How Much Difficulty Do You Have with Letting Go of Stuff?

Key #3

Actually making decisions about letting go of items can be very stressful and anxiety producing.  Being able to trust your instincts about what you want and don’t want is very important, however, this takes practice.  Sometimes we will avoid even trying to discard anything because the anxiety is too much.  There can be a lot of worry about possibly making a mistake.   It can become so difficult to make a decision that it just feels easier not to do anything.

Do you ever find yourself looking at an item and thinking ” hmm…..what should I do with this”?  and then find yourself saying “oh well, I will just put this over here for now” or rather than make a decision just put it back where it was.  This indecision keeps you feeling safe and avoids any anxieties you may have that help you to face the fear that holds you back.  This keeps you stuck and contributes to the clutter and congestion in your home.

There can be a lot of fears around letting go.  Check out this post I did back in 2014.  I talk about letting go of the emotional clutter as well as the physical.  It still fits for me today.  A work in process.  I am currently working on letting go of what is not serving me.  Mostly, this has to do with not being so hard on myself, allowing myself to go with the flow and realizing that I don’t need to do everything or help everyone.

Letting Go

Here are some questions to help you to assess where you are at with your ability to let go:

  1.  To what extent do you have difficulty throwing things away?

2.  How distressing do you find the task of throwing things away?

3.  How strong is your urge to save something you know you may never use?

4.  How often do you avoid trying to discard possessions because it is too stressful or time consuming?

5.  How often do you decide to keep things you do not need and have little space for?

These 15 questions listed in the past three posts relate to how much difficulty you have with discarding, how much clutter is around and how much difficulty you have with letting go.  These are the three areas we measure in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and everyone makes progress.

What areas are most challenging for you and what emotional clutter are you currently working on letting go of?  Please answer in the comments below.


Posted in difficulty Discarding, Emotional Clutter, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

How Much Difficulty Do You Have With Acquiring More Stuff?

Key #2

One of our first homework exercises we do in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and it is amazing what insights come out of this.  Shopping, finding things, getting things given to you from well meaning friends or family, mail and flyers coming in that we did not ask for.  It’s amazing how much stuff comes into our homes without our permission or without us really thinking too much about it.

The good news is that awareness of what we acquire and how much is usually an area that people who have challenges with clutter can get a handle on very quickly.   Having an awareness of how you feel when you are looking for and finding a treasure is key.  You may be on a high when you are on the hunt or when you have found something that you know you cannot live without.  You may be trying to soothe yourself because you are having a hard time, feeling sad or depressed and you just need to forget about that for this moment and get yourself a little something to lift your spirits.  Is there something else your could be doing that gives you that same reward?

Paying attention to your emotions and feelings are so important to help you to be able to make changes in this area. 

Are you able to think in that moment about whether you really want, need or love this item or are you on automatic pilot and just feel you can’t stop yourself?  Are you purchasing items that come home with you only to be left in the bag, tossed in the corner not to be found again for months or even years?  Are you actually able to find these things in order to give them to the intended recipient?

Think about how you feel, compared to when you acquired the item, to how you feel when you get home.  Your feelings may have changed.  You may be thinking “oh no, where will I put this” or “I am afraid to look at my balance in my bank account now”.  Check in with yourself often.

Some questions for self reflection:

  1. How distressed or uncomfortable would you feel if you could not acquire something you wanted?
  2. How strong is your urge to buy or acquire free things for which you have no immediate use?
  3. To what extent has your saving or compulsive buying resulted in financial difficulties for you?
  4. How often do you feel compelled to acquire something you see, e.g. when shopping or offered free things?
  5. How often do you actually buy (or acquire for free) things for which you have not immediate use or need?

Pay attention to what you acquire over a week and see what comes up for you. You may be quite surprised!!


Posted in acquiring items, chronic disorganization, compulsive acquiring, difficulty Discarding, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How much clutter do you have around your home?

Key #2

 Has your clutter become invisible?

Check out the 5 questions below

So, what happens when you look around at your surroundings? What do you see? Sometimes we need to have new eyes when we look at our space and become more aware how we are living on a day to day basis. I often do talks in the community and one of the things I do is a “Visualization” which helps people to imagine walking through their home starting with walking through the front door.  Check out this link.

