What's Holding You Back from Simplifying Your Home
Updated: Feb 13
Clutter is certainly nothing if not easy to accumulate, but no so easy to clear once it's taken hold.
Decluttering your home and letting go of the physical clutter is the first step to simplifying your life, but what if you are getting stuck with this step?
All of us give ourselves excuses or tell ourselves lies as to why we can't do something - even without noticing. Most of the time we don't believe these reasons to be true, but regardless, they can impact the way that we live, the decisions we make and even the state of our home. If there is a struggle on the inside, there will always be a struggle on the outside.
Is your mental clutter preventing you from letting go of the physical clutter, and moving forward?
Here are some of the most common internal reasons that keep our homes (and lives) cluttered.
When we decide to make a lifestyle change, we are forced to evaluate our thoughts and beliefs, which is why we often feel it is easier to stay as we are - even though we know we need to make a change.
We put off decisions every day about what we need to do with things - items that need to be cleaned or repaired, what we need to hold onto and what we can let go of. It's often a quick and easy decision to move clutter to an available, momentarily convenient place with the best intention that we will do something with it one day soon. We will get it repaired, sell it, donate or make use of it it, but we sometimes feel it is easier to put it aside for another day than to deal with it at that time.
Have you ever found yourself opening a cupboard or box to sort through, and then just putting it all back because you don't want to have to make the decisions needed about contents? I
Decluttering involves lots of decisions - whether we need to keep something or not, is it important? Will I need it one day? Does anybody else need it? Could I give it away? Who could I give it too? Where should it go?....
Even the thought of having to answer these questions can feel overwhelming, so we end up moving and storing things to delay the decisions of how to let it go, rather than solving the problem and making progress.
If you put off getting things done for no real reason, you need to remind yourself that tomorrow has no more time than today and that putting off decisions drags each new day down with yesterday's unfinished business. There may be a better time down the road, but the clutter that you have now is adding to your daily stress.
Perfectionism is also just another form of procrastination.
The need for perfectionism can keep us stuck for a very long time. It forms an inner barrier to clearing clutter because a perfectionist can't do anything other than a perfect job. Without enough time, energy and other resources to do a 110% job, perfectionists prefer to procrastinate and let matters - and clutter - build up. It's all or nothing thinking.
Perfectionists often have unrealistic expectations for themselves of what can be achieved. From thinking that they can get a space or area of life perfectly decluttered and organised in one day or an afternoon, to thinking that they can do everything themselves. Then becoming discouraged when they realise that it can't be done and giving up.
"If it's going to get done right, I need to find the time to do the whole house - all myself",
Perfectionists want to have every little thing organised, but often have nothing organised and are living in chaos, because they are waiting for the perfect conditions to start.
Another obstacle that perfectionists come across when decluttering is trying to find just the right place for their clutter to go to. The problem is trying to find just that right place can keep us stuck for a very long time.
Even though it no longer has a use, you don't want to throw it away because you are concerned about it being added to landfill, so you'll just keep it. You can't donate it just yet, because even though it's clean, you really should give it yet another wash. Or, you're waiting for your niece to move into her first home because she will need that old set of saucepans that have been sat in the loft gathering dust for months. But, the reality is that you find it easier to give them to someone else to ease the guilt you feel about letting them go.
To ease your desire for perfect placement, choose a charity with which you feel a strong connection to donate items and always recycle items that can't be donated in the best way possible.
It's OK wanting things to be the best that they can be, but perfection should mean knowing and accepting when things are good enough. We are only human and can only do so much at one time.
I totally understand how perfectionists think and feel as I am guilty of this mindset too sometimes, but I am learning to stop myself and say enough is enough when I find myself being unrealistic in my expectations.
We can become attached to stuff for lots of different reasons, but most come from a place of fear, guilt or insecurity.
Perhaps there is unresolved fear - Fear of letting go or of not having enough. Fear of making a decision that could be wrong. Fear of feeling something like regret, loss or guilt. Fear of failure. Fear of change or the unknown. Fear of the present, the past or the future.
When we tell ourselves that we should keep it because we might be able to make use of it one day, we are essentially holding onto solutions to problems that we don't yet, maybe will never have, cluttering up our lives now. Weigh up the difficulty of letting go on the day of the declutter versus the pain of living with and maintaining it all every day. You may miss something right after it's gone, but I doubt you'll even remember most of what you donate or recycle.
