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Busting a decluttering myth - 19th March 2024


If you are a Facebook user you are no doubt familiar with the various decluttering memes that go the rounds on there. Some are intended to be amusing, others appear to offer sage advice. At best they are clichés, but recently I’ve realised that one in particular deserves the title of Decluttering Myth!




Have you ever seen or been given this advice?


The set up is that you have a number of items at home that you really want to declutter, but for some reason you just can't part with them. You either think you might need them one day, or perhaps just the thought of decluttering these objects makes you feel really emotional. 

The 'advice' is that you gather these items together and pack them into a stout box with a lid. You then put the box either in your garage or loft/attic and leave it there for say, six months. You choose the time to suit yourself. In theory if you get to the end of this time span and have not felt the need to retrieve any of the stored objects then you clearly don't need them and you can dispose of them as clutter in your preferred manner. Easy! All you need is some time and a box. 



That sounds great - what's wrong with it?

In my opinion this is just a waste of six months or however long you leave the box unattended. In effect what you have done is hidden things out of sight to avoid being reminded they exist. That's fine until you retrieve the box with the aim of disposing of the contents. I believe that what happens next is that when you open the box and look inside you are back to how you felt about the things before you packed them and hid them. Nothing has changed! What's that saying? Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

If you really trust this process you will then be faced with a dilemma. You either tell yourself you have failed and go back to square one, or you muster up bucket loads of willpower and finish the job by disposing of the items. The chances are you will either end up in tears during the process or later in the day you will feel ill at ease, bereft perhaps?

The other outcome is that you totally forget you tried this technique. If you put the box in your loft see how easy it is just to leave it there for the rest of your natural life. In fact you could describe most people's lofts as storage for unmade decisions. 

Ah, that now sounds awful - what's the alternative?

My version is that you do the exact opposite with these items. In other words you put them in your home where you just can't miss seeing them several times a day. Yes, you might feel emotional but that's a good thing. Seeing the things maybe lined up in a row will prompt some subconscious mental and emotional processing.

In 2016 this is what I did with three of my father's paintings. I knew I only had wall space for one of them but i couldn't just let the other two go to the tip, as suggested by my sister, when we cleared our mother's bungalow after her death. At that point I was a bit scared of choosing the wrong painting. I didn't want to be rushed. Of course there was a lot of emotion around these pictures painted over twenty years earlier by my father. I brought them home, lined them up against the wall in my office and looked at them every day. I didn't push myself to make a decision but after a while I knew one could go as it had been painted the year my dad died and I didn't want that reminder on the wall. When I realised this truth it was easy to take the painting to a charity shop. The one I kept had subject matter that was personal to my dad. The other was a copy of a greetings card. So in some ways the choice was obvious - it was just that in the aftermath of my mother's death I was too upset to see it. 

I know if those paintings had gone in a box in the garage I would not have felt any different after the allotted six months. 

Give my alternative version a try and see how you get on. If you have quite alot of possessions that might have gone into that box, just start with one or two key items and have them on full view at home.     

If you feel you need support and guidance through this process please get in touch to find out how one to one coaching with me can help you. I offer a complimentary 30 minute chat so you can ask questions and get to know me.                      







Keywords: emotions


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