Imagine Your Ideal Living Space

I believe that anyone who is able to visualize their home will go back to their space with a new fresh look and new eyes.  This can be a very eye opening experience.

You might find that some stuff you have around is really invisible. Believe me, I can relate to this as well. It could be boxes of things tucked away, perhaps things that you are reluctant to look at due to past memories, stuff you have to climb over every day, or perhaps a pile of mismatched objects that have no home and you really just cannot make a decision on what to do with them. I believe that these areas are “stuck energy” in your home.

How much of your home is filled with clutter? Let’s consider these questions?

  1.  How much of the living area in your home is cluttered with possessions?  Consider the amount of clutter in your kitchen, living room, dining room, hallway, bedroom, bathroom, or other rooms?
  2.  How much of your home is difficult to walk through because of the clutter?
  3. To what extent do you have so many things that your rooms are cluttered?
  4.  How much does clutter in your home interfere with your social, work or everyday functioning?  Think about the things you don’t do because of the clutter.
  5. To what extent does the clutter in your home prevent you from using parts of your home for their intended purpose?  For example, cooking, using furniture, washing dishes, cleaning, etc.

So, how did you do? Now I have a different question for you?

What if you didn’t have so many belongings around you? What would that be like? On a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being comfortable and 10 being uncomfortable how would you feel. This might be a key for you and will help you to understand part of why it is difficult to let go of items or to make informed decisions about what you are bringing into your space.

I work with vulnerable women, women who are homeless, couch surfing or who often live in very small spaces. Unfortunately, our space does kind of dictate to us that we can only have so many belongings in it.   The thing is if we are continuously bringing items into our space but not taking things out, eventually we are going to be in trouble. I believe we sometimes have to make some difficult decisions about our belongings and our space.   Personally, I have a very small bedroom with too big of furniture in it. Kind of sucks but basically it means I need to limit other items that end up landing in this room.

How did you do on these questions?  How uncomfortable or comfortable are you with clear space?

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Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization

What is the connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization?

It was once thought that OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, was the main issue with individuals who were living with “Hoarding Disorder” (which was deemed a Mental Health Illness in the DSM 1V 2013 as its own disorder)

OCD can be an issue and is very debilitating as it prevents its sufferers from being able to carry out the tasks of their daily lives. But actually a very low percentage of people who have OCD are struggling with chronic disorganization or hoarding disorder. It is more prevalent that those suffering with OCPD Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder also struggle with hoarding.  They have a really difficult time with letting go of possessions.  OCPD has to do with having a strong sense of control and being perfect or not doing it at all.

You can read more about OCPD here:

Vulnerability Factors:

Maybe one of your parents had a lot of clutter and/or challenges with their stuff.  Your parent may have been around during the Depression when items were limited and they saved what they could gather. Or maybe you remember going to Grandma’s house and her place was cluttered and disordered but it was so much fun to play and look at her stuff.  Another factor could be a parent who was a perfectionist and wanted everything shining clean and spotless.  An individual might feel like rebelling and just doing things their own way.

There is a lot of anxiety associated with dealing with clutter. It has to do with how much clutter is comfortable to live with, how much stuff I am bringing in on a day to day basis and the challenge of letting go of items that are not needed or necessary. The anxiety comes from the inability to trust our own instincts, wanting to avoid uncomfortable emotions or soothe them and difficulty making decisions about our stuff.

You may have heard that clutter is all about holding on to the past and worries about the future.  It is usually not about the present.  Being in the present can be painful and uncomfortable. We are looking for ways to soothe ourselves even if this is unconscious. Shopping, acquiring cool stuff, finding treasures, planning for the future, moving stuff around (churning) and avoiding discarding are all ways we are taking care of ourselves and paradoxically they are also ways that contribute to having too much stuff.

Mental Health Factors:

Having an episode of depression or major depressive disorder is very challenging when it comes to trying to manage your life, your belongings, doing laundry, appointments, money, poverty, getting food, relationships, physical health, mental health, legal isssues, and possibly addictions.  An individual may be facing more serious crisis situations such as problems from a landlord, the Fire Department or eviction and consequently homelessness. Self esteem can be a factor as well. I remember a woman who came to our group saying that she had a lot of garbage around her apartment and she said it was a reflection on how she felt about herself.

