We all have heard stuff about decluttering and how a decluttered house represents a decluttered mind; how holding onto clutter represents attachments and how neat- and tidiness stands for control. But is it true?
Michelle has been living all her life in a mess; people who know her agreed that she is skilful in creating a disorganised environment and lacked the skills to bring order. She believed there was some cross-wiring in her brain that made it impossible to be a domestic goddess in a neat and tidy setting. And she did not feel as if her mind was cluttered, that she was overly attached to stuff or out of control……
She got used to living in a cluttered mess and as long as she could do what she loved, which is creating, she was happy. But…….. recently her work expanded and required more files, more systems and more checkpoints and she lost a lot of time searching for ‘where did I put this again?’ Her clutter got in the way.
What got in the way of de-cluttering?
1. De-cluttering is as painful as breaking an addiction
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine tracked the brain activity of hoarders and non-hoarders. They were all asked to make a decision about throwing or keeping ‘stuff’. Hoarders brains showed strong activity in parts of the brain that are connected with conflict and psychological pain (the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula), when confronted with the question. These reactions are similar to those of an addict, trying to quit.
2.Sense of loss and bereavement
The same research team as above found strong activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), the part of the brain that relates to personal relevance and meaning, when hoarders were asked to throw away items that they considered ‘personal’, such as an old t-shirt or first school bag. These items connected them to their sense of self. And surely, that is not something to get rid of….
3. Process of change and insecurity
People hang on to stuff as it links them to the past, gives security in the now and ensures that they are prepared for the future: wasn’t it lovely, it makes me feel good to see it and we might need it one day…. Letting go of it means entering a stage of not having and not knowing and that brings in fear.
So how did Michelle start her challenging de-cluttering process?
There is a brilliant system, designed by the Japanese Marie Kondo, which starts with clothes, then admin, then books, then kitchen, then… and eventually personal items as photos etc. which makes the process easy as it offers:
1. Baby steps – not too overwhelming
2. Methodical – proven system to trust
3. Positive – asking: what do I love so much I want to keep it instead of what do I have to chuck away?
4. Loving – about clothes: what do I love to wear? And anything that you don’t love is not worthy for you as it brings you down
Results: practical and psychological – Michelle’s house got more space, her office was empty and organised and she had more time now she did not have to search anymore!
Want to have a go at methodical decluttering? Check out my course on Udemy. It’s fun, it makes it easy and massively effective.
Want to read another article and de-cluttering? Click here.
If decluttering is too difficult for you, why not book a FREE coaching call with me to find out what is holding you back?