When I tell people what I do, they ask me all sorts of questions about my work but this has to be the one subject that comes up the most.
Why do I find it so difficult to release my possessions and what can I do about it?
If you find yourself distracted by your possessions when you want to relax with a cup of tea, your wardrobe overflows making it difficult to decide what to wear, or, your surfaces need to be cleared before you can clean or prepare a meal, then you are affected by clutter.
Clutter is the stuff that gets in your way. The items may be treasured possessions, or paperwork and other disorganised debris, that has gathered on surfaces like it has a mind of it’s own.
Why is it we find it difficult to release some items?
A number of researchers have considered this question and further research is needed, but here are some of the reasons it’s not so is easy to tackle your possessions and clear clutter.
Perhaps the item:
- reflects something about you
- is part of your personal history, triggers memories, or has associations with family history
- relates to an experience or a gift received from a valued friend (even if you dislike it)
- is personified or has become familiar over time and you've come to believe it’s unique (perhaps you've given it a name)
- enabled a transition, such as a child's toy or blanket that helped them become more independent
Feelings about objects are complicated but they often change over time and as we change as individuals. We may be affected by memories associated with the items or fear of losing the item. Some people experience grief when releasing items.
So how might you manage this?
For some, the practical considerations are enough to enable them to clear clutter and release things they no longer need or love. It may make decisions easier to think about their lives with greater space and freedom, the physical, financial or emotional costs of keeping items in the home, or the benefits that others will derive from receiving donations.
Other approaches to try:
Acknowledge the emotions you are feeling, give yourself time to deal with them. Perhaps journaling or talking will support you but do get help if you need it. You don’t have to do it alone!
Think about where you are now and what’s important. Give thanks for the past but begin to focus on a positive present and future
Think about how you can keep the memory or sense of who you are without keeping the item (would taking photos or keeping a small part of the item be helpful? If you have lots of items, could you select a few to keep?)
- Give it time – take your time. Start with the easy items, keep items you aren’t ready to part with and come back to these later when you may feel differently
'Time is the wisest counsellor of all' - Pericles
You may need to give it time, but the very process of sorting through our possessions and removing the easier items brings focus and awareness. As we work on the task, we change and grow. And over time it becomes easier to release things that had felt meaningful but that no longer serve us.
Ready to clear clutter?