Most people who have struggles with clutter have had some kind of trauma happen to them. Now please note that not everyone who has trauma issues has clutter issues as there can be other resiliency factors here ie: family supports, good friends, positive people in your life, financial supports, etc.

However, most if not all have had some kind of loss in the past, losing a loved one, a partner, friend or parent and inheriting their belongings, losing a child through death or (maybe even to CAS, Children’s Aid Society), violence and assault, a serious physical health illness, mental health issues, addictions, relationship breakdowns, divorce, moving.  All of these traumas which can cause symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can also lead to having a Hoarding Disorder.

I would love to hear from you.  Please add your thoughts or comments below…..


Posted in chronic disorganization, mental health | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Three Keys to Starting the De-Cluttering Process

Are you wondering how you can even start the de-cluttering process?  It can be so overwhelming that it is easy to just look around and throw your hands up and say to yourself “what is the use, I just don’t even know where to start so why bother”.  Can you relate to this?

So we are going to start at the beginning.  These next few posts are about assessing where you are at with the de-cluttering process.  I believe that it is really important to become aware of why you are struggling with these issues, what is really going on and developing some awareness and insight about how to make some positive changes.

The Good News…..


We are going to look at three areas in order to help you to get a handle on your life and to start to make some positive changes.

How Much Difficulty Do You Have With Clutter?  How comfortable or uncomfortable are you about the amount of stuff you are dealing with on a daily basis?  Maybe you are most comfortable when you are all snuggled up in your little nest with all your favourite things around or maybe you are more comfortable staying away from your home as you are feeling frustrated with the amount of clutter and chaos there.

How Much Difficulty Do You Have With Acquiring More Stuff?   This is one of our first homework exercises we do in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and it is amazing what insights come out of this.  Shopping, finding things, getting things given to you from friends, mail and flyers coming in that we weren’t even conscious of asking for, etc.  The reality is that the more that stuff is coming in and nothing is going out, the more we are going to run into problems.

How Much Difficulty Do You Have with Letting Go?  Actually making decisions about letting go of items can be very stressful and anxiety producing.  Being able to trust your instincts about what you want and don’t want is very important, however, this takes practice.  Sometimes we will avoid even trying to discard of anything because the anxiety is too much.  It is just easier not to do it.

So, these are the areas I will be focusing on in my next few blog posts.  Stay tuned for lots of great info and resources that will help you to make some positive changes in your de-cluttering process.



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My Best Tips for Organizing Success

I found this list of tips in my handouts and have expanded on each of them for you. Hope they help you with your organizing success.

  •  OHIO – Only Handle it Once! This can be a hard one for all of us.  The tendency is to just “put it here for now”, however, all that does is really avoid the decision that needs to be made.  It is best if you can decide what to do with the item whether it is to donate or to put it in its home and do it.  One of the sayings in the Clutter Clearers’ Peer Support Group is “what is in the box, stays in the box”.
  •  Decide on the function of the space.  If item does not fit with function out it goes (or get it to where it belongs) I love this one!  Think about what you want to do in your rooms.  So, in your kitchen, you want items that help you to cook meals, etc. not other things like mail, paperwork, etc.
  • Start with easy stuff.  Yes!!  This will help you strengthen those organizing/de-cluttering muscles.  Once you see that you are able to do this, things will get easier.
  • Only keep amount of stuff that fits in your space.  This is a tough one.  A lot of the women I work with live in very small apartments, sometimes just a room.  So, really your space does dictate to you about how much stuff you can fit into it.
  • Do not leave targeted area once you start sorting!  Right….its so easy to get distracted when we leave to put something where it belongs only to find something else that looks interesting…..oh my…you know where I am going with this.
  • Minimize distractions.  Turn off your phone, your tv, don’t answer the door, etc.  We live in such a busy world these days.  It can be so hard to stay focused on the task at hand.
  • Develop strategies to deal with automatic thoughts, distorted thinking.  It can be very helpful to pay attention to your thoughts, (write them down if you like), be in touch with your feelings and look at what actions you are taking.  A mindfulness practice can help you to have more awareness of what you are doing with your time, energy and space.
  • Make a plan not to acquire any other items.  This is always the first exercise/homework that we do in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and people always can make a change in this area.  You might decide that if you bring something new in, that you need to let something go.
  • Set time before next session to maintain previous target area.  Yes, how do you keep that area clear and prevent the same thing from happening again.  Have an awareness of this space, take a picture of it and do not allow anyone including yourself to add items to this area.
  • Do not end sorting/organizing session without putting away sorted items.  This can be tough especially when you are feeling tired after all of your hard work.  Makes sense though.
  • Practice grounding strategies before sorting session (relaxation, visualization) We practice a grounding/meditation after our break at the group every week and it helps to get everyone back together.  It is a great tool to help you to get focused.
  • Make activity enjoyable- put some good music on!  Love this idea!! Play a favourite CD while you work on one task.  When it is finished stop and stretch and then you may feel like continuing on with the task.
  • Reward yourself, do something enjoyable after each session.  This is hard work so it is important to pat yourself on the back.

