by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: If you feel busy, but can't see what you're accomplishing, step back and ask yourself what tasks you've completed. If you can't name what you've done, then perhaps you need to identify the goal you're working toward.
While decluttering, you pick up an item and think, “Hmmm, I don’t know what to do with this.” You hold the item for a few minutes while options drift through your mind. Then, you decide to – decide later. The item gets set aside.
An hour or two later you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and you can’t tell what you’ve done even after all that time decluttering.
The problem is, you haven’t really decluttered. All you’ve done is reviewed what you own.
Why You’re Failing to Declutter
There are any number of reasons for why you keep setting stuff aside, unable to decide whether it is valuable to you or it is something you can release. None of these reasons have anything to do with the amount of clutter you have – or even if you feel overwhelmed looking at that clutter.
See, you aren’t really overwhelmed by the clutter, you’re overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make and the emotions you feel about having to make these decisions.
How to Minimize Your Stuff When You're Reluctant
If there are areas in your home where you have no problem decluttering, then work on those areas. However, if you find that you're moving items from one pile to another and you aren’t meeting your goals, you may need assistance to get started or even to guide you through the entire process.
Therapy – If you aren’t in therapy, it may be time to find a therapist. Explain that you are having difficulty making decisions while decluttering your home. Although it’s reasonable to expect that this person will ask for some of your history, you want someone who can help you with this particular situation as opposed to having you talk about your relationship with your parents or ex session after session.
Professional Organizer – You may also need to hire a professional organizer who works with people who hoard or who have chronic disorganization. You may not have a hoarding disorder, but these professionals have gone through extra training to help people who have a difficult time letting go.
Body Double – If you can’t afford to hire a professional organizer, consider getting the help from a patient, caring friend who has no connection to the items. Here’s an important trick – have them handle the items and show them to you so that you don’t touch the items. This is called body doubling and it helps distance you from the emotions you may feel while handling an item. You sit there as the person takes an item out, shows it to you, and then puts it into a trash bag or a donation box according to your decision. Your body double does all the physical work.
Time – If you don’t have a deadline that you must adhere to; then declutter the items that you can (maybe kitchen items or things like partly burned candles that you have few emotional attachments to). Even decluttering a single item a day is progress and can help you feel comfortable letting go of items.
When you encounter a box of items that you can’t decide what to do with, close the box, write the date three or six months from now on the box, and look at the items again, at that time.
The requirement here is that you (or your body double) take the items out of the box so you can see what the items are as opposed to building up in your mind the importance of the items … only to find out that most of the box was filled with old grocery lists and word search puzzle books.
Why Organizing Books Won’t Work
Although you may think that you need a new, better book about decluttering and organizing, remember that your issue isn’t with the action of decluttering but the emotions surrounding the items. You want to get to the point where you can decide to release the items that you know aren’t important to you.
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The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).