Clutter is not just “stuff”

A friend of mine is selling her house. In preparation for putting it on the market, she has been purging for months. Going through every closet, drawer, shelf, cupboard and pantry, getting rid of everything she no longer needs, wants or uses.

I’m smiling, somewhat sheepishly, as I’m writing because it’s something we all go through — usually when we’re about to move. That’s when, after years of accumulating and stockpiling and “saving,” we suddenly spring into action — because the thought of packing it all, unpacking it all and trying to find room for it is more than we can bear.

We went out for dinner last week — my friend and I — it was a catch up of sorts. We’ve both been caught up in our own lives and, although we text and talk on the phone all the time, we haven’t had time to get together. It was one of those marvelous dinners that had nothing to do with the food. It was all about the conversation. We talked and talked, for a couple of hours. It was really, really good.

And it’s made me think. “Clutter” can also be emotional. And we really sell ourselves short if all we do is go through our clothes and our shoes and our chachkas and our files. Our emotional house also needs cleaning out. We also have to deal with the emotional clutter all of us have:

The missed opportunities, the mistakes, the disappointments, the heartbreak, the toxic relationships, the regrets, the worry and the doubts we’ve been carrying around for god knows how long. The negative thoughts from the past that actually stop us from moving forward.

Much like the physical clutter we hang on to even though we know we shouldn’t, emotional baggage is also difficult to part with. In fact, it’s probably more difficult to part with. It’s like the ratty old sweater you just can’t toss because it’s been with you for years. It’s familiar, it’s cozy, it’s comfortable and comforting. It’s always been there and, if you’re going to be completely honest with yourself, you don’t want to let it go. You may even be afraid to let it go. You like to know you can reach for it and wrap yourself in it, for whatever reason.

But here’s the thing. It’s only when you do let it go — and clear some space –that the Universe can bring you something better.


59 thoughts on “Clutter is not just “stuff”

  1. It’s so true. I use the emotional attachment to decide – pitch and purge? Or hold on for a bit longer? I know for sure I’m ready to let go when I ask myself, “Why in the world am I holding on to THIS?”

    • I think we all do it, why I don’t know, but we just do. And it’s such a relief once we’ve finally dealt with it — whether it’s physical stuff or emotional baggage. Not easy, but really important.

    • Harder to do in our lives than in our houses but both are so worthwhile. You actually feel lighter, at least I do. It’s like your whole being breathes a big sigh of relief.

  2. We downsized from a three bed 2 reception detached to a boat, via storage of our ‘stuff’ (including my peugoet 206 car) in a 20 foot shipping container. Most of that was dontated to charity as we couldn’t get it all in. Now we’ve sold the boat, and have nothing bar clothes, little knick knacks, and utensils used aboard. Our guide for getting rid of the unwanted was if it hadn’t been used for six months, we obviously didn’t need it. It was not uncommon in month seven to wish we’d kept it!
    However, on the other hand, clutter can be someone’s life, as with my Mum, who lives with my sister and has all her remaining possessions in her room. I’m looking forward to space when we move into our new home but am in no hurry to fill it all.

  3. When my sister moved, she had been living in her house and running a business in it for 30 years. A friend was helping her move, and I came to her home to help out, too. Her friend would’ve thrown everything out — without regard to the years of her life she’d invested in her work. I spent days shredding, and made certain I saved at least one copy of the teaching materials she’d used over the years, as well as all of her tax returns. There were letters she wouldn’t want to lose, either.

    Strange isn’t it — how one person’s “clutter” is the remnant’s of another person’s life that are still important.

    • That is the danger — people mean well and are there to help but they cannot really know what is important to each of us — no matter how well they may know us, or for how long. Lucky you were there.

    • Thank you; and I’ll pass your good wishes along. Moving is hell but then it’s over and you’re happy and excited.

  4. I have moved 5 times and decluttered each time….and there still is too much stuff. Now that I finally retired I plan to declutter yet again….and again……and again.

  5. What a great reminder!!! Cleaning out the mental clutter is certainly a daunting task, but I think it’s possibly the most important of all. I have been de-cluttering for a few months now…mentally that is. I can’t tell you how much better it has made me feel!! My outlook on life in general is in a much better place!!!! Thanks again for sharing this ! Needed it!1

  6. Good post. I’m at a serious decluttering place right now. I have to eventually move back to the U.S. and can’t even take furniture because of shipping charges. I recently became a widow and my husband was a hoarder. This is the third time this serious decluttering has happened to me. So far I’ve survived. šŸ™‚ — Suzanne

  7. All of that is so true Fransi, (it is a small world) I met up with a long time friend last week – like you we phone and text regularly, it was great to sit down enjoy a meal have a few drinks and off load lots of clutter. It also gave me the chance to log off all things that we think we can’t live without – we can, and the world goes on.

    • We not only can, Chris, we should. Glad you had the chance to re-connect with an old friend — in person. There’s nothing better.

  8. I loved this post, and it certainly resonated! Clearing out my clutter cleared out my head – I had to hire an organizer to help my poor, ADHD-rattled self. It was the best money I ever spent, and I have become virtually clutter-less. I find that I am able to make better choices now, emotionally as well as physically.

    • Thank you so much! Those organizers do an amazing job and are worth every penny they charge. The difference clearing things out makes in our lives is just incredible, I agree. Good for you for getting it done.

  9. In total alignment from the emotional aspect and from the physical aspect. Health is more involved than presence of illness; emotional and social health are also important. By removing baggage, we are helping to ensure good physical health by minimizing the many manifestations stress and its effects on the body.

  10. Pingback: Now it’s my turn to go under the microscope … | 365 And Counting

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