When I talk about clearing clutter, some people get a little nervous.
“But what if I like my stuff?”
“I don’t want to live in a stark, white room.”
“I can’t get rid of my family photographs!”
Some get downright defensive. A woman on Facebook commented on a post about my book, What Your Clutter Is Trying to Tell You, with the following:
“I’m so damn tired of people telling me to get rid of my stuff. Maybe I want my books and piles all around me. I think people who live in empty houses have no soul.”
She was angry! But she really needn’t be, and here’s why.
I’m about to blow your mind. Are you ready?
No one gets to decide what is clutter for you but YOU.
There is no one-size-fits-all.
If a space filled with knick-knacks, baskets, blankets, and stacks of random stuff feels nurturing to you, then enjoy! If you’re someone who would energetically suffocate in that kind of environment, then it’s not for you.
Your home doesn’t have to be magazine cover worthy for you to be at peace. Instead, identify what adds value to your life and what doesn’t and sort accordingly. This goes for physical items, relationships, thoughts, or pounds (yes, weight is its own form of clutter).
The general rule of thumb I use: “If you don’t love it, need it, or use it, it’s clutter.”
And the opposite is just as true: “If you love it, need it, or use it, it’s not clutter.”
Which category your item falls into is determined solely by you. Not your spouse. Not your brother. Not your mother. Not your coach.
However, there is a caveat we must discuss.
When you’re desperate to keep something or someone, take some time to figure out why. Check in with your gut to be sure you’re making the decision out of love, need, or use and not out of guilt, fear, or obligation.
If your initial reaction to clearing things is as emotionally charged as the woman’s mentioned above, I guarantee there’s more going on there than just a desire to hang on to something.
Maybe you’re keeping those clothes because you hope to fit into them again while simultaneously sending yourself a message that you’re not good enough as you are.
Maybe you’re keeping Grandma’s locket because you feel guilty getting rid of it even though you never wear it. Where else in your life are you operating out of guilt?
Maybe you’re staying in your marriage despite being miserable because you’re afraid to be alone.
Maybe you don’t set boundaries with friends because you fear they won’t like you anymore.
Maybe you struggle to lose weight because you believe you’d feel exposed and vulnerable without the “protection.”
In the reactions I shared above, there is a sense of powerlessness; a thinking that you must live by some sort of universal rule when it comes to your belongings.
If something makes you feel good, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. If you struggle to let it go, take some guesses as to why and write down anything that comes to mind. Dismiss nothing as the more open you are to letting your resistance speak, the greater the wisdom that will come forth.
Before you cling to things, thoughts, or people, be sure they are worthy of occupying a spot in your life. Our time, energy, and space is finite so I recommend only accepting the most qualified (i.e. supportive, loving, precious, special, etc.) candidates.
No one knows how you truly feel but you, and when you’re willing to do the emotional heavy lifting; to light a match in that dark place, then you’ll be ready to let go of any and all unqualified candidates.
What say you about all this? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation in the comments below.