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A decluttering mindset requires shifting some ideas you might have had for awhile. Try these 7 new thoughts to make ditching your stuff easy.
The older I get, the more I’m convinced that just about everything in life is more of a mental game than a physical one.
Whether I was running a marathon, beating breast cancer, or birthing my babies, I always felt like the process got immeasurably easier once I got my head in the right place.
When I got rid of almost everything I owned back in 2019, it was physically hard, sure. But the mental drama was immense. Whether I was sobbing uncontrollably while saying goodbye to a 40-year-old stuffed animal or beating myself up about all the money I’d “wasted” on a fondue pot I hadn’t used in years, clearing out my clutter brought up all the feels.
I made seven mental shifts that radically improved my decluttering mindset that made clearing the clutter much easier. If you’re in decluttering mode, I think they’ll help you, too.
Objects are not the same as memories
Yes, of course you know this. Intellectually. Until the time comes when you start to think about getting rid of :
- that plastic bracelet your baby wore home from the hospital
- the ticket stub from the concert where you and your husband had your first date in 2002
- that afghan that used to sit on the back of Grandma’s couch but now lives in your linen closet.
Getting rid of these things doesn’t feel like getting rid of old stuff. It feels like somehow letting go of the memories altogether. Some basic part of our lizard brain feels that if we can’t touch this stuff anymore, we’ll lose touch with all those old memories and feelings.
The good news is that this isn’t actually true.
The memories will be there whether you keep the stuff or not.
If totally getting rid of stuff like this feels like an enormous step, consider photographing the item so you will still be able to jog your memory with the image of it.
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If everything is special, then nothing is special
In my house, we repeat this like a mantra. (If you stopped by, you might hear my little boys repeating it in an exasperated tone of voice along with a little eye roll. Seriously. They are practicing eye rolls lately, and they aren’t even 10 yet.)
It’s tempting to save:
- every piece of artwork the kids do
- every piece of your great-grandmother’s china
- every tchotchke from your wedding
When we do this, though, what happens?
All of these treasures turn into a pile of junk. They sit together in boxes, bags, or piles—hiding in forgotten corners of our homes—or worse, they live right out in plain view, irritating us and making our homes less livable.
What if we instead curated these treasures and chose one little piece to honor?
- Our child’s favorite piece of artwork from the week could live in a special frame on the fridge.
- Great-grandma’s gravy boat could come out the cupboard regularly for Sunday dinner.
- A dried flower from your bouquet could live in a shadow box along with a copy of your vows, hanging where you could enjoy it every day.
Yes, this might require letting go of some other things that feel special. Curating the collection, though, gives more honor to every piece–even the ones you let go of–than keeping the whole set.