Do you have any great tips for Organizing Success?  Please comment below.

Posted in decluttering, downsize, goal setting, hoarding, Inspiration, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

The Challenges of Organizing Your Bedroom

Are you challenged with organizing your bedroom? Is your bedroom the room where everything ends up even stuff that does not belong there?  Has your bedroom become the dumping ground, the room where your stuff can be hidden away? Is your dresser piled high and covered in dust? Do you have a good system for your clothing or are you frustrated with laundry and trying to find something clean and ironed to wear? Are your drawers empty because you are worried that if you put it away you won’t be able to find it?

One of my own struggles is clothing that I have worn ends up on the bed and then to the chair and then back to the bed as I look for something I want to wear.   Most of these clothes usually need to be ironed before they can be hung up. There is nothing worse for me than pulling something out of the closet to wear only to find it is wrinkled and needs to be ironed. I am usually rushing in the morning and don’t have time at the last minute to run downstairs to iron something. Just stresses me out and causes me to be late. Ugh!!

Does anyone recognize this chair in the image above?  Yup, that is my chair.  Obviously, this is something I need to work on.

In our Clearing Clutter Support Group participants pick challenges for the week and often someone will say “I am going to work on my bedroom”. We always ask “Is this a realistic challenge?” When you think of working on your bedroom this can be a pretty big and overwhelming task.

Here are some questions to help you decide what you want in your bedroom:

‪‪What kinds of activities do you want to be doing in this room?

How do you want to feel when you spend time in here?

How do you want your space to smell?

Do you want your bedroom to be a place where there is love?

Do you want to have great sleeps and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day?

Do you want to be able to sleep in your bed easily without having to take piles of stuff off first?

Answering these questions can help you to make your bedroom a sacred sanctuary, a place to rest and relax and to feel rejuvenated so that you can face the day in a positive way.  Do you have some great questions to ask yourself when it comes to organizing your bedroom?  Please comment below.


Posted in De-Clutter Your Life, decluttering, goal setting, laundry, Organizing, sacred home | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Do you need some help with Organizing Your Office?

Do you struggle with organizing your office?  I sure do.  I honestly believe that we are all experts in our own lives and we know what we need.  I was asked to attend a meeting where I used to work because they were struggling with clutter in their small office spaces and they see me as a “Clutter Specialist” aka “Clutter Queen”.    So, I attended their meeting and facilitated a lively and fun discussion.

These were the 7 Office Organizing tips that we discussed:

  1. Start Fresh

Take everything off your desk and out of your drawers, put them in a box, and go back to work. When you need an item, you can put it back on the desk. If there are things you don’t use after a few days…you probably don’t need them.  I know, easier said than done but makes a lot of sense.

2.  Re-Evaluate Your Belongings

Clutter accumulates because we feel like everything becomes important.  As you go through your stuff, ask yourself does this item have a purpose?  Is it redundant or outdated?  Think about old computer accessories.  Are you keeping it because you need it, or because you think you might need it someday? When you consider paper, is there a way you can get this information online?

