After a fourth person just mentioned their recent urge to declutter, I decided I had to put something into words on this topic. It seems that there are many people feeling the decluttering bug at the moment and I believe there is a good reason for this.
Decluttering is part of the process of transformation.
Last year was nothing short of a HUGE shock to our systems. To our individual biochemistry as well as our collective. Certainly in my time on this planet, there has been nothing like it.
Things are not going back to how they were
By now, most of us have realised that our world has changed and like it or not, we are moving forward, even though somedays it feels more lateral or even backward.
So think back to the last time in your life when you experienced a huge shock or sudden change. It may have been losing someone you love, having a complete change in identity like becoming a mother, father, grandparent. Perhaps it was a separation or divorce, loss of a job, a change in location, region or country, a serious illness, an accident or injury that dramatically changed things for you.
After the shock, and the shock can last a while with any of these examples, a year or several!
But after the shock, came the realisation that life would not be the same as it was before. And it’s here we find ourselves today.
With the realisation that you are slightly or dramatically different, comes the knowing that you have slightly or dramatically different needs and preferences.
Out with the Old
There are things around you that no longer fit. They represent the OLD you, the one before the shock and they don’t provide the same comfort or satisfaction or even useful purpose to the NEW, changed you.
This is completely normal.
The urge to declutter and move out the old to make space for the new comes after a big shock or change so that we can keep evolving into who we are meant to be. We aren’t supposed to stay stuck in old patterns, old identities, old (or young) bodies, old ways of thinking.
Have a look around you. Nothing stays the same, ever. And if you want to contest me on that I would say you’re looking but not really seeing. If we observe properly with full attention nothing is exactly the same as it always was. And neither should you be.
So to the folks who have revealed to me a ‘strange’ recent decluttering urge. I would say;
It’s not at all strange but a completely rational and normal in response to 2020. So follow your gut instinct. Clear out what no longer feels true, resonant and useful to you. Make space for what the new you really needs and desires.
But wait, I want to declutter but feel stuck
To those of you who have the urge to clear away the old but are procrastinating or having trouble letting go, I would say;
Decluttering is tiring work, tackle a little pile or a corner at one time rather than turning your house upside down and causing more stress. Do one tiny bit then stand back and notice how good it feels/ looks. It will give you the confidence to move onto the next tiny bit. Even a whole room at once can feel like too much so begin with a single draw or surface.
One of the things I used to recommend to clients when I had my decluttering business was to set a timer for 30 mins and go hard, then walk away once that timer goes off. Go outside, sit in the sun with a cup of tea, look for the horizon, take a walk round the block, take a moment and some deep breaths to recalibrate. Short bursts are such a good way to tackle the overwhelm and emotional heaviness of this work.
Find the meaning attached to your stuff
If decluttering seems hard because it’s about letting go of an old identity or role, I would urge you to think about the meaning you may be attaching to the stuff.
For example, it would be very tough to pack up and give away a bunch of clothes you used to wear to corporate office meetings if you lost your job during the pandemic and your mind is telling you you’re no longer important, useful, smart, savvy and providing for your family properly.
It would be equally difficult to pack up old things that no longer fit or feel good if you’ve attached thoughts of ‘that was when I was sexy, desirable, fun, beautiful, slender or fit’ to those items and throwing them out, in your mind means those days are over.
Please don’t beat yourself up in this way.
Instead, stop and think about the meaning you’ve assigned to the ‘stuff’ then see if you can challenge it. Instead of ‘those days are over’ maybe it can sound like ‘THOSE days are over, however, new days are ahead and I’m excited to express myself differently now’.
Detach from the old meaning and refocus
Focus your attention on who you are becoming rather who you are saying goodbye to. This will make it a whole lot easier to let go. This doesn’t mean you need to ignore feelings that come up when you are clearing and sorting through your old stuff. The key is, not to dwell on whatever story is attached to those emotions.
Acknowledge whatever arises for you and see if you can look at it with curiosity. The aim is to not drag those stories and old identities with you into your future or it will limit your potential. See what the item represents to you then come back to who you are now and where you are headed.
Allow yourself to really feel into the possibilities for your future. If this means closing your eyes and using some breaths to come back to centre, visualising a goal or dream you are working towards then do that regularly through the process. When you connect with who you are right now and who you’re becoming, the old stuff and any ideas attached to it no longer holds the same value making it easier to let go of.