When 'Just Do It' Isn't
Coping with the Emotional Aspects of Clutter Clearing
by Stephanie Roberts
Getting rid of clutter
is essential to good feng shui!
from the Inside Out
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with the 'junk' no longer surrounding me. I sleep much better
at night. I highly recommend this program -- you will be amazed
at ALL the 'emotional clutter' you release. …The impact the
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One reason so many clutter-clearing efforts fail
or remain uncompleted is that we have this idea that all that it
takes to get rid of clutter is a little effort and determination.
While a "just do it" attitude does help you get started and persevere,
clutter-clearing is not quite so simple as that. Running unprepared
into the not-so-simple aspects of clutter can bring all of our good
intentions to a halt.
For every piece of clutter that has piled up
because we've been too busy or too distracted to deal with it, there's
probably at least one piece that you have avoided dealing with for
emotional reasons. The underlying problem is not procrastination,
it's that dealing with clutter means dealing with our own difficult
- Getting rid of clothes we'll never fit
into again means accepting our current shape and level (or lack)
- Getting rid of an expensive item we
never use means admitting that we made a poor decision when we
- Getting rid of books and magazines
we don't have time to read means accepting that we will never
have enough time or attention to explore every topic that's of
interest to us.
- Getting rid of possessions remaining
after a loved one has died means coming to terms with our loss
Acknowledge to yourself that clearing out your
clutter will involve some emotional risk. Start by exploring why
keeping certain kinds of clutter feels comforting to you. For example:
- If you grew up with very frugal parents
who taught you not to be wasteful, getting rid of items that are
still useful may trigger feelings of guilt. (This is very common
among the "Baby Boomer" generation, whose parents may have experienced
hardship and deprivation during the Great Depression and/or World
War II years.)
- If you grew up poor and hungry, surrounding
yourself with material goods may feel reassuring that you will
always have enough.
- If you suffer from low self-esteem
or come from an abusive environment, you may unconsciously feel
that you don't deserve beautiful surroundings, or that you will
be punished for trying to create them for yourself.
- If you have experienced a difficult
loss through the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage,
getting rid of that person's things can feel like a betrayal of
- If you have an attic or basement full
of supplies for a hobby you hoped would become a career, clearing
it out may feel like giving up on your dreams, or it may force
a confrontation with the fact that you are getting older.
- If you lack confidence in pursuing
a long-held dream, keeping your clutter can keep you from having
to go out and actually do it.
Healing and growth come from recognizing your
feelings, no matter what they are. If your enthusiasm for clutter
clearing suddenly turns into feelings of anger, resentment at the
task itself, or a vague sense of anxiety, that's a sign to pause
and reflect on what deeper feelings are being triggered.
Many of our reasons for hanging on to clutter
are, at their core, about fear: fear that we won't be equal to the
challenges of the future, and fear of confronting our regrets about
the past. Clutter can be comforting; it acts as a buffer between
us and reality.
Here are some points to help you maintain a perspective
of clarity as you work on your clutter:
- Living clutter-free does not mean living
in a sterile environment; it means getting rid of the excess so
that everything around you is there for a reason.
- The past is over and the future isn't
here yet. Confronting the emotions raised by clutter will make
living in the present less threatening.
- In the course of clutter clearing,
you may get rid of something that you later wish you'd kept. Emotionally
healthy people do feel regret; but then they let it go, trusting
that an equal or better item will be available if they need it.
- Letting go of regrets about your present
clutter will help free you from the fear of regret that drives
the accumulation of future clutter
- People who are able to live without
clutter trust themselves to make good choices. As you become more
conscious of what you allow into and keep in your home, you will
develop a higher level of trust your own decisions.
- Hoarding against an uncertain future
reveals a lack of faith in the ability of the Universe to provide
what you need at the time you need it. The antidote is to focus
on gratitude for all that you now have, and for all the ways in
which you are already being provided for.
If difficult feelings come up for you as you
work through your clutter, acknowledge them. You may discover that
you just aren't ready to confront some tasks or part with some things
yet. It is self-defeating to push yourself all at once through changes
that are too large for you today. Be gentle with yourself, take
baby steps, and work at your own pace.
Remember that the space you create by releasing
clutter will allow all kinds of gifts to flow into your life, on
the physical, spiritual, and emotional levels. Letting go of excess
makes room for blessings.
© 2003 Stephanie Roberts
[exerpted from "Clutter-Free Forever!", Lotus
Pond Press, 2003]
Stephanie Roberts is the author of "Fast
Feng Shui: 9 Simple Principles for Transforming Your Life by Energizing
Your Home", a #1 most popular feng shui book at Amazon.com.
Her new "Clutter-Free Forever!" e-book and Home Coaching Program
are now available at http://www.clutterfreeforever.com.
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Much Is Enough?
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Article: Clutter's Side Effects:
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Article: Clutter Clearing and Your
Forever! Home Coaching Program
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