3.  Give Everything a “Flow

I really like this.  Notice where your phone is and if it feels comfortable to pick it up and write down a message,  Notice how your work comes in, work comes in on the left, gets processed in the middle, and goes out on the right.  Or see what works for you, of course.  That way, your desk is clear for whatever’s next.  Make room for the new!!

4.  Find Your Trouble Spots

Look at your space with new eyes.   You might be surprised at what you find— Stuff that has been around for awhile can become invisible.  It can be helpful to look at your space with a different perspective, clutter might pop out at you and catch you off guard. What is that box doing there?   I see this as stuck energy.  Get that energy moving.

5.  Give Everything a Home

Everything that is on your desk or in a drawer needs to have a home.  If things don’t have a home, your desk becomes a home for everything.  Can you clear off your desk if others need to use it?  Where I work if I am not there often others will use my space so I need to make sure there is nothing confidential left on my desk.

6.  Check your schedule for the next day at the end of each day.

I still forget to do this at times and because I can be out on the road with clients, it can be a problem if I don’t have the proper paperwork needed for the meeting.   Ugh!!  I think its because I need to be in the moment in my work.   Well, that’s my excuse anyway.   I do need to work on this.

No matter how clean you keep your workspace, it’s going to get messy during the day. That’s okay—that means you’re working! It’s when you keep it messy that things start to get overwhelming.  It can be helpful to clear off your space so it is ready for a new day.  Also, check out #5 If you work out of an office, others may need to use your space/desk.

7.  Let Go of Perfectionism

This can be a tough one.  When is it “good enough” and time to just get down to work.  At home I like to have my crafts/sewing organized and tidy before I can start a new project.  It will never be perfect though and that is really okay.   Having a need for perfection can be a detriment to getting done what you want.  Yes, you might make a mistake and throw out something important but it likely will not be terrible and another solution can be found.

These were the seven tips I brought with me to facilitate this discussion on Office Clutter.  They had already spent some time together going through their old files, boxes, bags and had gotten a lot of stuff out.  So they were ready to hear all of this.  They had some great ideas for how they organize there own personal spaces too.

Purging and de-cluttering is something that needs to be done on an ongoing basis and when working with others sometimes it is best to do this together.  Sometimes we just need permission from someone else to be able to let something go.

On a more personal note…..speaking of working together 🙂

 Just cleaned off this desk so that my partner has a space to work …… Yes it is a roll top desk…….and now…..

this is what I need to work on – oh my!!

Do you have some great tips to help with Office Organizing?  Whether at the home office or at the community office?

Posted in Clutter, De-Clutter Your Life, goal setting, Inspiration, office organizing, Organizing, Re-organize, time management | 4 Comments

My Future Self is a Minimalist

space clearing 3

I am not a minimalist but I would like to be.   My future self is a minimalist.  Not so much of a tiny home kind of minimalist but more of a relaxed, slower paced kind of life minamalist.   I dream of having less, less stress, less worry and less struggle.   I just want life to be easier and maybe that means simpler.  Simpler to me means more energy, more fun and more time to spend on things that are important.

How am I working on simplifying my life?  Well, I think about downsizing and decluttering and I do get this done on a fairly regular basis but could always do more. (less thinking about it and more doing it)   I love to work on goals and for me this is often about changing things around and making my space work better for me.  It is also about re-assessing my needs, getting rid of the old and making way for the new.   It means that I can let go of things that no longer fit for me in my life.  This includes emotional clutter just as much as it does about physical.

Being mindful and having an awareness of what is happening around me is so important in being able to know what it is I want to focus on.  What do I choose to spend my time, energy and money on?  I am very conscious about purchases and what I want to bring into my home.  I prefer to give and get more consumable items as gifts (ie: wine, chocolate, other food items, natural bath products, candles) , (hint, hint) experiences and/or a visit with a friend or family member.

My friend just recently celebrated her 70th birthday and invited 11 of her friends to join her with some morning yoga, a kayak trip, and lunch. It was such an awesome day!!


Here we are doing a group meditation. 

When I think of what I want more of in my life, it helps me to think about what I no longer want.  It also helps me to focus on my goals and pushes me to move forward towards more of what I know I want.

