How Your Physical Clutter May Be Keeping You Emotionally Stuck

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When I went through a major downsizing process in 2015 and got rid of about 80% of my belongings, my intention was clear – to fit into a 160 square foot tiny house on wheels.

But what ended up happening when I got rid of the clutter was a complete surprise.

I found my life.

Yep, I didn’t know it at the time, but my life – my real life – had been hiding under all of that “stuff” all along! And my guess is, yours probably is too.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

My closet was so packed with clothes that I had to shove stuff in just to put laundry away.

My pantry shelves were disorganized and overstocked, yet I (or the family) always felt like there was nothing to eat. Every drawer and cabinet in my house was filled to the gills with stuff, but I couldn’t tell you what half of it was.

Every time I/we moved, we had to rent a huge truck just to carry all of my/our belongings!

If you’re an average American, at least one if not all of those statements probably apply to you. Clearly, they applied to me up until just a couple of years ago. It’s just become the “standard” way of life – accumulate a bunch of stuff and when you run out of space, get a bigger place so you can buy more stuff!

There’s even a commercial about it now – a furniture company shows a woman coming home from a shopping trip with lots of bags, only to find that she has no room to put it all away.

So, what does she do? She goes to the store and buys new furniture so she has more room for “stuff.” They even jokingly address the fact that she could get rid of the “stuff” as a solution, to which she responds with a resolute NO!

We’re constantly bombarded with these commercials, messages about all the new things that we “need” and the pressure to keep up with everyone else, it’s no wonder we’ve all ended up with homes overflowing with clutter.

But, I want to let you in on a little secret.

All of that “stuff” does not give you a joyful, abundant life. In fact, if anything, it keeps you from it. It keeps you constantly in a state of lack – there’s never enough, you always need MORE. Not to mention the stress of having to maintain and store all of the stuff that you already have.

But, as you downsize and de-clutter, you begin to see things in a whole new way. That grip on you begins to loosen and you start to feel an overwhelming sense of freedom and power, as you realize you don’t actually need all of this stuff!

And as you get rid of it, not only do you start to make physical room in your living space, but you also begin to experience mental freedom, financial freedom and maybe even heal some old emotional wounds along the way.

You have no room for anything new if you're hanging on to old 'stuff.'Click To Tweet

So what do you say? Are you ready to start de-cluttering and take your life back?

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Go slowly and work room by room

Any downsizing process, whether big or small, can be overwhelming. So be gentle with yourself and don’t try to do too much at once. Work through one room or space at a time and stay focused, don’t jump from room to room. Keep your de-cluttering to just an hour or two a day and reward yourself when you are finished by doing something you enjoy like taking a relaxing bath or watching a movie.

If you come across something that you’re not sure about it, set it aside in a separate pile and come back to it later when you’ve had some time away from it and can decide with a clearer head.

2. Let go of old identities or expectations

This is a BIG payoff from getting rid of your clutter. So often, we hold on to things that represent a version of ourselves that we used to be or that we hoped we’d be one day. But when you finally let go of that clutter, you are letting go of those old beliefs too. You are saying it’s okay that you aren’t that person anymore or that you never became that person that you or someone else hoped you’d be, but that’s okay… because you are accepting and embracing who you are NOW.

3. Let yourself feel it

A big source of clutter for many people is sentimental items – things that have memories attached to them. While it can be difficult to let go of these types of things, it is possible. In fact, by letting go of the physical items, often times, we actually allow ourselves to emotionally heal as well in the process.

For example, if you’ve been holding on to some things that belonged to a loved one that has passed, but they aren’t really serving you on a day-to- day basis or even bringing you joy when you look at them, then it is okay to let those items go. It’s important to remember that things are just things – not the person that they belonged to. So, you can still hold on to the memories in your heart and mind, while releasing the physical objects.

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4. Be honest with yourself

Honesty is KEY when going through your clutter because it is super easy to talk yourself into keeping things that you don’t need. So you need to set out to look at your belongings with as objective eyes as possible. When deciding whether to keep something or not, really think about how often you use it and if you’ve managed to go six months, nine months, a year without using it…you probably don’t need it.

This especially applies to clothes! Don’t get caught up in the “Oh, I forgot I had this…” nostalgia. If you haven’t worn it up until now, you probably aren’t going to wear it later. So get rid of it and concentrate on the things that you do use!

5. Enjoy your new perspective

Finally, the best part! Once you have started downsizing and de-cluttering, you are going to look at things in a whole new way. You’ll find yourself able to resist purchases that you don’t need and you’ll start putting more value on your time and your experiences, rather than your belongings.

So, enjoy yourself!

Start putting your time, energy and finances toward other things that you’ve always wanted to do. Mark some items off your bucket list! Get out of your house and out into the world!

But most of all, start enjoying your life.

It’s been waiting for you there all along, so don’t wait any longer. Now’s the time to stop surviving and start truly LIVING!

Jenn Baxter
Jenn Baxter is an accomplished writer in Charlotte, NC and a featured columnist on Beliefnet.com. In 2015, she launched her website, Live a F.a.s.t. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living, emotional health and downsizing. She also helps others learn to clean up their homes, their bodies and their lives in her e-course collection, “De-Clutter, De-Tox, De-Stress.” Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Jenn Baxter

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13 Comments

    • I find if my home is tidy, with everything in it’s place…that works well for me Sandra. Though that’s not always the case, especially when the family arrive…but I have reached a point where I don’t allow it to influence my joy one little bit! 🙂

    • Heh, thanks Sandra! Tiny houses are actually super fun and aren’t as claustrophobic as you might think! I know what you mean though… even after I downsized to 160 sf, I still find myself saying from time to time… “I have too much stuff!” 😉

  • Great tip on letting go of old identities and expectations for decluttering! I am thinking it’s time to do another round of decluttering exercise. Less clutter, more clarity!

  • I have moved 3 times in the last seven years. I used each move as an opportunity to declutter and rid myself of all kinds of stuff that I was carrying around. Turns out it was weighing me down mentally. I feel so much freer and lighter without it.

    I’ve been here 2+ years, and I’m feeling the itch to get in the closets and clean them out. 🙂

    • I know the feeling Debbie…I used to move every couple of years and it was an awesome cluttering clearing exercise. Today I’ve reached the point in life where I’m less interested in acquiring more ‘stuff’ and more interested in experiences. 🙂

    • That is actually what one of my main motivations to go tiny was too… when I stood behind the U-Haul the last time that I moved and wondered how in the world one person could fill up a 19ft truck! So glad to hear you’ve been able to de-clutter and that you are feeling the emotional freedom that goes with it! Good luck with the closets! 🙂

  • What an amazing article! I am suffocating in “stuff,” and I am definitely in need of a major change. Thanks for the motivation! 😀

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