Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Yuko Henden of Clutterless.
Decluttering seems to be all the rage. On the news, in social media, and during casual conversation, we hear more and more about people downsizing, KonMari-ing, and simplifying their lives.
The idea is a good one. So you decide to get on the bandwagon.
You borrow a couple of how-to-declutter books from the local library and scan through them, then buy a package of heavy-duty garbage bags and start attacking your clutter on Saturday at 9:00 am.
By the afternoon, you have garbage bags, donation bags, and even pieces of furniture lined up by your front entrance ready to leave the house for good.
You’re exhausted, but in a good way. You feel lighter and uplifted.
Fast-forward several months into the future. The afterglow of decluttering has faded. You still maintain that getting rid of the clutter was an excellent idea, but can’t cite a reason other than, “My right pinky toe is injury-free since I got rid of that ugly coffee table.”
Maybe you are even beginning to feel a bit uneasy living in a home with empty spaces. You feel a bit empty inside as well.
Your thoughts may be followed with even more questions, “What’s wrong with me? I thought this was going to feel only wonderful. Why do I feel this way? Was getting rid of my clutter a bad idea?”
Take heart. You are not alone. The decluttering process can be difficult at times. Let’s consider the reasons why:
Change is Unsettling
We like the familiar, and changes often produce stress. You have not moved, but your clutter-free home is a new environment. You will feel uneasy until you adjust to it.
Don’t give in to the urge to buy new things to make your place cozy. Any non-essential items you buy right now are likely to end up as tomorrow’s clutter. If you want to stop the vicious circle of decluttering, fight the urge to shop.
As you decluttered, did you feel a bit of guilt letting some of the stuff go? I sure felt it when I hauled a bag full of clothes that my mother sent me, which I didn’t feel like wearing, to the closest consignment store.
High-quality accessories, expensive tools, gifts from your loved ones—it’s sad to let go of things that you have some attachment to. It’s also not pleasant to think about how much they all cost.
Dusty textbooks and study material you never used—did you hear a voice inside your head say, “I’m so disappointed in you,” as you tossed them on the donations pile? Was that your voice, or your parent’s?
It’s inevitable to feel some degree of guilt when you declutter. When you do, remember that you cannot change the past, but you can learn from it.
After awhile the guilt will begin to fade. Until it does, use it as motivation to remind you when a change in your environment was so important.
You felt great when you slipped into the pair of five-inch, black stilettos. But they wrecked your back and knees, so you wisely got rid of them.
But now, perhaps, you don’t know how to feel confident and sexy without them. You feel so incomplete. You don’t feel good about yourself.
Fight the urge to go out and buy physical products that were substituting for your self-confidence.
Things can’t heal you and they can’t soothe you in the long run. Get to the root of the issue. Find confidence in who you are and happiness where you are. That contentment is longer-lasting… and leads to much lower credit card payments.
Decluttering didn’t solve your problems
Some people are reporting incredibly positive outcomes from decluttering, such as losing weight and finding their true calling (actually, that was me). Certainly you hoped it would change your life too.
But that epiphany never came, and now you feel duped.
Hang in there. I can’t tell you how or how fast, but the change will come if don’t give in to a yo-yo diet style of decluttering—i.e., endlessly alternating between purging and shopping.
It takes some time, but you will begin to realize that your clutter was acting as a security blanket. And without it, you may feel uncomfortable… and when you are uncomfortable, you will start questioning.
Questioning takes time, but it is good. Focused self-reflection leads to new ideas, self-discoveries, and changes in attitudes and perspectives. It won’t happen overnight. But remain hopeful and stay positive.
Decluttering physical clutter is the first step towards a simpler life, and it’s often a gateway to a further personal transformation. Ultimately, decluttering is about knowing yourself better so you can make the most of your life.
After all, the first step to getting what you want is having the courage to get rid of what you don’t.
These changes take time and effort.
Please remember that you started decluttering to improve your life. Remember to enjoy the results of your hard labor, such as easier cleaning and organizing, reduced maintenance, more space to do whatever your heart desires, and more time for fun.
Eventually, you’ll learn to love your clutter-free space and all the rewards that come with it.
Yuko Henden blogs at Clutterless where she helps people tidy up your workspace and work processes so they can focus on the most important things in life.