Once upon a time, there was a girl who realized she had way too much stuff and she was feeling very overwhelmed so she decided “It’s time to start decluttering!”
She got prepared with all her boxes and bags and was super excited to jump into the process. However, before she knew it she started feeling all kinds of emotions over her things…She felt loss, very guilty and even more overwhelmed!
She didn’t know what to do so she gave up and sat down feeling worse than she had before she started…
Being overwhelmed generally comes from an emotional response that stops us from making a decision. In the case of organizing and getting rid of things this emotional response is typically guilt. Guilt will stop you from making the decisions you really want to make by causing you to believe that what you are doing is somehow wrong.
I’ve found a great way to decrease the feelings of guilt and stop the “super overwhelmed” response is to take on your decluttering or spring cleaning in baby steps. That way you can work through your emotional responses and still make decisions that will benefit you in the process.
There are all kinds of emotional and psychological responses we go through when it comes to giving up items in our homes. This is totally natural and the first step is just to accept that no matter how you do it you will experience some degree of this. I find that everything always works better when you take it on in tiny steps or phases:
Decluttering Phase 1
This is the beginning phase when you are super excited to get started but you can quickly burn out emotionally and otherwise, if you go at it with all your gusto and expect to have it done in a week.
Instead, we treat Phase 1 as the very beginning, sort of dipping your toes in so-to-speak. You always start small in this phase with things it’s super easy to get rid of; junk that you don’t feel a strong attachment too. This could be like old beauty products, old pots and pans you kept even though you already bought new ones, or toys your kids never play with and won’t miss. Anything you feel an emotional response to you keep at this stage, you honor the feeling and put it back on the shelf. Anything you feel nothing towards you toss or put aside for donation.
During this phase be patient with yourself, you could do this process in a week or it may take a month, who knows – how long it takes is up to you and this is the most important phase to move slowly through without pushing yourself.
This serves the purpose of honoring your emotions, keeping you from burning out too quickly and during the process you start to see how therapeutic decluttering actually is which makes it easier to move to Phase 2.
Decluttering Phase 2
This next phase is where you start to address the things you put back in Phase 1 that you felt emotional attachment too. Try to start this phase as quickly as possible after Phase 1 so there isn’t a long lag in between.
In this phase it will be easier to address those items again and let go of some of them.
This is the phase where you start asking yourself 3 very important questions:
Do I use it?
Do I Love it?
Does it bring me feelings of Joy, Comfort or Nourishment?
If you can’t answer yes to at least one of these, the best thing to do is put it aside for donation or throw it away.(Or even sell it and make some cash!) However, if it’s something that brings out a very strong emotional response to letting go of it such as a family heirloom you feel really guilty about letting go or old photos that have strong memories attached to them, etc. than you might want to put it aside until Phase 3.
***Note: During this phase you want to push yourself a little bit harder than you did in Phase 1 to let go.
Decluttering Phase 3
At this point you should feel clearer and more mentally and emotionally prepared to let go. Again, try to start this phase directly after finishing up Phase 2.
By now you have witnessed the benefits of clearing the clutter, such as making money off things you no longer use, the feel-good emotion of donating your things to good causes, the clarity that comes from a less cluttered home and the therapeutic benefits of the actual process of decluttering. All of these things are huge benefits that need to be experienced prior to moving to Phase 3.
In Phase 3, you are going to get serious about what you are going to keep and what you are going to get rid of. At this point you shouldn’t have anything left to throw away, you should only have things that you can sell or donate that you have a stronger emotional attachment to than the things you got rid of in Phases 1 & 2.
Go through these items one at a time and ask yourself if you used them at all since you started your decluttering journey. If you haven’t, think about someone who might use it or love it; ask yourself if its worth it to keep it or if you could make some money off it by giving it or selling it to someone who really wants it.
If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to say goodbye to it then you make peace with that and keep it!
You will be amazed at how much easier it is to declutter when you take it in 3 phases like this. You’ll also be amazed at how much you actually get rid of during the process. It’s a gentle and simple way to go through your things while honoring yourself during the process.
If you would like some help decluttering shoot me an email – I would be happy to walk you through the process.