How do you know what you want for your life?  How does minimalism fit into your life?

Posted in Minimalism, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

How To Practice Harm Reduction in Hoarding

How can we practice harm reduction in hoarding?

Lets face it, if you are struggling with hoarding or chronic disorganization, you likely are not going to have a home that you would see in a home and garden magazine!

Living room after  Hehe!!  This is funny but I am technically challenged with images on google so yeah this is mine.  Not sure if it is magazine worthy but you get the general idea.

Anyway, this doesn’t mean that you cannot get your home up to more of a standard that you would be more comfortable with. Your place needs to be your sacred space and while it certainly does not have to be perfect, it is important that it is healthy and that it is safe for you and your family.  Also, it is important that it is your space and you get to chose how this space looks and it is what you want for you and your family.

This might mean different things for different people. There are different ways to look at it.  First and foremost, think about areas that are causing you a lot of difficulty like a doorway with shoes, bags, purses, flyers, mail,  not able to find what you need for the day; papers, keys, etc.  I feel so stressed!  Ugh!!

If you are having difficulty finding things like keys, books, lunch bags, important papers, this is a great area to focus on and to work on making improvements that you will be able to see immediately and will make your place safer as well as may save you time in the long run as you are not searching for lost items.

Think about what your goals are for your home. Do you really wish you could be cooking more?  If so, you need to have your stove and counters clear.  It is important to clean out your fridge on a regular basis and to get good at knowing what you have,  using it up on a regular basis so you are not throwing out wasted food, (basically throwing your money out the door) or not eating out most nights.  Put your focus to this and you will see improvement.  The same thing happens with money.  Right?  The more you focus on it the more you have and the more you will bring in.  YES!!

Are you at risk of your items that are stacked in piles falling on you. I know that most of us live in small spaces and this can make it challenging to get our stuff downsized, put away or taken to its home.  But of course, we don’t want to have stuff falling over and having us even more frustrated with trying to find things.

Remember everything needs to have a home to return to. 

These are some of the recommendations from the London Fire Department if they ever have to come to your place for an inspection.

  • Each hoarding situation is looked at on an individual basis.  Sometimes the department does not need to take any action if the accumulations are non-combustible and adequate pathways are present.
  • The first thing which is assessed is overall safety (e.g. working smoke alarms).  Next an assessment of the building as a whole is done to gauge the impact a fire would have on others.  Building construction and type are major factors as well.
  • Pathways need to be a minimum of 3 feet but this depends on the mobility of the tenant and how they move (assisted vs. unassisted).
  • Clear distances from ignition sources are a minimum of about 1 foot.
  • Pile heights are required to be reduced to no more than about 3 feet.
  • Other considerations are given, depending on the situation.  For example, if the situation was deemed to be dangerous, the LFD could order the building closed and the tenant removed immediately.
  • These are some other considerations in thinking about harm reduction.
  • Do no harm – meaning you do not want to do more harm to the person as they are struggling enough.
  • It is not necessary to stop all hoarding behaviour – like I said they are likely not going to have a home that is going to be in a home and garden magazine.
  • No two hoarding situations are alike – people need to be treated as individuals.
  • The individual needs to be involved as a Team Member – do not ever throw out your loved ones items!!  This is traumatic for an individual.  They need to be involved in the plan and any decision making.
  • Change is slow – YES you need to have the patience of a saint and those who support others with chronic disorganization issues definitely do.
  • Contract failures to not mean that the harm reduction model is not working – Individuals may have difficulty with sticking to the contract but this doesn’t mean they are not making progress.
  • The individual may have other, more pressing issues than the hoarding problem – so true, this person could be dealing with all kinds of other issues, mental health, physical health, family issues, etc.  Sometimes these issues have to take precedent.What do you think?  What does harm reduction look like to you?  I am sure there are many ways we can support our loved ones who are struggling with this issue.  What are some ways that you can think of or ways that you have helped others?  We would love to hear from you.  Please share in the comments below:




Posted in Clutter, decluttering, downsize, families, goal setting, hoarding, Inspiration, Organizing, sacred home | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments