By: Shaunna Gould
Decluttering is a challenge for so many people, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Research has shown that clutter can create stress and anxiety by increasing the amount of information in our environment, draining our cognitive abilities. Clutter effects our energy, and the energy flow within our spaces. Here are some tips to help with decluttering and reduce those overwhelming emotions.
Try a 30 day declutter Challenge rather than taking it all on at once
This challenge is about decluttering over a set amount of time, which prevents overwhelm by creating structure and smaller goals. Having a month to complete the challenge and looking forward to seeing the result will help motivate your daily progress as well. There are challenges for 30 days right up to a year with plenty of these examples posted online by others who have done the same. You can use a calendar with each day having one or more decluttering task to complete.
Find a starting point and plan your entire decluttering process beforehand
This is not always as easy as it sounds. Where do you start? Do you tackle your bedroom and closets first, or should you start with smaller tasks.
This is different for every person and it depends on your end goal, but it really helps to have a plan. If you want to declutter the entire house you might want to start with the less cluttered areas first. Start with those areas you spend the less time in. The more cluttered a space, the more work there is to be done, and more anxiety it can create. So, start somewhere that can be used to build momentum. Write out which rooms you will do first, what tasks you will do in them, and then move on. Try to leave the biggest tasks mid-way or until the end.
Take a photo of the objects that hold meaning
This one was life changing for me, since it gave me a way of holding on to some precious things without having to hang onto the item itself, making the process a lot less overwhelming. Take a photo of the item and have a folder on your computer or upload them to a cloud service and store them safely for whenever you want to see them. Sometimes we feel guilt over letting go of sentimental items or gifts that were given to us, this is one way of slowly dealing with those feelings.
It’s important that your able to let go of some sentimental items, as this will increase your motivation to declutter and to let go of some of those guilty or heavy emotions that may have held you down for so long in the decluttering process. It’s crazy to think objects can have that kind of control over us, isn’t it? We need to decide at some point if we want to take that power back or not. This doesn’t mean we need to let go of everything we own, but holding onto just a few very meaningful items will hold more value than having many that just get thrown back into some storage box or in a shelf and leave you with years’ worth of objects to be responsible for.
Focus on decluttering those items that do not hold a lot of value first
Another tactic for keeping those overwhelming feelings at bay is to separate items into a meaningful pile and a not so meaningful pile. Use a box and store those meaningful items away for now and focus on sorting through the ones which won’t feel so emotionally draining for you. When your done sorting you can focus on getting rid of, or organising, those objects first. When you see the results of decluttering, you will feel more motivated to tackle the more meaningful items you placed aside.
Be mindful, take breaks, and centre yourself in the present moment
During the decluttering process you may find yourself reminiscing over items you had forgotten about, or undecided about whether to donate, throw, or find a new home for it. There Is a lot of micromanaging going on in the decluttering process and it’s one of the reasons people get so overwhelmed. Little micro decisions can lead to burn out, especially if they contain emotional processes. Even trying to find a space for those four pens you decided to keep can turn into a 15-minute session leaving you laying on the floor in desperation.
When this happens go back to your breathe. Make a coffee or tea, take a break and leave the pens exactly where they are. Ground yourself by focusing on other things in the environment. Try to find something to focus on just for a minute and bring yourself back to the moment.. After just five minutes you should feel much better, and before going back at it try to brainstorm where a good home for those pens could be. Sometimes just removing ourselves from the situation can help.
Give things away and feel the amazing benefits of donation
Generosity has been shown to increase feelings of wellness and happiness. This kind of happiness is sustaining because it’s grounded in community, helpfulness, and compassion. Try giving your items away to those who could really use them or donate to a shelter. See your items take on a new life, loved and appreciated by others.
It might take some effort to bring things around to their donation spots, but it will be worth it because of how good you will feel. You will also feel good knowing your recycling and being a part of a circular economy of reusing and protecting the environment by keeping our landfills clear. You can also sell your items, there are many people looking for second hand items to buy at a lower cost. Helping others takes us outside of ourselves, it’s a great way to reduce feelings of overwhelm because we will feel great about what we’re doing.
Create “homes” for items you want to keep creating a clutter free habit
I don’t know how many times I went to organise the items I just decluttered only to feel overwhelmed by where exactly they all should go. By the end, it would look and feel just as decluttered as before since I just placed the items back in the drawer, in a slightly different way.
This is how we can sometimes sabotage ourselves. DO NOT put things back where they were if it was the cause of clutter in the first place. Hold each item in your hand and ask yourself “How often do I use this?” Be honest about how often you use something, or if it brings you joy.
These questions will help you decide if items should be stored away, placed out in the open, in a place where you can access it easily, and so on. Rule of thumb is, always keep items you use a lot in an easy location you can access within its own home. It should always go back to its “home” and it should always be easy to access. For items you don’t use often, try using organising baskets or vertical spaces to store things. Things you don’t use very often should be be criticised to see if it’s really something you need to keep. When we have places for all our things, we don’t need to use so much energy to find them.
Junk drawers are just hubs for clutter. These spaces can be used with drawer organisers to create more of a home system for smaller items. Try to avoid the habit of just throwing things into a drawer.
Understand that holding onto things “just in case” only holds you back
I would put this in one of the top reasons overwhelm occurs before and after the decluttering process. Our survival conditioning tells us to keep things just in case we need it or if there is an emergency. However, time and time again we end up with too many things being stored away, in fact most of the time they get forgotten about.
We should deal with the illusion of survival-based fear, because often times this fear takes our freedom away by creating strong attachments to material things. Judge whether or not that item is really needed. Having some extra items you use allot of makes sense, but having 20 Tupperware tubs just in case you have to bake a lot of cookies suddenly when you don’t even bake is just being unrealistic and is just creating clutter. Be mindful of your lifestyle, what do you really use throughout a day, week, or month.
If you hang onto something just in case and within that month you don’t use it, like a shirt you’ve been holding onto, then donate it. See this as a challenge to yourself.
Watch videos online about decluttering to inspire and motivate you during the process
Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone with the same mindset as you when you go through this decluttering process, and if you don’t have a partner or friend to help you then try going online to YouTube and find decluttering videos or minimalist videos. These people have been through the same emotions and some of them spend their lives dedicated to this lifestyle. Listen to their experiences, which I can tell you, will often be highly relatable to yours. I can feel this consumer clutter issue is rooted in our societal conditioning and we all feel this, so when I was watching these videos I could feel the collective energy.
Minimalism is a decluttering and consumer conscious movement dedicated to a lifestyle and philosophy. There are videos with many tips, advice, and wise words around the subjects including the emotions and overwhelming feelings that come with it. While I was decluttering a space I would often listen to videos with titles like “Reasons to be a Minimalist” or Benefits to Decluttering.” I found myself comforted by these videos while overcoming personal challenges. Decluttering is only the first part of the journey. Once you experience the benefits of decluttering you will feel more determined to create better habits, and hopefully become a more conscious consumer. When the clutter is gone, and your more aware, decluttering won’t feel so overwhelming when it’s time to do it again, or when you bring new things into the home.
Shaunna Gould is a Content Writer and Editor for Tune Inner Harmony, a new Health and Wellness business located in Canada, Alberta. She studied Art and Design in 2015 then went on to complete a Bachelors Degree in Marketing, graduating in 2022.
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