What Nobody Else Is Saying About Decluttering

A graphic with an alluring bright blue, it looks like the color blue on the key hole plate is lighted. Additionally there is an old fashioned shaped key about to unlock the lock.

In this article, I am going to talk about what nobody else is saying about decluttering and as a result may be holding you back from living your clutter-free life.

Consider for a moment taking out the trash, it isn’t really hard to do especially because most trash receptacles glide on wheels now. It is a bit of a nuisance in that you would rather the trash just magically wheel itself to the curb. 

This is a relatively easy task because there is no emotion attached to tossing the trash. Decluttering on the other hand can be very emotional for some people.

What decluttering is and isn’t

I am saying the decluttering process is more than just getting rid of excess clutter. Thoughts about making decluttering efforts often begin when facing life transitions, which in itself is emotional. Your life transition may be moving, downsizing, changes in health, starting a family, etc.

All these times in one’s life are often accompanied by deep emotional feelings. People moving from a home of 35 years where they raised their family is not without emotion. There are many tools available today to help these emotional processes along and we will talk about these.

black box red a red X beside a check mark

Decluttering is about decluttering yourself, and your physical and mental being. It is about getting rid of stuff both physically and mentally to allow space for new things to come in. It is just as significant to get rid of bad habits as it is to get rid of clothes that don’t fit and that you haven’t worn in 35 years.

Here are some emotionally charged examples people may have when decluttering physical objects from their homes. 

Sentimental value

Some people form strong emotional bonds with sentimental items because seeing these treasures is taking a walk down memory lane. These could be items from childhood, gifts from loved ones, or mementos from significant life events.

The thing is we can still have the memories whether or not we have the physical items. Think of the unfortunate folks who sadly lose an entire house full of all their worldly possessions to natural disasters and conflicts etc. As unthinkable as this is these folks will always have their memories.

A cloth board background in dark grey and memories is spelled out in white chalk with a bright red heart between the letters 3 & 4.

People report to me they would feel guilty getting rid of items passed down to them, even though these things are very much unwanted items. To that, I say it is unimaginable to me a loved one would want their beneficiaries to feel burdened and guilt-ridden due to holding on to their stuff.

Collectors

Collectors often develop deep attachments to their collections, whether it’s stamps, coins, books, or other items. The value they place on these objects goes beyond their monetary worth. These folks are passionate about their collections or at least they once were and this is key.

Things change, people change. What once was a passion does not necessarily mean you will always feel this way. This is the crossroad at which an honest conversation with yourself is necessary.

Decluttering is about keeping what you want and need and discarding the rest. If collections of things make you happy keep them, if they are burdens it is time to get rid of these things.

A stack of record albums with an LP on edge in foreground leaning against the stacked albums

Hoarders

The Cleveland Clinic https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17682-hoarding-disorder states that hoarding disorder is a mental health condition. Hoarders may struggle to part with possessions, even if they have little practical value. 

Those with anxiety or insecurity Some individuals suffering with anxiety or insecurity use possessions as a form of security blanket, relying on material objects to provide comfort and reassurance in times of stress or uncertainty.

The American Psychiatric Association claims potential consequences of serious hoarding include health and safety concerns, such as fire hazards, tripping hazards, and health code violations to name a few.

There is help available for hoarders and family members and caregivers.

Artists or creatives

Not all artists and creatives feel emotionally attached to their work or the tools they use to create it, some do though. These items can hold significant personal or professional value and may evoke strong emotions when considering parting with them.

Overall, emotional attachment to physical objects can manifest in various ways and is not limited to a specific type of person. It often reflects deeply ingrained psychological factors, personal experiences, and individual preferences.

I know artists that have saved every creative thing they have ever made and I have a friend, a prolific painter, that uses the same canvas repeatedly. Liz will paint an awesome picture and when she is finished she will paint over it and paint another picture.

abstract painting in reds, yellows and blues plus

Decluttering isn’t a one-time task 

My decluttering journey involves maintaining my physical and mental spaces. This is an ongoing practice for me. Well, not so much physical clutter because I handle this at the point of purchase. I don’t want it unless I need it or love it no matter what the ‘it’ is.

Even after you’ve cleared out a space, it requires regular maintenance to prevent clutter from building up again. If you have a lot of stuff you must have good organizational habits. Every item needs a dedicated space to live

A mindful approach to consumption and organization are key components of long-term decluttering success.

Moreover, decluttering isn’t solely about minimizing possessions; it’s also about maximizing the usefulness and joy of the items you choose to keep. It’s about curating a space that reflects your values and priorities, rather than simply adhering to minimalist ideals.

Look at it this way, you could hire a home decluttering and organizational team to come into your home and declutter and organize everything. What happens after they leave though?

Have you changed all the habits that got you into this cluttered mess? Do you even know what habits these are?

a female sitting on a big brown craggy rock locking into the greenish blue sea.

Mental well-being

Decluttering can and does have profound effects on mental well-being. A clutter-free environment can reduce stress, increase productivity, and promote a sense of calm and clarity.

This is why it’s essential to address both mental and physical clutter with a holistic approach.

The following are some considerations.

