Decluttering can be exhausting work. I'm sure you already knew that from experience.
Recently a client said to me at the end of a four hour session, "Why is this SO exhausting? I mean I know this is hard physical work but it feels like more than that. How come?"
She hit the nail on the head with that observation. Here's the thing: it's really not about the stuff. Yes, it's very tiring to move stuff around, lift heavy boxes, and do the equivalent of 50 squats picking stuff up off the floor but that's just part of what's going on. The real stuff that's going on it that decisions are finally being made and some (ok, a lot) of those decisions are hard.
By going through what I refer to as the "backlog" of stuff that has been ignored, compartmentalized and avoided at all costs (Can't have anyone over? Lock up certain areas of your home for fear that someone will see your mess? Blood run cold when the doorbell rings? Than you know what I'm talking about here). [bctt tweet="When we are decluttering, we are opening up our minds and hearts to all kinds of emotions and memories. "]
I've heard hundreds of variations of these things while working with clients:
-I can't believe I haven't dealt with this until now. What's wrong with me that I let it get to this place?
-OMG I have so much shit to do! I feel like my brain is going to meltdown. This is too overwhelming. There is something important in the other room...I need to go deal with that right now. (Wanders off and gets on Facebook or starts another project.)
-I've always hated this sweater that my parents gave me. They never really get my style and it hurts my feelings but I can't get rid of it because they'll notice.
-My family doesn't care enough to clean up after themselves. Why should I do everything?
-I had so much fun in college and I love hanging on to all the papers I wrote because it reminds me of awesome times. I wish my life was still that carefree and exciting!
-God I spent so much money on that thing for my kid and there it is waded up on the floor! ARGH. It's so disrespectful.
I could go on but you get the point. See how it going through a pile of stuff can bring up a wide range of thoughts, emotions and memories?
It takes a lot of energy to go on that rollercoaster ride!
Sometimes it really is about the stuff. Like deciding which set of dishes you like better.
But I gotta tell you, I've worked with hundreds of people and that sort of lightweight decision making takes up about 15% of our time together. The rest is sorting through memories and deconstructing stories.
So next time you're working on a project and you're feeling that glazed-eyeball feeling creeping in, do these things:
1. Take a step back and listen to what's going on in your head. Is it your voice or the voice of your parents, your spouse or someone else who has had a lot of influence in your life. Get curious instead of upset. Imagine you are eavesdropping on someone else. What do you hear?
2. Walk away for a few minutes. When we are in overwhelm we need to do something to get us grounded again. Go outside and look at the trees and the sky. They are just hanging out doing their thing. They have no other agenda other than to just be. Breathe in that openness and stability. Life doesn't have to be crazy complicated.
3. Do the easy stuff first. Low hanging fruit for the win! Taking out the garbage and recycling, breaking down empty boxes, dumping the dirty laundry that needs to go in a hamper, tossing those moldy flowers and long dead plants, grabbing all the coffee cups and dumping them in the dishwasher. Once we get that no-brainer stuff out of the way the space will feel better immediately and it will give us a surge to move on to the next group of stuff.
4. Be patient with yourself. I know that's a tall order but you gotta remember that this stuff didn't appear out of thin air and has probably been there for a while. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you declutter your house? Twenty minutes at a time. Be patient, be kind and use your timer!
5. Get some help when you get stuck. Need some accountability? Then do yourself a big favor and find an accountability buddy!
And of course if you'd like to work with me one-on-one you can find details here.
I'd love to know, what's a common thing that pops into your head when you're decluttering your stuff? Did I hit on one of them here? Let me know in the comments below.