Whether you've lost a loved one or can't let go of the past, decluttering can be a healthy tool to aid in the grieving process. Here's how.

How to Use Decluttering as a Tool to Help the Grieving Process

Most people know that the decluttering process isn’t always easy. While I’m a big fan of just turning off your brain and tapping into joy like Marie Kondo suggests, anyone who has attempted decluttering often knows that there can be a lot of fear and resistance tagged on and we’re not really sure why. The crazy truth is that letting go of our things can quite literally be a grieving process. Not because we are people are so obsessed with our material items, but because we have accidentally given them meaning beyond just stuff. Here’s how to spot these misalignments and how you can course correct in a way that feels freeing and not frightening.

Designing a life of less

If you are feeling the weight of being bogged down by your stuff, or even the time and energy it takes to maintain (or think about maintaining) your space, I have an amazing tool that is designed to help you completely transform your life outside and in through minimalism. It’s called the Minimalist Lifestyle Guide.

Beyond giving you simple start strategies for dealing with clutter, it will help you better understand how to simplify every area of your life including your schedule and your finances! If you are tired of feeling like your entire life is an uphill battle, checkout the Minimalist Lifestyle Guide and see if it would be a good fit or you.

We attach experiences to our stuff

One way we get our wires crossed when it comes to our stuff is by attaching our stuff to major events or experiences in our lives.

We keep the wedding dress, the outfit our kids wore home from the hospital, or even the roses from our first date. It’s almost as if we hope to prolong and preserve these precious moments so that maybe, just maybe they won’t slip away from us.

When it comes to attempting to declutter these things, we give pause because it can almost feel like a full acknowledgement that this moment is really gone.

As someone who has Alzheimers running in my family, I really used this as an excuse to hang onto things for an extra long time. I was terrified of forgetting or not remembering significant events in my life. What I didn’t realize is that this is a fear based mindset. I was making my decisions of what to keep based on fear.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to make my decisions based on fear, and I definitely don’t want to spend so much time clinging to the past that I forget to be fully present in the now. Read: 5 Things I Learned from Hosting My Grandparents Estate Sale

Renee Benes Quotes The Fun Sized Life Blog - Quotes about letting go of the past and fear based decision making

We attach people to our stuff

Just like we inadvertently attach our stuff to our past experiences, we can also give more meaning to our items by attaching them to a person.

For example, I still struggle with letting go of items that belonged to my grandmother. By keeping these things close to me I feel as if I am keeping a part of her with me even though she has left this earth.

This part of decluttering stuff can be a very real, true grieving process as it can very much feel as if we are losing that person all over again. If this is something you struggle with, here is one thing that has helped to remind me that it’s ok to let go…

Our stuff isn’t our lost loved one. Their life, their soul was way bigger than any man made item could ever be. Pictures aren’t them, items they made aren’t them, and their favorite things don’t have to be our favorite things.

While I very much believe that hanging onto a few items of a lost loved one can be incredibly healing, I also believe slowly detaching from these items can be therapeutic and freeing. Does this mean you have to rush the process or give yourself a deadline? No way. It simply means that if you find yourself clinging to an item for no other reason other than the fact that it belonged to someone of significance, it’s ok to let go.

We attach who we used to be to our stuff

Something that all of us do whether we are aware of it or not, is we cling to stuff in an attempt to cling to who we used to be. Perhaps this is a business person who can’t seem to let go of their office attire even though they have been retired for 10 years, or a mom of 4 who regretfully stares at her too small jeans and bikinis dreaming of days gone by.

As bananas as it might sound, clinging to our old identities is another way of keeping us grounded in the past. It’s amazing to grow, shift and change in life. It’s what we came here to do. You can still look back fondly on that time in your life without desperately trying to cling to the impossible. Read: When You Declutter Your Closet You Just Might Find Yourself

Let go of yesterday. Dream tomorrow.

Have you ever realized that one thing most of us never do is spend time focusing on a good outcome for the future?

Really let that sink in.

If we aren’t rooted in our past, we are desperately fearful of what lies ahead. We play out all of these awful scenarios for tomorrow far more than we bask in the dream-like wonder of potential goodness that might be awaiting us.

This took forever for me to kick and sometimes it still creeps back in.

I used to spend a good majority of my days being fearful of tomorrow. If our car broke down, I would tell myself 2 more bad things were goin to happen to. Ya know, cuz bad things happen in threes. Now, if a slight mishap happens, for the most part I just let that single incident be exactly that…it’s own individual thing without planning for another fallout. Living that way used to seem ignorant or irresponsible. Like I was living in a child’s fantasy world, but you know what? Bad things stopped happening in threes.

When we get good at detaching from who we used to be and stop fearing what potentially awaits us we give ourselves permission to live fully here in the now.

The grief decluttering process

To the best of my ability, I want to give you some practical advice for how to begin going through the grief decluttering process.

This will look different for everyone, and remember, don’t ever rush the process out of fake obligation to someone else’s timeline.

Get clear on the high vibe vision you have for your future

When you learn to get good at focusing on a better vision for tomorrow, it makes it so much easier to let go of belongings from yesterday. In a way, I believe this both physically and metaphorically gives us momentum to rocket launch into that future utopia we know is waiting. It’s like that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where the pirates begin throwing any non-essentials overboard in order to speed up the Black Pearl. In fact, I even encourage you to turn on the Pirates of the Caribbean music while you declutter. It just might psych you up and make you feel like the badass heroic hero that you are.

Start with the stuff you want to let go of

Chances are there are belongings that you have that you have been ready to part with for some time but have had second guessing thoughts pop up in your mind. Things like:

“What if the person who gave this to me sees it at the donation center?”

“If my aunt comes over and see’s great grandma’s lamp is missing, she’s going to sick the whole family on me.”

“What if I lose 50 pounds and then am mad at myself for getting rid of these too small jeans from high school?”

First of all, recognize these types of thoughts as fear-based decisions. I doubt you want to guide your life through fear.

Go ahead and trust your inner instinct to part with these items. The more you can trust that inner voice of intuition, the stronger it will become.

Say your goodbyes if necessary

Sometimes when letting go of sentimental items whether they are things from our past or are something we’ve attached to a person, taking the time to say goodbye can be incredibly healing. Seriously, go ahead and cry.

One thing I always tell my kids when they don’t want to talk about their pain or let their tears fall is that if we don’t let our emotions out they stay stuck inside. We might not want to feel the sadness, grief or ickiness that comes with hard emotions, but either way they are going to exist. Might as well free them from our bodies.

Most people I know don’t seem to understand why I am a weirdly huge fan of feeling negative emotions but it is simply for the reason that the more of them I let go of the more free and happy I find myself being.

Why declutter grieving is crazy effective

Honestly, allowing yourself to grieve while decluttering is incredibly therapeutic because you’re not just sniffling in a puddle of tears feeling completely helpless. You are able to physically take action while grieving and that feels incredibly empowering.

I know this is why I go through a major cleaning/decluttering phase any time I’ve lost a loved one. In years previous I used to let my shopping addiction lead the way, but found that only made me feel more stressed and weighed down due to feeling broke or more in debt. Learning to channel my grief through actively cleaning house and decluttering helps me feel empowered and in control without the fall out of doing damage to my bank account or body. Let’s face it, we have a lot of harmful ways we grieve and decluttering isn’t one of them.

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Whether you've lost a loved one or can't let go of the past, decluttering can be a healthy tool to aid in the grieving process. Here's how.

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