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Free Yourself from Mental and Physical Clutter.

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Cluttered WardrobeSomething which commonly comes up for people struggling with clutter is the idea of letting go.  Releasing the physical stuff from our home and our life has all sorts of emotional meaning attached to it, and means also releasing a lot of emotional clutter from our mind.

That’s got to be a good thing, right?  If we know it will be good for us to let go of the emotional clutter associated with the physical stuff, why are we so reluctant to do it?  What’s holding us back?  If we understand intellectually that getting rid of physical stuff will free us up emotionally, why do we experience such resistance?

Fear.  Our ego wants to protect us, and for some reason one of the things it really wants to protect us from is change.  It’s intentions are good, it just wants to protect us, and it’s good to have it there to make sure we stay safe in the traffic.  But sometimes we need to recognize that we are experiencing a fear of change, and make a conscious choice to take action anyway.  Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is one I highly recommend.  If things don’t change, they’ll surely stay the same.

And what has to change, of course, is our thinking.

Whilst there are practical decisions to be made about how to physically remove the stuff from your home – charity pick up of large items, small items dropped at charity shop or bin, trips to the rubbish tip, council hard rubbish collection, garage or yard sales, eBay and so on – the main work to be done is all in your mind.  It’s all about you being able to make the necessary decisions, and addressing the mental barriers which are holding you back.

Of course there are a variety of mental barriers to getting rid of your clutter, but the one I’m focusing on right now is the fear of letting go.

For some people, merely becoming aware of the resistance caused by fear of change is all that is required.  Awareness is a powerful thing indeed.  Taking some time to just think about it is work well worth doing.  Here are a few ideas for thought processes which can help you shift the habitual way you have been looking at your clutter:-

  1. Imagine you have been given warning to evacuate your home due to an impending natural disaster, and you have a limited time to select a limited amount of items to save before abandoning the rest.  Make a list of the items to be saved, and imagine that you are now out the other side of the event, the abandoned items are gone and irreplaceable, and see how it makes you feel. Does the idea that you had no choice but to let go of them make it easier to accept?
  1. For clothes and bathroom items, imagine you are going on an extended holiday for about two months.  You will be traveling to different climates, will be attending formal events, parties, and activities which require practical casual clothing.  You will be swimming.  There will be romantic evenings.  You must be prepared for every possibility.  You have a decent but limited amount of luggage, which will be unpacked into the wardrobe and drawers and bathroom cabinets of your nice hotel when you arrive – which are a reasonable size, but not enormous.  You have one hour to pack.  What do you take and what do you leave behind?  Everything you take, of course, has to fit you right now.  How does that idea affect how you feel about the items you would be leaving behind?
  1. Imagine you have won a new fully furnished home ready for you to move into.  It happens to be an appropriate size for you and is furnished to your taste of course.  What would you take with you and what would you leave behind?  Part of the deal is that whatever you leave behind will be dealt with for you, disposed of, and you don’t have to think about it.  All you have to do is tell the removal company, who will be doing the packing for you, what stuff to pack and where it will be going in the new home.  Can you spend some time imagining this really happening, and the decisions you would make, and how it would feel?  Use whatever works for you to get the details clear, including the feelings, whether imagining it like a movie, hearing conversations in your head, or writing it down.

Something which came up in my coaching material which worked for me recently, was to take myself twelve months into the future, then look back to today and notice three things.  What have I started, what have I maintained, and what have I ended.  (I’ll go into this in more detail another time).  Having decided upon my answers, my task was to have a go at my wardrobe and let go of anything which did not fit in with the person I am twelve months into the future.  Although I thought I had it pretty together in this department, my clothes sorted by category on matching hangers all facing the same way and so on, I managed to shed two large garbage bags of things I didn’t feel were right for me any more, having just done this exercise.  It’s not complete, as there is a current project to shed about 6 or so kilos of weight and a few things I still love will be able to be zipped up when I achieve this, but it felt great.

Allowing yourself to take incomplete action, to make progress with a de-cluttering project without the need for it to be perfect or complete, gives you more freedom for movement.  An idea I’ve been thinking and talking about a lot lately is that it’s not necessary for all the details to be worked out before you act.  You can take action without all the information, without all your ducks lined up, without being entirely sure how you will proceed.  The fear abates and the path becomes clearer AFTER you have taken action and made a start.

