My decluttering journey started when I became a new mom. Sleep-deprived from infant feedings and battling desperation and emotional ups and downs, I began sorting through piles of childhood collections, mounds of hand-me-down baby items, and years of clearance finds.
Time after time, I’d find myself sitting on the floor in the middle of the piles, with tears streaming down my face.
Where did all this stuff come from? Books were piled on the floor because the bookshelves were jammed full. The two-car garage was filled with boxes and couldn’t fit the cars in. The attic and closets were stuffed with things that I simply didn’t know what to do with.
As I looked at the mess, I realized I had a problem. The clutter was hurting my heart, and my heart was, in turn, hurting my mind. I couldn’t make decisions because my heart was conflicted!
I quickly learned that decluttering without a holistic process leads to burnout from the emotional and physical demands. The clutter epidemic isn’t just in the home, but also in the mind, body, and soul.
The more possessions surround me, the heavier the sighs become in my body. The more tired I feel. Sadness, anger, confusion, regret, and a feeling of hopelessness sink in. If I don’t take the time to care for my heart in the decluttering process, I’m setting myself up to get stuck.
Regardless of what kind of material items fill our homes, the reality is that our hearts are probably connected to that stuff. Memories, childhood, gifts, keepsakes, antiques… Our stuff tells our story. And without gentle care, our hearts are going to tell our heads to stop letting go.
To overcome this hurdle, I began to take care of my heart by preparing, recharging, and listening.
1. Set Clear Boundaries
It is vitally important that before you start digging through your stuff, you take some time to identify what you are, and aren’t doing. The clearer your boundaries, the less overwhelmed your heart and mind will be. Take out a piece of paper, and write down:
• I am decluttering ________ (define the area)
• One thing that’s working now in this area is ____________
• One thing that’s NOT working now is ________________
• I would like this space to be ___________________
• I commit to decluttering this space in ______________ (time frame)
Gaining clarity and establishing boundaries reduces overwhelm in your mind, and keeps your heart from diving into difficult situations.
Thinking about what you want for the space, as well as what works and what doesn’t, gives a structured and focused plan that incorporates your heart and mind. You’re setting yourself up for success!
2. Go Slow & Take Breaks
There are so many methods to declutter a space, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, if your heart is in conflict with your mind, I strongly recommend a slow approach. There are situations that can benefit from quick decluttering, but if you’re struggling, slow and consistent is the way to begin.
Reduce or eliminate distractions, set a timer for a short burst of time (15-30 minutes) and work in a small area. Before beginning, close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths, letting your muscles completely relax.
Then, say an affirmation out loud such as “The process of decluttering is valuable to me. I am present, and will make progress in this process.” If you find yourself getting stuck on sentimental or emotional items, set them aside for later and keep moving through the area. You don’t need to tackle the hard things until you’re ready!
After you’ve worked for a short burst of time, take a break. Go for a walk. Breathe some fresh air. Read a book. Rest your soul. The break may last for minutes, hours, or even days, but it’s important to commit in your heart to finishing your decluttering project. Allow yourself breathing room, but promise yourself to come back to the task.
3. Reflect & Adjust the Process
Your heart has a lot to say about the decluttering process. Lean into self-care and reflection while you decide what physical possessions still have a place in your life, and which ones you can live without.
Reflection includes asking yourself questions like:
• Why am I decluttering? Why do I desire less stuff in my home?
• Why are these items in my house in the first place? Where did they come from?
• Why should I keep, or get rid of, these items?
Be open to adjusting the process as you discover new things about yourself, your dreams, your past, and the future. You may find that things you once loved, you no longer care for. You may find that dreams you once held tight to aren’t so important anymore.
As I decluttered my storage closet, I slowly let go of things that I had once thought were very important… a piano keyboard that represented my dream of being a musician. Ice skates that held my dream of the Olympics. A dance outfit that encapsulated my dream of taking dance lessons.
None of those things were realistic–they were just dusty childhood dreams. And sadly, keeping them in storage was just encouraging dust to collect in my heart because there was no room for my new dreams.
Allow yourself the space to adjust the process. Maybe you work best with a scheduled date and time for decluttering. Maybe you are spontaneous. Perhaps early in the morning is best for your energy levels. Or maybe late nights are your jam.
Find what feels right to you, and choose to be consistent. Each small step you take develops your awareness of what’s around you and why it’s there.
When you take care of your heart, you’ll be equipped to make better decisions about your belongings and open your mind to the values of living with less!
About the Author: Laura Noelle is a professional organizer and writer at LauraNoelle.com. She encourages families with simple steps to declutter the home and slow down family life in a heart-centered way.