Inside: Seven decluttering tips for letting go of what no longer serves you. Let go of the mental and physical clutter so you can live a more authentic and joy-filled life. This is a guest post from Sharon Hines.
One October morning, I made a decision to end my eighteen year teaching career.
After a restless night, I got up with the alarm, went into the bathroom, started the shower, then sat on the toilet staring at the water as it poured out of the shower head and splashed onto the tiles below. I knew if I opened that shower door, I was saying yes to a life I no longer had the strength for.
For two years as the summers came to an end, I had melted down in tears. I sobbed to my husband about how much I disliked teaching and how very homesick and eager I was to return my attention to our home life. But my husband was unemployed, which meant saying yes to ‘one more year.’
Once this particular school year began, the stress of the job and home life started to affect my health. I was in pain. I had trouble sleeping. IBS symptoms grew worse. I really couldn’t take the stress anymore.
So on that fateful morning, I shut out all the voices except my own. I opened my computer, filled out formal resignation forms and pressed send.
It was done.
I’d finally stood up for myself, despite what anyone else would think or say. The only opinion that mattered to me in that moment was my own. And it felt amazing!
With that newfound empowerment, I took all the necessary steps to take care of me. I scheduled breast reduction surgery for the end of the month. (This was sooner than I’d originally planned, but I knew if I was going to do it I had to take advantage of my insurance benefits while I still had them.) Going from a J to a C cup literally lifted weight off my shoulders.
Between quitting my job and the surgery, I felt like I was on a roll. I remember telling someone I am letting go of everything that no longer serves me. I was on a mission to declutter my life from the inside out.
It wasn’t long before I realized my marriage was in trouble. Confronting our marital problems also meant cutting off generational strongholds. That proved to be the toughest to let go of because those roots ran deep.
There were times the battle left me feeling like I’d just been spat up on shore after being tossed around like a ragdoll in the ocean. But, all that decluttering has led to a physically, emotionally and spiritually healthier me.
By decluttering everything that was no longer serving me, I was able to build a life that I actually enjoyed living.
7 Decluttering Tips to Help You Let Go
We’re all pretty familiar with the general decluttering process: sort, purge, donate. But there’s so much more to it than meets the eye, and we all need decluttering help when the journey gets hard. I hope these 7 tips support you in letting go of clutter so you can live an authentic and joy-filled life.
1. Life is messy. Clutter happens.
Once during a home organization consultation, a client whose husband was diagnosed with cancer the previous year, said she just didn’t know how her craft room got so cluttered. I told her after the year she’d just faced, it made perfect sense. And there is absolutely no shame for doing what she needed to do to survive her husband’s cancer diagnosis. None whatsoever.
The reality is, we all have clutter in our lives. Not only that, it’s to be expected because life is messy. Stuff happens. Let go of the guilt associated with clutter and give yourself credit for what you have survived and accomplished.
2. Clutter is a looking glass.
In other words, the physical world is a mirror to our inner world and vice versa. It’s kind of like the proverbial chicken and the egg. I can’t really say which comes first. Sometimes that still, small voice inside us bubbles up. Other times, we just can’t ignore the physical mess.
I do know that when we try to avoid the mess, the inattention festers until it erupts. Just like it did for me when my health started failing and my marriage began to crumble. Everything I’d internalized, all the pent up frustrations, suppressed needs and unexpressed feelings found another way to show up.
3. Letting go is hard. Find what works for YOU.
As a professional organizer, I have used the traditional decluttering method of having clients remove all the clutter and sift through the resulting mess one painstaking decision at a time to determine what should go and what should stay. However, I’ve recently realized there is more than one way to go about it.
Another company I’ve worked with uses a completely different decluttering technique that. We still remove all the items from a space, but we treat them with the utmost respect for the purpose they serve in our client’s life. We categorize, arrange, contain and put everything back beautifully arranged. The hope is this beauty shines a light on their belongings, highlighting what no longer belongs, and that it motivates them to let it go.
All that to say, the letting go process is difficult in the best of circumstances. So, do what works best for you.
4. Decluttering works best when you start with a vision.
When I quit my job, I did a little soul searching to help me identify my values and priorities. Knowing what is important to you becomes your foundation, your why and the lens you can use to discern what is no longer serving you. When you are clear on what is important to you and what you want your life to look like, it’s easy to identify the areas and objects you need to declutter.
5. Small decluttering steps make a big impact over time.
Facing our messes can seem like an insurmountable, and even impossible, task. My advice is to take it slow. I am on a ten-year journey. I’ve had starts and stops. All those tiny steps make a big impact though, and eventually, add up to life-changing results.
6. Decluttering maintenance is required.
As much as we’d like for decluttering to be a one-time encounter, it’s not. Different life stages and seasons require us to check in with the status quo and re-evaluate what is and what isn’t working. Other times tragedy strikes, like with my client whose husband was diagnosed with cancer.
I’ve also found that once you remove one barrier, it creates space for more emotional or physical clutter to surface. In my own journey, it started with quitting my job, then that made room for me to evaluate and take care of my poor health. The more I worked on bettering myself, the more I realized what was no longer working well, like my dysfunctional marriage. As I worked on my marriage, I was forced to address my insecurities and low self-worth. This is not meant to scare you off. You’ll be ready to face it when it does surface. Fortunately, decluttering also opens the door for so many good things, too.
7. Letting go of clutter creates space for the life you crave.
I went through ten years of pain, sorrow, hardship, grit and loss. But the reward of living an authentic life has been a far greater and richer experience than I could’ve ever imagined. As Peter Walsh puts it: “What I know for sure is that when you declutter–whether it’s in your home, your head or your heart–it is astounding what will flow into that space that will enrich you, your life, and your family.”
I know that for sure, too. It is my deepest desire for you to know it too.
Sharon Hines writes at Sharon E. Hines, where she helps busy women declutter their space and soul so they can create space for the things and people that matter most. A love of home, people, teaching and writing inspired her first book, Home on Purpose: Mindful Living in a Hectic World. Sharon would love to have you join her for heartfelt conversation and simple living tips, better known as Simply Saturday. You can also catch up with her on Instagram @sharon_e_hines.