Decluttering: the fascination with a fad

Decluttering: the fascination with a fad

Today a lovely friend came to one of my yoga classes and afterwards we got chatting about decluttering. She recommended a BBC4 documentary with Shappi Khorsandi (click here to listen), which I felt compelled to write about.

In the programme, it was fascinating to hear three women put so eloquently what I have trouble explaining, about decluttering and organising. It’s not about having pristine surfaces with no objects on, it’s not about being photoshoot-ready all the time. In fact my own window sills proudly have photos, nick-nacks, and school art projects on them!

Decluttering vs Tidying

For me, yes, decluttering is about creating order so that life runs more smoothly, absolutely; as someone with anxiety, order is very important to maintaining my mental balance. On a much more basic level, decluttering and organising are about understanding why an object has a hold on us. Why is the hold so tight that we’d rather shove it to back of the wardrobe and pretend it isn’t there, than deal with the feelings it brings out when we look at it? More often than not clutter exists as a result of not dealing with something. We may press the bruise occasionally, opening the door and seeing it sitting there behind, reminding us that it hasn’t gone away.

In Shappi’s case, there is a pile of unopened mail, becoming more daunting to deal with the bigger it gets. The act of decluttering takes away the fear of the mammoth task (e.g. all the paperwork in the house). Decluttering breaks it down into smaller parcels until you feel able to cope with one question: ‘What do I need to do with just this one, single sheet of paper I am holding in my hands right now?’. The answer will depend on what you’re dealing with, but the decision making process is normally very quick and easy.

Why would I hire someone to help me do decluttering?

There are more decluttering gurus out there than you can shake a stick at; the physical processes are very similar and you can get great results using many of the common techniques. I am not a guru but in my experience, the real reason why clutter and disorganisation keeps coming back is this:

The root cause has not been noticed, understood, and acknowledged.

That can be really hard to do on your own and really easy to ignore because it can be painful and upsetting to unravel the layers. There can be tears as you start to realise why you haven’t tackled something or why you really buy so many clothes or hoard everything ‘just in case I need it one day’.

You’re not holding onto an object for a practical reason, but because of something that you will have to acknowledge if you let it go. That’s where the real clutter lies. That’s what is really doing damage or holding you back, not the two thousand books you own or the seven bicycles in the shed.

This is why I normally start somewhere that has little opportunity for sentimentality like the bathroom. It allows you to road test some of the techniques and starts to build momentum as you see space emerging. Also, importantly, the scale is small. Most people’s bathrooms aren’t the biggest problem in their house or the biggest room in their house. I’ve had clients feel disappointed that we didn’t start with something more ‘meaningful’, but you’d be surprised how much useless stuff you can find in your bathroom! It gives the opportunity for almost guilt-free decluttering, which brings me onto…

Guilt Scenario 1: Waste

I hate waste, any type of waste. But it’s interesting that the smallest pile/bag/box in every single decluttering session I’ve ever done, is the landfill one. If you’re careful, anything that can’t be sold, given to someone, or taken to a charity shop, can more often than not be recycled or repurposed.

Guilt Scenario 2: ‘Somebody gave it to me’

If somebody loves you enough to give you a gift, they wouldn’t want their gift to become a burden. If you don’t like the smell of the body lotion, the book bores you, or the makeup makes your eyes puffy, do you think they’d want you to keep it? Of course not. Chances are they won’t even notice it’s gone. But you will notice it when you’re forced to look at it when you open that drawer. You might even ask yourself why they don’t know you well enough to choose a more appropriate gift. That’s an important question to notice if you hear yourself asking it.

Guilt Scenario 3: It’s worth a lot of money

It’s worth a lot of money/it cost me a lot/it’s such a waste of money to throw it out/it’s a designer brand.

I admit I struggled with this one until I experimented with it a bit on my own clutter. I guarantee that if you decide to remove something from your life, you will not miss it in the future. You won’t look back and think, “Oh I wish I still had that expensive body lotion that so and so gave me.” Because if you would, then the answer to the question when you were holding it in your hands saying: “Will I use this?” would have been “Yes”, and you wouldn’t have thrown it away.

So, what can I do?

Let me end with an invitation. I am developing a challenge-based closed Facebook group (I can adapt it if you don’t use Facebook) that I’m in the process of writing at the moment. It will be for people who want to deal with their clutter and learn the techniques to use themselves.

I’ll provide information, tasks, ask you questions, and guide you through it. We will talk about guilt, difficulties and hurdles – and there will be absolutely no judgement. It will be fun and you will get results, but you won’t need to spend hours doing each challenge. It’ll launch in a few months and we’ll focus on different areas each week for four weeks; I promise if you do the tasks you will get results.

I’m going to limit it to a small number of people so I can provide real support. So, who’s in? Message me or email me on [email protected] and I’ll add you to the shortlist. Prices and a summary will be available shortly.

Ready for some decluttering?

I offer decluttering packages, where I will come to your home and guide you through the process, room-by-room, until you have the decluttered home of your neat and tidy dreams!