Mindfulness and Mental Clarity

A key for me when it comes to decluttering or anything in my life is to be aware of my thinking surrounding what is confronting me. For me, it is as simple as changing a thought. For example instead of thinking ‘I can’t do that’, I think ‘I can do that, I just have to figure it out.’

The mention of mindfulness practices to some people conjures up images of woo-woo, way out there kind of stuff. This is not true. Folks also resist the idea of minimal and intentional living practices due to preconceived often incorrect notions of what these are. 

A person with a yellow gold sweater writing with a pen in a journal

For me, writing or journaling is where I get all my answers. Not the kind of writing I do when I am writing an article rather stream-of-consciousness writing.

I have been using this free-form easy style of writing for 25 plus years. Writing is the magic that helps you develop awareness of your thoughts and emotions, who you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. 

Writing is a great tool for better decision-making in all areas of your life and when decluttering your physical spaces, because you become more attuned to what truly matters to you.

Meditation is a practice some people would no more go without than air and water. Meditation brings clarity.

a 3 rock cairn resting in the light colored sand.

Emotional Resilience

Decluttering the mind with writing can enhance emotional resilience, making it easier to confront the emotions that may arise during the decluttering process.

The mere act of writing, getting thoughts onto the page reduces stress and anxiety. It is like sharing a problem with a friend. A good friend will just listen and let you make your own conclusions.

Writing is the best tool to clear your head and gain clarity, yet people resist.

Setting Intentions

There are common mistakes people make before they begin their decluttering journey and one is not taking the time to figure out what they want. It is all about setting intentions which is a fancy way of answering the question ‘What do you want’. 

The best way to approach decluttering is to ask yourself why you want to declutter. What is your goal? 

Decluttering is about making space for new stuff, not necessarily new physical stuff, on the contrary. Clarifying why decluttering is important to you and what you hope to achieve may provide motivation and direction.

blue background with a yellow stickie note that reads I CAN'T. Someone is cutting off the apostrophe and the 't' with a pair of scissors.

A huge decluttering mistake is having unrealistic expectations. Getting rid of household clutter from your living space is a good idea and a great place to start. A decluttered home will certainly be more comfortable and inviting than a home in which you constantly trip over bags of stuff. 

If you think removing things is going to solve all your problems it will not. My head gets cluttered and my physical spaces more or less remain the same. I have proven time and again that throwing away stuff is much easier than figuring out particular solutions to situations.

Tossing personal items is way easier than figuring out why, for example, you have the same recurring thoughts or how you can lose the resentments, jealousies, etc. that are standing in your way.

Can you see where I am going with this? One at a time over the years I have replaced not-so-great habits with better habits. This is when the decluttering begins in earnest.

Decluttering your mental and physical spaces can seem like a big project and it doesn’t have to be. Everything is easier and more manageable with a mental shift in your thinking. Decluttering will not happen overnight, it is a practice.

Sustainable clutter-free living

Be sure when you make your decluttering plan to factor in a maintenance plan.

Stream-of-consciousness writing for me is my maintenance plan for my head. Putting thought into the items before I bring them into my home is my home maintenance plan. If I don’t bring a bunch of stuff in I will maintain my clutter-free home.

I naturally gravitate to owning less stuff because I prefer the look of space to stuff. My own home has a minimum of stuff and I have a home organization system in place.

My dog SImon out on the water in a kayak with me. Yes we are both wearing life jackets!

A difference between me and people with an entire home filled with clutter is I have more time to spend doing the things I want because home maintenance is a breeze and because I have fewer things I have less responsibility caring for these things.

Decluttering is a thing to learn and refine over time. Therefore, there’s value in continuously working on both mental and physical decluttering, allowing each process to inform and reinforce the other.

How to get started

When most people talk about decluttering they are thinking about a physical clutter problem. Decluttering isn’t just about the amount of stuff you want to get rid of.

I strongly urge clients to begin the decluttering process by learning what they want. Many folks know what they don’t like easily enough and do not have a clue what their true desires are. Writing is a great clarifying tool. Before you resist this or while you are resisting the act of writing or journaling try it.

Oops, I almost forgot, Stream-of-consciousness writing is writing any thoughts that pop into your mind. Do not pay attention to the rules of grammar we all learned. Forget about punctuation and spelling. Also, know that when you say you could never write that way you are just resisting the process of writing.

These writings are for your eyes only or anyone you wish to share with. Some people bring their journals to their therapy sessions. You are not writing the next great American novel. You are simply writing your thoughts. Declutterbuzz is offering 7 days of free writing prompts if you need help getting started.

a few of the authors journals

I use a pen and a cheap spiral notebook to write, you may prefer a keyboard. The picture shows a few of my filled journals.

The repetitive motion as a career glass artist has hurt my hands. Even though it can be painful at times I still prefer using a pen and paper to write, I just hold the pen differently than others may.

Find a way that works for you. You deserve to live a clutter-free life!

For those of you wanting a quick fix to declutter grab my 50 quick & easy decluttering tips to get started!

​A lot of people resist change. For me the risk of some changes far outweigh the benefit of standing still. I remember learning a long time ago if something isn’t growing it is dying. If you are unhappy or discontent there is usually a better way, you just have to find it.

author

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

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