by Susan McCarthy
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You think that you’re ready to tackle your clutter. You look around a room and know that there’s nothing there that you’re attached to and that a lot of the stuff can go. But then, the moment you start to declutter, and you pick up that first item, you’re filled with doubt.
Maybe you think that you could use the item “someday.” Or, maybe you worry about putting everything in boxes destined for Goodwill or The Salvation Army. You want to know that the perfectly good items that you’re giving away will go to the right home instead of a generic charity. The boxes sit open in your hallway or in a corner of a room so you can fill each box with items destined to go to just the right person.
You’re engaging in a subtle argument with yourself. You want to clear items from your home, but you want to know that someone will be happy to get them. On the one hand, you’ve decided, but on the other hand, you haven’t. Nothing leaves even though you’re sorting through your possessions.
The resulting feeling is frustration. The solution is to get clearer on why you are clearing things from your home.
Perfectionism Wastes Your Time
Wanting to declutter the “right” way wastes time. This is perfectionism. Perfectionism may be the result of fear – what if you get rid of something and need it later? What if someone goes looking for the glued-together salt and pepper shakers that once belonged to your grandmother? Who is the best recipient for the items you’re getting rid of?
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’re not alone. The things that you’re decluttering may have been gifts, they may have never been used or been used a single time, maybe they cost a lot of money, or you feel embarrassed that you bought something thinking that it would improve your life in some way.
I remember teaching a workshop about clearing clutter and a woman admitted that her home was pristine because when she got rid of something, she really just moved it into boxes that went into her basement. There were tears in her eyes as she explained that she kept, among other things, all the schoolwork her kids (now teenagers) had ever brought home because she was convinced that someday they’d want this stuff even though they told her they didn’t.
Her perfectionism was filled with the fearful doubt, what if?
Question Why You’re Decluttering
When someone tells me that they’re ready to clear the mess from their home, their goal is to have a neater home. If I ask why that’s important to them, they circle around and say that they have too much stuff they don’t want.
However, if you’re having difficulty making decisions about what to do with the things that you’re decluttering, going deeper can help clarify your reasons.
Knowing your why might not come easily to you. That’s okay. Chances are that you’re why will change, slightly or a great deal, as you declutter. You may start with the desire to clean up a room that’s become a dumping ground for empty shipping boxes, items that you planned to return, and things that you’ve decided to get rid of but you haven’t actually moved out of your house.
When you question why organizing that room is important to you, you might realize that you want to give your kids or grandkids a dedicated playroom, or you and your spouse want to turn it into a home gym, or you finally want to bring all your hobby stuff to a single place so you can enjoy using it more often.
When you think of these reasons, you can deepen your “why” by questioning why these goals are important to you. What will you gain from that dedicated playroom, home gym, or craft room? What emotions will you feel when you’ve recreated the room from dumping ground to a space that inspires you?
So, yes, your “why” may change depending on what you’re going through. You’ll have one reason for sorting through your closet and another reason for organizing your kitchen.
Uncovering your why could happen before you start or at any point while you’re doing the work. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of your intentions with each item you release.
Why Your Why Is Important
Questioning why decluttering is important to you will make the process of getting rid of things easier. What is more important to you – creating a space where you and your spouse can get healthy or trying to figure out just the right person to receive the bread maker that you haven’t used for the past five years?
When you get stuck during the decluttering process, you can look to your why and clarify how important the item really is to you and your home.
While some items may be a greater source of debate (“what if my child wants to see their old fourth grade spelling tests someday?”), when you get in the habit of asking why something is important to you (not why you think it will be important to someone else), you’ll find that making decision about your possessions will be filled with less doubt and that you can move more quickly though your stuff.
And, if every item fills you with doubt and indecision, then it may be time to talk to a therapist who can help you release the emotional strife connected to getting rid of items that you know aren’t important to you.
Get Clear on Your Why and Save Time and Overwhelm
Identifying why you want to organize your home will make the process of sorting through your possessions easier and faster. Continue to remind yourself of your reasons throughout the process of clearing your home so you don’t get stuck holding onto things that you don’t want.
If you find yourself rearranging things that you thought you’d get rid of, take a few minutes to look deeper and better understand your intentions. In my eBook, Clear Your Clutter and Create Space for Your Life, I take you through a series of questions to help you understand what you want from the process of organizing your home – what do you want from each room and how does that support your goals for your life.
Understanding your why will help you save time by eliminating overthinking your actions and arguing about the decision you’re trying to make.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.