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Decluttering: What Are You Scared of?

One of the many elements of my job is helping my clients to identify what is making decluttering so hard for them. There’s a reason they’re in the situation that’s causing them distress, and it’s not always just a whole lot of Things. Sometimes just having me there to make the process easier is all it takes, but sometimes it runs far deeper than that.

My client Jane (not her real name) called me in to help her improve the presentation of her house which she was selling herself. It was a perfectly nice house, solid and attractive. But it hadn’t sold in 18 months despite her best efforts to market it.

She had listened to feedback from potential purchasers, friends and family and decided it was time for a fresh set of eyes to analyse the problem. We talked about the steps she had taken to present her home in the best possible light and the decluttering that she had already done.

Clutter Is Just A Symptom

After my initial review of the property we sat down together and had a serious talk. A talk about just how much she really, truly wanted to move. It appeared to me that Jane had been very tentative in her decluttering. The feedback she had received highlighted the daunting volume of highly eclectic objects still filling her house. She was adamant, yes, she wanted to sell her house.

So during the first stage of the Serious Open Home Prep we decided to simply store the majority of the objects we had identified as needing to go. Wrapping and stashing things safely in boxes to be transported to a storage unit was happening!

But Jane was becoming more and more anxious. She became a bit upset as we took down a large framed poster that had belonged to her late parents. So I paused our work and made a cup of tea. Time for a break and to talk over what was going on.

The reason she was selling her house? She had decided to volunteer overseas for a year, following in her parents well travelled footsteps. A noble and deeply kind, hugely life changing decision which she had made over two years ago.

It turned out, a large proportion of the things she owned reminded her of her beloved parents. Putting them away made her feel like she was putting away her memories of them. Together we identified that (you guessed it), every little action we took to move closer to her immediate goal of selling the house, took her closer to that big scary goal of volunteering overseas.

She was feeling fear at the thought of actually achieving this goal. She had been avoiding the feelings by not taking the steps she knew she needed to, to sell her home. She came to realise that she was sabotaging her dream by not showing her house in the best possible light. She was not allowing viewers to see themselves living in this house because it was so full of her Things.

Jane had a choice to make and lots of thinking to do.

So what’s holding YOU back from decluttering?

I know that if there’s something I know I need to do but I’m “Too Busy” it means I’ve prioritised it waaaaay down my list of Things I’d Rather Be Doing. It also might mean I’m uncomfortable with the idea of doing it.

Fear is only one of many possible feelings to blame for the avoidance of decluttering and other life changing actions we might wish to take. We make excuses, we avoid thinking about it, our minds skittering onto anything else.

Understanding that uncomfortable feelings are the reason for your struggle with decluttering (or other actions) is half the battle. Acknowledging the feelings and their source can help us to take those brave steps towards a future we only dream about.

In the end Jane decided to take some time to plan exactly where she would spend her voluntary year, and decided to rent her house out when she was ready. In the meantime we steadily packed the things she knew she didn’t need right now.

Once we had identified what was holding her back, storing her belongings became an act of progress. She was inspired by the stories she told me about the items we packed, her parents adventures and her dreams. As her house emptied she felt a sense of freedom, but she was also secure in the knowledge that her belongings were stored safely. And she donated a substantial amount of things that she knew she no longer needed.

The stages of letting go are different for everyone and it can take time. Sometimes it’s helpful to break down our big goals into more manageable steps, less scary steps, which help us to move forward without subconsciously throwing up huge walls of fear.

It will be very interesting to see how Jane’s adventure unfolds. What is YOUR adventure?

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