that, her husband had given her a number of incentives to getting rid of unused stuff (eg a Burberry trench coat if she could get rid of the clothes off the chair in their room).
We went through every single item. Discussed the memories intrinsic in each piece and honestly assessed whether she’d ever wear it again. In the end, we emptied one wardrobe completely and about three quarters of another; we filled her car with items for various charities; we got rid of the clothes on the chair (so she’d get that trenchcoat!) and packed away all the kids clothes. The place looked and felt a million bucks afterwards! She felt enormous relief and (she told me later) hubbie was thrilled. Mission accomplished!
So, fear can hold us back when it comes to decluttering. It can be overcome, though, and that’s what you have to keep telling yourself if you’re in this place.
Keep your chin up, and keep trying! And if you need help, then don’t be ashamed to reach out!