One More Time, With Feeling

We all know clutter can be an emotional thing. But why do we keep stuff that makes us feel bad? The answer might surprise you.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

You're probably familiar with the experience of hanging onto something -- a blanket, a dress, a mug -- because of how it makes you feel. It might have happy memories tied to it, or it might have been a gift from someone important to you. Sentimental clutter at least seems to make logical sense. But what about stuff that makes you feel bad? Doesn't make sense to keep that, does it? But you do. We all do.

It might be the clothes that don't fit anymore because you've gained weight. Or the craft supplies that make you feel guilty because you don't do fun art projects with your kids like you tell yourself you should. Or maybe it's the very expensive camera you bought yourself after taking that photography class three years ago -- the one that's been gathering dust in the closet since then.

Shoulda coulda woulda.

It's aspirational clutter, and it can do a number on you. I'm gonna get a little Oprah with this, but hear me out.

You look at that stuff and feel like you are worse than you wish you were. You want to lose the weight. You want to spend more time with your children. You want to follow through with the things that you start. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be "better" than you are, but sometimes there's a fine line between personal growth and beating yourself up.

The fact of the matter.

We live here, in the now, as who we are, in the places we occupy, with the people around us. There is no other way. So ask yourself this: Does the me I am today deserve to live my life without being surrounded by things that make me feel guilt, doubt, and shame? Or do I deserve to be punished for past mistakes, difficult choices, changing circumstances, or shifting priorities -- even though I am doing the best I can?

Go on. Ask yourself. I'm not just being rhetorical. Bring to mind some specific aspirational clutter in your life, then read those questions out loud, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and listen to your thoughts in response. Read the reaction in your body. Tight gut? Tense shoulders? Flushed face?

If only it were that simple.

Decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of are very personal. Even when I am working one-on-one with a client, I never give advice on whether something should stay or go. My aim is to help people decide, not to decide for them. Only you know what belongs in your life, what deserves your space and your time and your attention. I'm here to remind you that stuff is just stuff -- until it isn't. Be kind of yourself. You deserve it.

Have an inquiring mind?

I'm doing a decluttering Q&A live on my Facebook page tomorrow, May 18th, at 8pm Eastern. You don't need a Facebook account to watch. Event details are here. Hope to see you there.

Tell me how it goes.

If this tip worked for you -- or if it didn't -- share your thoughts below, or you can drop me a line here. I'd love to hear from you. Truly.


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