Clutter is the result of delayed decisions. We can be caught up in the net of our emotional past.  Experiencing emotions evoked by the memory of how items came into your life can seem daunting and draining. The fear of going through these emotions can lead to procrastination.

Yet, every time you see the pile, it brings up emotions anyway. You still experience the emotional, mental, physical drain. Why not just address it once and for all? I promise, it won’t be as bad as you fear.

This post lists 5 easy steps to address emotional attachments to items, and let go of what no longer serves you.

For years, I’ve used Organizing from the Inside Out to organize my home. What I like about Julie Morgenstern’s book is that her method lists examples of using a logical process to work with a person’s existing habits. What the book doesn’t have a lot of is how to address the emotional past to let go of items. I notice that emotions keep people stuck when it comes to clutter. Here is my own process that evolved from what I’ve learned from her:

Do this part after sorting your items.

Only handle it once (OHIO)

Cluttered stacks are deferred decisions. Keep this process simple. Why pick it up, then postpone it for later? That would create more work (picking it up again later to do the same thing).

Play this game: Imagine having glue stuck to your fingers; you cannot let go of it until you’ve judged its fate. Muhuhuhahahaha! (It’s okay to play with this.)

Notice the emotional attachment you have to each object you pick up.

As you pick up each item, ask:

  1. What emotional memory arises? Bad memories can drain you of energy. If you keep items and photos with happy memories around you, it will boost your energy. If an object evokes a happy memory, keep it. If someone you’re not fond of  gave it to you and you feel obligated to keep it, let it go. If you spent money on it and feel guilty for not using it, give it away. Obligation drains energy.
  2. Does this object remind me of a task I must do? Sometimes looking at items can add to our task list. “I’ll read this book someday.” Or, “I need to repair this.” Does the task seem daunting? Do you have time to do the task? Does that overwhelm you? If not, list the task and group objects together with similar tasks. If it does, donate the item, and let go of the need to do the task altogether. You’re free! Yippee!
  3. Does this serve me now? Keep only items that you can use now and do use regularly.
  4. Is this my past or present? People change, as do you. Only keep personal effects that express the uniqueness of who you are, in this moment. Bless someone else (meaning, donate it) with the rest, no matter how nice it is.
  5. Do I want to keep this out of love or fear? If you love an item, keep it if it’s passed through questions 1-6. If you tell yourself you’ll keep it “just in case”, let it go and bless someone else with it. If you have more than one of an item, keep one or two, bless someone else with the rest. After all, how many black shirts or pens do you really need?
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3 Responses to 5 ways to sever emotional attachments to clutter

  1. flyintheface says:

    Awesome blog. Really useful and totally addressing issues all of us have. Thank you! Also, you deserve an asskicking medal for persevering with NIA. What an amazing thing you are doing!
    drop by anytime.

  2. Thank you! I love how I feel when my home is in order. I wrote this post to help my sister, who is less enthusiastic about organizing as I am. I’m glad that this approach can help others.

  3. […] Every day, ask yourself, “What am I willing to let go of today?” Put one item (or more) into a box to give away. Have your kids do the same. Put a smiley face on the […]

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