Articles (Blog), Decluttering

Want A Happier Life? Try this.

Keeping Unhappy Things & A Story of Freedom From Bad Feelings.

Sometimes we do things that aren’t that great for us.

We drink too much, eat too much, hang out with people who don’t love us or have our best interests at heart. We exhaust ourselves doing too much and don’t prioritise time to sleep or exercise or prepare healthy food, just for ourselves.

We sometimes hold onto old resentments, bitter memories and revengeful thoughts. These thoughts and feelings can destroy families and friendships, and they can also eat away at our own personal happiness.

It’s hard to have a truly content and happy life when repeated, habitual thoughts leave a bitter taste in your mouth, or turn your stomach or make your heart race faster with anxious thoughts.

But isn’t it odd how sometimes those thoughts and feeling are relished? Sort of enjoyed? Dwelled on and pulled apart and analysed? And the thoughts of revenge! So satisfying!

The Tidy Lady

Why we keep Unhappy Things

Often we keep things as a reminder of someone who wronged us, of something unfair that happened or a terrible time. We know those things are there, lurking in a box, or we keep reading them, touching them, going through them, over and over again.

We recreate the event and the feeling that went along with it, again and again. Those feelings, those events, those people… We’re keeping them alive, those feelings of revenge, hatred and regret.

But it makes us feel righteous. It gives us feelings of power to think of revenge. Or it makes us feel guilty, deserving of unhappiness.

It’s those feelings that make it so hard to get rid of those things.

You might think to yourself, I should declutter that dusty old box, then you open it and remember. You see the unfairness, the shock, the pain, the anger. Then the thoughts kick in. I’m going to get them one day… I bet they’re really unhappy right now. I hope she’s fat and miserable!

Those righteous feelings flood your mind. Or feelings of fear, anger and hopelessness. Ugh! Too painful! So the box gets shut away to gather more dust and get in the way and make you feel BAD.

But it’s not the things themselves, lurking there, reminding you, smothering your happiness. Even the most blatantly cruel letter, the unfair claim, the record of disaster… that thing is not going to get up and bite you. It’s not going to kill you. It’s just a thing. They’re just words.

The Tidy Lady

Dealing with Unhappy Things

I once had a client who wanted to declutter some Unhappy Things. But they also did NOT want to declutter them.

They called me and asked for help decluttering their very small home. It was packed floor to ceiling with storage shelves and boxes. Their progress was amazing! They were so determined to declutter their space. Every session we worked through ideas for the next batch of things to go. We sorted and tossed and organised and each time I returned to see they’d finished the homework goal we’d agreed on.

We were getting close to finishing when we had a very tricky session. I’d learn’t a few sessions back that they’d met someone new and wanted to move into a new home. The new life they had planned was the reason it was so important to them to declutter their old life and all their clutter.

When I arrived at the tricky session there was a small pile of plain, brown cardboard boxes sitting in the middle of the once packed living room. My client was nervously eyeing them as if they might explode at any moment. They were personal papers we’d agreed to leave until last. They were the Unhappy Things.

My client did NOT want to deal with them. They knew they’d be overwhelmed with feelings.


They knew they’d never deal with them on their own. Together we opened the first box.

It was packed full of papers. They groaned. They wanted to go through each and every piece of paper, so they knew exactly what they were getting rid of and what they were keeping.

I gave them a couple of options. I could pre-sort them into piles of Least Horrible to Most Horrible or we could just work through from top to bottom. They chose pre-sorting. We did it in little bunches so they could look at each piece without feeling too overwhelmed.

We retrieved treasures, like passports, photos and cash (exciting!) Then in the midst of decades of phone bills up popped the first Unhappy Thing. My client leapt on it with bitter triumph. It was a break-up letter from years ago. They read it with snorts and sarcasm. They made a firm decision to keep it.

I looked at them and they looked at me. Then I said one simple sentence:

“Does this thing help you live a happier life?”

A dry laugh accompanied the letter into the shredding box.

They chose to let go of the story attached to that thing, to let go of the bad feelings. They chose to let go of righteous feelings and dreams of revenge.

Eventually the shredding boxes grew and the pile of scary boxes slowly shrank. I’d repeated the simple sentence quite a few times. My client and I had worked through their anxiety, tears and anger.

On the couch lurked a small pile of papers. These were Slightly Less Horrible Things that they’d decided to keep. Stuff that might be needed for any future small claims court evidence.

The Tidy Lady


We were loading the last box heading to the shredding service into their friends van when my client paused.

They ran back inside and came out with a small folder. They handed it to their friend and looked a bit sheepish. “They don’t help me live a happier life.” They had finally let go of the last traces of their bitter memories.

They had let go of the fantasies of taking people to court over events that had happened years ago. They were determined to live a new, happy life free from memories that soured their happiness.

They no longer felt the need to dwell on their unhappiness. They had broken the cycle of outrage, unfairness, revenge and power. By choosing to rid themselves of the things that reminded them and working through the bad feelings, they had freed themselves.

They had chosen freedom & happiness.

They had chosen a new way of living.


The Tidy Lady

Declutter & Life Coach | Tidyness Expert

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