One of the first steps in being able to solve a problem is knowing what has led you to this issue. Everyone is very individual in how they deal with their stuff. So it can be important to figure out your own model and why you may have challenges and struggles with clutter.
What are your Vulnerability Factors?
Did you grow up in a household where there was a lot of clutter?
Did you go to Grandma’s house which had a lot of clutter and it was kind of fun to be there?
Were your parents born during the wartime when they had to ration food so they hung on to things “just in case” or for a real need in the family?
Do you suffer from mental health issues, depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADD, ADHD or OCPD, etc.?
Have you suffered a lot of loss in your life and want to hang on to things instead of investing in relationships?
How do you Process Information?
Do you have problems with focus and attention?
Is it difficult to think of how to categorize items?
How difficult is it to make decisions for you?
Do you feel that you are extremely creative and can think of a use for anything?
Are you worried if you put something away in a drawer you will not be able to find it?
What Are Your Thoughts and Beliefs around Your Stuff?
Do you feel that you are responsible for not wasting and not adding to the landfill?
Are you afraid of making a mistake so instead do nothing at all?
Do you have strong emotional attachments to your things and discarding them would be like discarding a part of yourself or that of a loved one?
Do you feel that your items are a part of who you are?
Do your items give you a feeling of safety and security?
What Are Some Of The Emotional Responses You Feel About Your Stuff?
You can have both negative and positive feelings about your stuff. Negative feelings like anxiety, feeling fearful, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, confused, overwhelmed, depressed and hopeless. These negative feelings can bring up thoughts like “I will never find anything in this mess” or “I am such a loser”. Or it could be the overwhelming dread when you bring an impulsive purchase or a find home and then reality sets in “where am I going to put this” or “I am really feeling worried about looking at my bank account”.
Your stuff can also elicit some positive feelings like feeling happy, pleased, relieved, comforted, hopeful, safe and proud. These feelings can bring up thoughts like “This is really a very pleasant room, it’s not so bad” or “It’ll only take me a little while to clean this up.” There is a link between your feelings (emotions) and your thoughts and both can lead to difficulties with clutter.
Thoughts = Emotions = Behaviours
Both the negative emotions and the positive emotions can keep us stuck with our clutter. We generally want to avoid the negative feelings so instead of dealing with the clutter we avoid the negative feelings by avoiding dealing with the clutter. The positive feelings keep us in clutter as well as we can get a lot of pleasure in playing with our stuff, finding lost treasures, finding a bargain, moving stuff around and feeling like we are in our happy place as we create a safe nest for ourselves.
So, how can we move on from here? Cognitive Behavioural Therapy shows us that if we can have an awareness of our feelings and question our thoughts and behaviours we are more able to make some changes. Awareness helps us to move forward.
“Clutter can be a way of holding on to the past and a worry about the future.”
It’s all about being in the moment and being mindful about what is happening today and what you can have control of in your life today and even tomorrow (or this week).
Check out this great article on the Decluttering as Zen Meditation http://zenhabits.net/zen-clutter/
Let me know what you think about this article and if you think it is helpful. Also, I would love to know if you are interested in further articles like this.
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