In case you missed it, decluttering is “in”. Thanks to books like Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, films like Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, and of course, blogs like this one, the word is spreading about how much more fulfilling life can be without all the clutter.
People are digging into their neglected closets, tackling the stacks of boxes in their attics, and sweeping out their drawers and cabinets, and all this momentum is infectious!
I don’t know about you, but I can certainly feel our cultural tides begin to shift towards the shores of simplicity and purpose.
With all the talk these days about clutter and paring down, most people can easily see the benefits of having a cleaner home.
After all, who doesn’t like walking into a tidy and spacious house, where they can actually see the corners of the floor and know exactly what’s in their pantry?
Count me in!
The temptation of buying and collecting doesn’t pull quite as hard once you’ve experienced this feeling of being able to breathe, no longer fettered by the junk you’ve gathered over the years.
And while this amazing sensation of lightness is a big selling point to the minimalism movement, it’s not the only benefit that deserves mention.
We are all creatures of comfort — we enjoy nesting in our homes, surrounded by things we like, and we all have the tendency to form bonds with material things, whether we consider them “sentimental” or not.
The state of our emotional and spiritual health often shows itself in our daily behaviors, especially when it comes to how our homes look and how we handle resources.
The items in your closet and the categories in your bank account reveal a lot about what you find important, the things in your past that you haven’t let go of yet, and the manifestations of your own internal struggles. Our minds, hearts, bodies, and physical possessions are inextricably linked.
While it’s easy to enjoy decluttering for the cleanliness it brings, it’s worth noting the deeper and more profound effects too. We’re all trying to heal from something, and minimalism can be more of a medicine than we realize.
Here are three emotional shifts you may encounter as you clear out your clutter.
1. Grieving a loss.
Whenever we lose someone we love, we tend to hold on to their stuff. And while this serves an important purpose in the grieving process for a while, it’s not entirely healthy to hang on to it forever, as this can block the final act of letting go.
Choosing one or two items of theirs to treasure and display is a nice way to honor their importance in your life, but you may feel burdened by any more than that (e.g. the half dozen boxes in the crawlspace).
Decluttering can be a very emotional process, and sifting through a loved one’s things is an opportunity to work through and release parts of your grief that you’ve been holding on to.
2. Making way for the new.
We are constantly in flux, or as the Buddhists say, “there is no constant self.” Each version of ourselves tends to amass a collection of material goods, related to the work, hobbies, or interests we have at that moment in time.
However, if we are always hanging on to the physical items that belonged to our “past selves”, we may find it difficult to grow and evolve naturally, and may feel bad about wanting to try something different.
We tend to beat ourselves up for not enjoying the same things we used to, or not getting enough use out of some equipment we once loved, but when those things are cleared away, there is space and energy to invite in the new you!
3. Investing more in relationships.
One of the best things about decluttering is that, the less stuff you own, the less time and energy you have to spend maintaining it. Pair that with the shift in priorities that many new minimalists experience, and you’ve got a great opportunity for more quality time with the people you care about.
When you’re not slaving away on cleaning or shopping, you can play with your kids, plan a date night with your significant other, or finally catch up with a friend over coffee.
The most important thing you can give to your loved ones is your time and attention, and that gift will strengthen your relationships and fulfill you far more than any material thing ever could.
You certainly don’t have to start tackling your clutter with your emotional health in mind. In fact, it’s often easier to simply focus on the physical space first.
But now you know, as you go through your home and clear out the things that you no longer want or need, you may be making space in your heart too.
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