Why do you hold onto things you no longer really want?
If you're like I am, it's because you have an emotional connection to that thing that you're hesitant to give up. That connection can be any of a million things:
-- someone gave it to you
-- it's still usable
-- it reminds you of a specific time or event
-- it might fit someday
-- it needs fixing
-- it used to belong to someone you love who's gone now
-- it's really gorgeous in some way
-- you're saving it for the garage sale or to sell on ebay
-- it's a project you're going to get back to one day
This leads to all kinds of complication when we're trying to do something as relatively simple as decluttering a closet, a countertop or a our bookshelves. You begin with high energy, meaning well, determined to simplify an area and clear a space, and instead you soon get caught in a hundred small, emotional decisions that get you stuck in the mud and keep you there.
Once I talked about this in therapy, and my therapist said something brilliant to me: "Do you want to live in a warehouse?" Because that's what I was doing. I kept clothes that I was meaning to wear, I kept things that I was meaning to sell or give away, I kept every photograph I'd ever taken (which was a huge number), I kept souvenirs from trips, gifts from long ago, anything that had some sort of connection for me to another time, place or person. It got exhausting, and I was nearly immobilized by it all. I'm not a hoarder -- our home is fairly wide open, and filled with light and space. But there are so many projects that I started and didn't finish, so many books I've read once and not again, so many throw pillows that a person has a hard time sitting on the couch without moving some of them. It took me quite a while to really be able to purge things, but once I was able to begin, it made a huge difference in how I felt about my home (and, indirectly, myself).
Do you identify with any of this?
Does it bring you down when you try to clean or purge an area and find yourself wanting to keep everything for a million reasons?
Give yourself an amnesty period each year -- January is a great one! -- and tell yourself that all those things that are trying to attach themselves to you lose their power during January. If you don't really want to finish the project, out it goes, with no guilt. (This is amnesty, remember? No penalty.) If you're keeping it out of some sort of duty to a past gift-giver, try to challenge that notion within yourself. Is it really a slight to that person if you don't keep that gift? No, it isn't. And the emotional energy you're putting into keeping it is huge.
Start small. Take one area. Be ruthless, and let these dictate your choices:
-- do I use it?
-- does it bring me joy?
-- does it fit?
and, on the other side, be honest with yourself when you ask:
-- will i really get back to it? (how many things are in line first?)
-- if i did (fix the button, lose the weight, lower the hem) would i love it?
-- how would it feel to be free of this?
and if none of those work, ask yourself this:
-- Does this contribute to my living in a warehouse?
Let your measure of success be two things: How it feels when you finish, and how great you feel when all those bags go to charity or out in the trash. Here are a couple of great sites to get you started:
How about you?
Are things running your life? Do you identify with any of this?
Or have you learned how to declutter? Share your tips!
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