In my last post, I discussed how our negative mindsets hold us back from decluttering and then flipped the script to turn negative mindsets into positive ones. Let’s revisit those mindsets one more time, and dig a little deeper to apply them to our mission to declutter.
Not knowing where to start, BUT refusing to give up —> ACCEPTANCE, GROWTH
A common thing I hear all the time about decluttering is “I’m so overwhelmed” or “I don’t know where to start,” so if you’ve ever thought the same thing, you’re in good company. I’ve been there, too!
But to move from AVOIDANCE to ACCEPTANCE, we have to acknowledge those feelings of overwhelm or confusion and move on. And once we’ve done that key mindset change, we can focus on dividing up the overwhelming task into smaller tasks. Still too big? Keep on dividing the task into its individual elements until you have tiny bite-sized tasks you can accomplish in 5-10 minutes or less. And then, just like “eating an elephant” as the saying goes, we tackle the project one bite-sized piece at a time.
Not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, BUT caring for our own as well —> GOOD COMMUNICATION
A lot of clutter comes into our home because of poor communication. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest parts of a decluttering journey, because inevitably someone, somewhere is going to want to pass something on to you because “I thought you’d like to have this random thingamajig of great-great-grandma’s” or “I saw this doo-dad and thought of you,” or “I heard you were looking for XYZ, and I found this, so here you are!”
And then, voila! One more thing we need to feel guilty about is sitting somewhere in a closet or the attic or on a shelf or wherever we put it. And it sits. And sits. Then gathers dust. But we just can’t get rid of it. Because our great-aunt’s cousin’s neighbor wanted us to have it. Not because WE want to have.
The solution is either learning the gentle art of refusal (quickly!) or expressing gratitude and reminding ourselves that the gift has served its purpose—to be gratefully received and appreciated—but may not be serving it now. And (gasp!) letting go.
Your great-aunt’s cousin’s neighbor wanted to give you something. But that something was not GUILT. (Or maybe she did. But that’s a whole other can of worms).
Try to have a standard response (and practice it) for times like this like, “Wow! That is so thoughtful of you. But I don’t really have room for it right now. Thank you, though. The though means so much.” Or perhaps, “Wow! That (random object they thought you should have) is certainly fun, but I don’t have any more room on my shelf.” And if you know someone really, really well and know how honest you can (or need!) to be with them, you can even say, “I really appreciate the offer, but that’s not really my style. I’d rather it go to someone who could use it more.”
In instances where the item is a gift, and not a random thing they “thought you might like” so they brought it over from Grandma’s house or something, be extra gracious. Receive the gift and the intention behind it. THAT IS THE TRUE GIFT. Somebody thought of you and wanted to give you this item. You can be grateful for that, even if they decided you would like a pair of socks with your school’s arch enemy’s logo on them.
However, you are not obligated to wear those socks. Or even to keep them forever. Remember: the act of giving was the gift. You have received that act and were grateful for it.
If you want, you can re-gift the socks to someone who LOVES that sports team (and isn’t in the original gift giver’s household, naturally!) Or throw out the jar of pickled pig’s feet you will never, ever eat. You can even sell a toy that your child has already outgrown (but they didn’t realize that), and it is okay.
The thought was the gift. You do not have to keep an item forever that you do not like, enjoy, use, or even need. It’s okay.
Being uncomfortable saying no, BUT holding firm —> HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
This is the backup to the previous mindset challenge, but it has more to do with requests for your time, presence, or obligation. It’s okay to say no. It’s even okay to say no and not give a qualifier. There does not need to be a REASON you say no. When you are trying to create margin in your life to better be there for yourself and your family, a kind, but firm “I’m sorry, I can’t right now,” or even just “No, thanks.” Is enough. I promise.
Feeling sad going through items, BUT fully feeling those things, and then letting the emotions pass so you can move on —> GROWTH, HEALING
I’ll be honest: sorting through things during periods of grief is not easy. I’ve been there. But the reality is I cannot possibly keep every item that I have gotten from being handed down to me after a loved one has passed away. My best tips for embracing a mindset of growth and healing in the process is to take it slow, be gentle on yourself, and keep decluttering sessions short.
This is also one instance when I might agree with Marie Kondo. If you need to, hold the item close. Embrace the memory (if good), release the emotion (if painful). Really give yourself time to FEEL. Savor the good; get rid of the uncomfortable feelings … let them flow through you. Cry, if needed. Then release them and choose to move on.
There’s a big caveat to that, though. If you do not think you could part with ANYTHING after touching it, then expedite the process by avoiding contact as much as possible to not let your emotions drive the decision making.
But once you have processed the emotion, you do need to make a decision. Are you keeping it? If so do you have a spot for it? Are you letting go? If there is someone who would love the item more in your family, by all means, ask if they would like to have it. If nobody does, donate, sell, or toss it, depending on condition and your willingness to handle the item again.
Feeling tired, unhappy, BUT choosing action and joy anyway —> GROWTH, HEALING
OH goodness, I’ve been here lately. True confession: when I wrote this, there was still discarded papers from multiple coloring sessions my son has had cluttering our living room because I’m too tired to deal with them. They just come back the next day. I need to handle them, though, and to teach him how to, as well.
Here is one of the places mindset change can really help, right from the get-go! I need to look at those papers, take a deep breath, and just dive in, with the mindset of GROWTH and I CAN DO THIS.
Some things you can do to combat those feelings is to take practical action. Tired? You might just be dehydrated. Drink some water! Unhappy? Have you been dwelling on the negatives lately? Find a happy thought and CLING to it! Maybe trick your adrenaline into working for you by setting a 5-minute timer and trying to beat it.
My recommendation? Pick the easiest thing to do, and ease yourself back into the game. Or, if you’re a sucker for a challenge, pick the HARDEST task to do, and do that first, to get it done and over with (eat the frog, as they say.)
Worries about needing something in the future, BUT trusting that there will be more opportunities —> ABUNDANCE, POSITIVITY
I have a feeling this mindset is having a resurgence moment, right now. I’d never understood my great-grandparents or grandparents mentally about hoarding even the most basic of items that are plentiful (grocery shopping bags, for instance) until recently. Because bags sure come in handy when you need a bathroom trashcan liner in a pinch or want to save money where you can. And they knew it!
Don’t be a grocery bag hoarder.
Or a broken pencil hoarder.
Or even a toilet paper hoarder.
YOU CAN GET MORE LATER.
Yes, even in this environment. It just takes a little longer, so PLAN AHEAD.
I’ve seen firsthand what a scarcity mindset can do, when allowed to run rampant, and let me tell you, it is scary and heartbreaking. And it is that kind of mindset, combined with extenuating circumstances, that can trigger a cycle of hoarding that is unhealthy.
In a less dramatic way, it can also hamper our ability to see beyond the present. A scarcity mindset is driven by fear and cripples our ability to seek growth. Don’t let it win. Choose to see that opportunity and abundance is not far away and achievable if needed.
Cringing at how much something cost/worrying about replacing it, BUT letting go because it is not the last time you will have the opportunity to get it —> ABUNDANCE, POSITIVITY
I get it. It’s embarrassing—even painful—to think about how much money you are throwing away by getting rid of things you purchased but haven’t used. Don’t think about it as money wasted, though, think about it as space wasted (and you only have a finite amount of storage in your home, unless you pay for a storage unit) and TIME wasted (moving clutter piles from one place to another). And while you can, for a price, get more SPACE. More TIME? You only get so much of that in a day, even if you outsource most of your tasks. So the TIME cost is even worse than the financial cost because TIME is our most precious resource.
Choose a positive mindset, here. You are freeing up space in your home for the things that you truly need and enjoy, while at the same time freeing up the time that it has robbed you of by constantly needing to be moved from one place to another.
Finally, I wanted to say, with all sincerity, something that I talked about over on my blog in more depth. And that is YOU ARE WORTH A CLUTTER-FREE HOME. That is not the sole dominion of millionaires and minimalists. Don’t just get your house in order out of shame or disgust or even an effort to “clean up” before company comes over. You, yourself, are enough, just like you are. So treat yourself with respect!
So yes. You CAN change your mindset.
So the real question is … will you?
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