From thinking that paperwork from 10 years ago might be too important to throw away, to keeping items for sentimental reasons or that others have given us because we would feel guilty giving them away. And those 'just in case' items that might come in handy someday.
Keeping things makes people feel safe. Being surrounded by stuff can give us an emotional sense of security. But we place more value on things than they deserve.
Many clutterers are fearful of change. They're afraid that if they put things away, they won't remember it because they won't see it. But it's a perception of order. You may initially recall the electricity bill is next to the potted plant in the kitchen, but it will soon be buried by the other items that you need in plain site too.
Keeping things because you might need them one day. This on the surface is a tough one, because how do you know you'll never need those half-used batteries, old receipts, or that there wasn't some life-changing information in those unread newspapers or magazines.
The truth is, most of the stuff that we keep, we don't need. That one day may never come. And often, when we do keep something 'just in case' and get to the point that we do think we could use it, we can't find it anyway. So we end up buying another one.
Everyone fears throwing something out only to realise in six months, one year or five years down the line that they should have kept it. There will always be times when something that you have thrown out could have been useful.
When we tell ourselves that we should keep it because we might be able to make use of it one day, we are essentially holding onto solutions to problems that we don't yet have (and maybe will never have), cluttering up our lives now. Weigh up the difficulty of letting go on the day of the declutter versus the pain of living with and maintaining it all every day. You may miss something right after it's gone, but I doubt you'll even remember most of what you donate or recycle.
Practice an abundant mentality.
Researchers at Yale have identified that two areas of your brain associated with pain (the anterior cingulate cortex and insula) light up in response to letting go of items that we own and feel a connection towards. This is the same area of the brain that lights up when we feel physcial pain.
The benefits of living a simpler, less cluttered life far outweigh the occasional 'If only I still had that" regret. We are far better off letting go of the things that we could live without, so we have more time and space to enjoy life now, and very occasionally having to go out and borrow or buy the things we really need.
Not acknowledging that clutter is a problem
For some, actually taking ownership of the fact that there is a clutter problem can be terribly disconcerting and stir up feelings of uncomfortable embarrassment, which then manifest in denial issues. Once we are in denial, we face yet another challenge, in that it's impossible to change what we don't acknowledge.
If you refuse to believe that clutter is affecting you negatively, then nothing is going to change. So taking personal responsibility and being honest with ourselves is vital to any decluttering or editing process.
Not living in the now
We try to hold onto the past by holding onto things. We may not want to accept the way that things are now and the life that we currently have. We keep things based on aspiration and hope - a hope to lose weight, catch up on reading, or finishing an abandoned project. Things that we hope to use one day when we eventually find the time and energy, This brings us back to procrastination, and the benefits of simplifying our life so that we actually get to enjoy our life now.
Lack of goals and focus
When we don't have a clear idea of what our priorities and goals are, we keep everything 'just in case'. When you have a clear picture in your head of the way that you want your life and home to look and feel like, it makes it easier to let the clutter go.
Lack of confidence in yourself
The little negative voice that pops up in your head that say's that you are not capable of sorting it - "Organising is hard", ""I'm not an organised person", "I can't do that", 'It's too overwhelming" or "I can't change". As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right".
Feeling resistant to a change in your life is entirely natural, as are feelings of anxiety. Although we may essentially want to make significant changes, human nature determines that we are somehow comfortable with what's familiar to us - even if that familiarity means chaos. The unknown and the potential for living life differently can be daunting, so accept any resistance you may feel as normal. You will be okay!
Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start
Once clutter has built up, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the prospect of having to go through it all, having to make lots of decisions and having to physically remove it from their home and don't know where to begin with decluttering.
This is a common theme amongst our clients asking for help. As soon as I say "we will work with you to develop a plan to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be" you can feel the frustration and overwhelm already starting to melt away!
You don't have to wait until you have enough time to sort through your entire house, or even a whole room - just try small areas or even a drawer for 15 minutes. At least that drawer will be better than it was yesterday. As you feel a sense of accomplishment in one area, you can carry your momentum to do something the next day. It doesn't matter where you start - just make a start!
Do any of these sound familiar? What's holding you back?
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