Finally for this article, is the idea that letting go of clutter can also mean letting go of a poverty mentality.  The freedom you experience as a result of the letting go can allow you to function so much better that you are able to create more opportunities for yourself, more money, more productivity.  When you can see the possibilities of what you can achieve when you are operating at a higher level, the mentality of lack is something you can release along with the physical stuff.  You can choose to feel confident that you can provide for yourself, that you will have enough, that you are whole and complete and that you have everything you need within you right now.

Having physical stuff within sight and taking up your attention is distracting, depressing and energy draining.  Any action you take towards clearing out your clutter is a step towards having a clearer head, feeling lighter, feeling free, feeling more powerful, more capable, more enthusiastic.  Think I’m exaggerating?  Go fill a bag or a box and move it out of your home right now and see how it feels.

A final thought – a suggestion from the lovely FlyLady – that you imagine the “stuff” singing you the song:  “Please, release me, le et me go”.  Letting it be funny makes it so much easier and lighter.


#8 Noon 2012-11-16 21:31
Hi Yvette,
I am reading this article again. Did not make much success last year.
In 2013, I know I will have everything I need and I will have the money to buy anything that I need that I do not have.
Thanks a lot for the knowledge shared, you do make everything easy to understand and appears reasonable to achieve.

I will do it !!!! I can do it......letting go of things that I could afford to replace if I need them in the future.

#7 Bronte 2012-01-22 04:15
My mother was the same as Margaret's and I am the same. I can give a lot of things to the Charity shop but some things I tend to hang on to. I recently bought a large flat screen Tv and tried to sell my old one on eBay and couldn't and because of the money I will lose I am unable to give it away. I really need help with this.
#6 Kelly 2011-10-31 22:57
Hi Yvette,
I am constantly trying to de-clutter, and just when I think it is coming together, I seem to come across so much more I want to clear. I think I am learning that it is a continuous mental challenge that we undertake; if we are one of those people who is trying to improve the way we do things on a daily basis. I am a single mum of three kids and know that with help like yours, I am becoming more organised and being able to distinguish the needs vs. wants in my life. I am slowly feeling more in control but boy....I agree with Margaret's comment that it is exhausting especially when others can't see how far you have come. I also appreciate greatly that it is not just me that finds this whole process daunting at times.

Thanks for your ideas and encouragement,

#5 Lol 2011-09-10 07:20
Margaret, I really feel where you are coming from perhaps if may make it easier for that there is a recycling industry out there that can take your old stuff and make it good and you don't have to carry the load?

Yvette, I really like this article as I believe we grow much quicker (life experience) these days and need to shed to grow, I found your look forward 12 months insightful. Thank you!
#4 jackie 2011-05-03 10:56
Yvette, I love your newsletter and I love the imagery about going away for two months or moving into a dream home. It is so true. A third of my stuff would be left or tossed! Hmmmmmm......
#3 Catherine Rutter 2011-05-02 04:32
I am decluttering! stages.
What I did not wear this Summer has gone to a box to be dated and sent to a charity shop if I haven't needed to go back to the box by next Summer...OUT
Winter clothes are in the wardrobe now and I don't need any second best beige pants...OUT As I go through I try on, and if I wouldn'y buy that garment today, it goes into the "nearly out" box.What can I do with my husband's attachment to everything he has "paid good money for" ???
#2 Rina Cooper 2011-05-01 09:44
Yvette - this is so timely - i have just taken next week off so that I can declutter the family room which has accumulated 6 peoples worth of "stuff". It looks like it will be up to me to make the decision on everyone's items and reduce the clutter.
#1 Margaret 2011-05-01 05:27
Hi Yvette,
That poverty mentality comment certainly strikes a note.
I struggle constantly to throw things out that may have any signs of life left in them. I think it all stems from my mum who lived through the war in the UK and used to tell me stories of recycling everything from jam jars, newspapers and wornout underwear to making children's winter coats from the good parts of her or one of the family's old ones. Things were still pretty grim for people for a good while after and it must have been quite difficult to live through rationing and the meagre allowances they had to exist on.
She found a use for everything and it has stuck with me that it is wasteful to throw anything away that is still useable even if it is ugly, chipped, cracked or falling apart. She also passed on the need to keep anything that may have sentimental attachments, hence years worth of Christmas cards to keep or at least recycle, something I have never got around to!!!
It has been a bit of a millstone over the years and I am really making an effort to be sensible but it is not without a surprising amount of emotional cost and it is EXHAUSTING!
It's comforting to read that it is difficult for others as well as myself.
I am in the middle of a sorting project so will continue along with your words of encouragement in my head!
Thanks Yvette,


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