Scrolling through facebook today I came across a post by a friend of mine who admitted a secret desire to get rid of (almost) everything she owns and start over.
This statement made me stop and think for a minute. At first my inner organizer felt happy, like YEAH! Let ALL of the clutter go! Then I felt a little worried that her secret desire wasn’t really about her stuff at all.
Everyone loves a dramatic makeover where the old clutter in your house or your closet is replaced with new, beautiful things. (Check out our great before and after pictures!) Unfortunately, the happiness that comes from getting new clothes or new stuff usually doesn’t last long. In fact, I’d say it’s more of a quick thrill than actual happiness.
One of my main goals in life is to help people understand that stuff does not make us happy. In fact it can make us very stressed out. And many people have an unhealthy relationship to their stuff.
Clutter vs addiction
As I work with different people of all income levels and all levels of clutter and cleanliness I find the following to be true: acquiring stuff is like any other addiction. For some people it can actually ruin their life!
Most people shop and go through life without ever feeling that their stuff is taking over their life. And then there are people who suffer from the hoarding disorder. For these people their fear of letting stuff go is impairing their ability to have deep relationships or be a functioning member of society.*
In the middle
And then… there is my friend on facebook, and millions of people like her, who have some mental anguish when they try to let stuff go. Maybe this is you?
Your clutter isn’t hindering your ability to invite friends over; it isn’t a huge problem most of the time. And yet it is keeping you from living your best, happiest life. You are bogged down by the papers, the books and articles you need to read, the products to register online, things that are missing in the piles. A lot of stuff!
You have too much stuff. And you don’t even know how you got it.
Where and why?
To find a solution to your clutter problem, figure out where you got all of this clutter. How did it get here?
- How did I end up with 4, empty, 3-ring binders?
- What am I planning to do with them?
Now ask yourself about the underlying reason for accumulating multiples –the purpose for these binders (or whatever object you are finding multiples of). The clutter may indicate a need you have that is not being filled.
- Are the binders there for keeping notes at a class and you haven’t taken a class in years? Maybe you need to seriously consider taking a class!
- Are the binders to help you organize all of your paperwork? Is your underlying reasoning for buying binders that “If only my papers were organized they wouldn’t make me as stressed”? But you don’t organize the papers. You just keep buying binders.
12 pretty dresses you never wear.
- When you bought each dress, what were you hoping for? What is the promise of the dress to you?
- What need are you hoping the dress will fill?
Beware. This exercise can get deep in a hurry.
Worth the effort
It is within your power to thin out your belongings and live a life surrounded by less clutter. Once you do some thinking about why you buy multiples, you will find some unmet needs in your life. Are there more healthy ways to meet those needs?
This process is easier when you start small and let go a little at a time. Maybe 5 things a day for 5 days. The space you find will leave room for fresh, new energy and for fresh, new ideas in your life.
Hiring a professional to come over on a regular basis is a great option for many people. Similar to hiring a physical trainer to get your body in shape, it may feel frivolous or silly at first. But so do a lot of things we hire professionals to help us with. It’s worth the effort in the end when your home is decluttered and much more peaceful for you. (Get Organized Already offers a monthly organizing service at a lower rate than single sessions! Check it out here.)
Hiring an organizer once or twice a year to give you a jump start is another good idea.
Reading organizing books and blog posts is usually pretty fruitless. For most people reading instead of doing is another way to spell p-r-o-c-r-a-s-t-i-n-a-t-e.
So…Let’s get rid of your clutter!
You don’t have to get rid of all the clutter to feel lighter and more calm.
Set a timer for 10 minutes, go around a room that isn’t overwhelming to you. Pick up a few things and think about:
- How did I acquire this?
- What do I believe this item says about me?
- Do I smile with joy when I see it?
- If I don’t, why is it in my house?
- Do I have another item that can serve its purpose/Is this duplicating another item I have?
- Would I purchase this item if I didn’t own it already?
- Do I have a concrete plan to use this item again in the next few months?
How much can you get rid of in that room? If every room is too overwhelming, ask for help getting started. And don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t great at letting things go! An unhealthy relationship to stuff is not like a passing fad. It is a serious issue and one that takes a lot of honesty to overcome. I applaud you for jumping in and doing the work. You are so totally worth it!
*If large piles of clutter in your home are putting a strain on your relationships or hindering your everyday activities like eating, relaxing, or showering, you may be showing signs of a hoarding disorder.
Here is a good place to read more: Hoarding: The basics
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Also published on Medium.