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Overcoming the Emotional Challenges of Decluttering

HGTV has brought many idyllic views of the clutter free home. Marie Kondo, author of, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has really inspired people to purge things that do not bring joy. We may have wanted it then, used it some, but over time it has become a dust collector and a space consumer. Even with the altruistic thoughts of donating items to pay it forward, why can it be so hard to follow through with decluttering? It can be fear, anxiety, guilt, overwhelm which can interfere with the desire!  Here are some tips to help you move past the emotions and on with your spring clean.

Tip 1: Begin with the end in mind

  • Be clear that the goal is by keeping what you use, and getting rid of what you don’t because you want your life to be much easier to stay organized and to find things when you need them. Simplifying life lowers stress, and by being able to see where things are rather than it being stuffed somewhere saves time and aggravation looking to find them. You may want to gather photos from Houzz or Pinterest of what you want the end results of your home to look like. Having a decluttered home can improve mood, which positively impacts relationships. A cluttered home can make one reticent about entertaining, limiting socializing.

Tip 2: Break it down

  • Start with smaller projects. It can be an emotional process and you want to stay on task and reap results, rather than getting bogged down. It can be learning that it is so satisfying to complete the task at hand, so you look forward to the next, and are ready for increasingly bigger decluttering projects. For example, if going through clothes, segment it into categories, e.g. shoes, pants, hanging shirts, clothes in drawers to successfully get through a portion at a time. Give yourself ample time to complete the task at hand, and then do something to reward yourself!

Tip 3: Trust over Fear

  • Rather than fearing that you might need something you’re not using one day, choose to trust that you will be able to source what you need in the future. Clothes that aren’t right, old sports equipment, unused crafting supplies, extra linen not used…  Marie Kondo says to pile all like sized things and then sort. That method can help one to see how much of it you have to recognize you have abundance so you can more easily let go and not be in the scarcity mindset that you might need this one day. Another way that may be easier is to take one item at time, and quickly sort into three piles, keep, donate or discard. However, if it is difficult to decide, rather than stir up emotion about it, make an unsure pile to go through after you have made the decisions on the rest. So the “piles” are:
    • Keep: you need and use, it brings you joy.
      Donate: you no longer need or have enough of, e.g. duplicates. With organized drawers you will be able to see contents and not need duplicates.
      Discard: it is past its usefulness (worn out, damaged, etc.)
      Discern: you haven’t used for some time, and you are unsure about letting go.
  • Tip: A friend can be very helpful to the process of an area that seems emotionally laden for you.  When you are done sorting, you can put away the keep pile, and they can get rid of the discard pile and make a list of what you are donating and pack it up. Then their being emotionally detached can help encourage you to make a logical decision about the discernment pile, asking, do you really need….

Tip 4: Mental Memories over Physical Memories

  • If there is sentiment or nostalgia about an item, be thankful for the memories it brought, and feel free to let it go. For items gifted to you, decide to take a turn to gift it on. If you think it means a lot to you, but you haven’t really thought of it for years, like old cards, chose a couple with meaningful handwritten messages, perhaps take a photo of the rest to remember. Printed photos should be in albums where they can be seen.

Tip 5: Ask for Help

  • Enlist knowledgeable help when needed. A garage can be a catch all, and you may need a person that is a handyman to identify what should be tossed or donate, and to organize tools and parts. If spatial organization or interior decorating is just not your thing, or organizing paperwork is overwhelming, hire a professional than can help you breeze through it.

Give yourself grace if you haven’t decluttered in some time. It may take several passes. A room can seem more spacious if bookshelves aren’t packed with stuff. If there isn’t a place for it, it isn’t a priority. Have the most used items easily accessible. That which is stored in boxes labeling them makes life easier. By letting go of items of the past, we can enjoy the present more!

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love Him; He is their mighty shield and strong support… Sirach 34:16

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