We don't talk about how decluttering our stuff can be really emotionally painful. Here's how to let go of the stuff and the pain.

Decluttering is an Emotional Experience. Here’s how to embrace letting go.

When it comes to minimalism and decluttering, one thing that isn’t talked about enough is that decluttering can be an emotional experience. I recently found myself stopped dead in my tracks with a bathroom rug locked in my grip. No matter how ridiculous I told myself was being I could seem to shake the feeling that I was ready to break into tears. You see, this particular bathroom rug had been used for the last few years underneath my dog, Daisy’s food dish. We recently put her down at the age of almost 19 years old, and without knowing it, I had developed a sentimental attachment to a rug. To be fair, I wasn’t decluttering this rug from my home, I was rationally trying to repurpose it underneath our other dog’s food dishes in place of a towel. Despite the fact that I was eliminating this thing from my home, I still found myself struggling to give the rug a new purpose. This odd experience triggered in me the reminder that decluttering can be emotionally difficult and it’s not something that gets talked about enough. So, let’s change that.

Embracing the let go

I created my ebook, The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go for the main reason that decluttering our possessions can help us let go of so much more than our stuff. We can shed limiting beliefs, past traumas and even come face to face with current emotional struggles. (Like a bathroom rug, apparently.)

For me, the process of downsizing our home and decluttering over half my possessions was a catalyst for my entire self growth journey. You can come face to face with a lot of internal things simply by working to eliminate external clutter. It’s kind of bananas, actually.

That was the basis for The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go. As well as hoping to give people the practical tools to simplify their homes and cleaning practices, because let’s face it, clutter doesn’t deserve our energy. There are so many more important areas of our lives that need the TLC we often give to our spaces. If you feel like you could use an internal and external reset, click here to grab the ebook.

The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go - Minimalist Lifestyle - Decluttering Guide

Clutter fears

Something I share about often are the fears we often carry around decluttering our possessions. On the surface level, these can seem like minor blips in an otherwise carefree existence, but the reality is that they just might be tied to something way deeper. (Not for all of us, but for some.) Read: 3 Mindset Blocks That are Keeping You in the Clutter.

The 3 main fears I hear about are:

  • Throwing things away
  • Potentially needing something someday
  • Losing out on money

One thing I neglected to include in this list is sentimental attachment to things. While I suppose that doesn’t necessarily qualify a a fear, it is most definitely something that can block us from eliminating otherwise useless items from our home.

Recognizing emotional attachment

Naturally, when it comes to emotional attachment, we might think of things like Grandma’s Bible, our wedding dress, or our children’s second grade artwork. I am a big believer in not rushing the declutter process when it comes to these kind of items, especially if they belonged to a lost loved one. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge any pain or sadness that comes up when we handle one of these emotionally charged possessions rather than simply storing it away.

In a lot of ways I can’t help but feel like the urge to hang onto things simply because we don’t want to let them go can truly be a way of avoiding our own feelings or emotions. This is of course something that comes easier to some people. Learning to sit in my uncomfortable emotions during the decluttering process didn’t come naturally for me, but it was one of the most healing things I have ever done. It’s almost as if by allowing myself to feel sadness around letting go of an item, even crying about it, I was able to not only release the item, but release whatever negative emotions I was harboring around it. What started as hurtful, became healing in the end.

We don't talk about how decluttering our stuff can be really emotionally painful. Here's how to let go of the stuff and the pain.

Over-inflating the value of our stuff

Something I share in The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go and is a practice I have had to apply to my own life, is simply working to see our possessions for what they are. Remember, the things we own don’t have meaning, we give them meaning.

For example, if I were to list my wedding dress on Facebook Marketplace, emotionally I might want to sell it for $1,000. Which is actually more than the $800 I paid for it. After all, it’s so valuable to me. It’s also a designer dress that I was lucky enough to get at a consignment shop. There is no end to the excuses I could make as to why my dress should be of no less than $1,000 in value.

However, if we’re being honest, the retail price would probably sit closer to $100. My dress is almost 16 years old now…oh gosh, does that mean it’s vintage?! Heaven help me.

What I’m getting at is the fact that the value of our items is usually monetarily way less than we think. This can be disappointing to us when attempting to sell things, because no one seems to want to pay what we believe our item is worth. If we are over-inflating the value of our items, that means there is more work that needs to be done…with our mindset.

We don't talk about how decluttering our stuff can be really emotionally painful. Here's how to let go of the stuff and the pain.

Devaluing our stuff

Learning to start looking at our possessions and seeing them for exactly what they are, material items, can begin to help us shift our perspective around those more emotionally charged items.

As I sat there holding a bathroom rug in my hand, not wanting to put it in a new location, I had to remind myself that while this particular rug served a purpose that was part of my dog’s daily routine, it was in fact, still a rug. Should I slap a price tag on it at a garage sale, it would probably total one dollar.

The item itself is nothing more than some fabric woven together by wherever Target mass produces their bathroom rug selection. Despite my feelings, this rug has no real attachment to my long lost pup. She herself, her essence, her spirit, could never be reduced to something as simple as a bathroom rug. The rug is replaceable, she is not…and that fact is painful. At the end of the day, I don’t want to hold onto the rug, I want to hold onto her and that is what I am attempting to do by not relocating and repurposing it somewhere else.

We don't talk about how decluttering our stuff can be really emotionally painful. Here's how to let go of the stuff and the pain.

Decluttering hurts

At the end of the day, I just want you to know that decluttering hurts sometimes. That’s not a fact that we’re often told, and most definitely isn’t something we really think about. We think the letting go process is all about creating space by decluttering inanimate objects, until we come face to face with something that feels hard to let go of.

If something feels too difficult to part with, I encourage you to sit in that discomfort and allow yourself to dig deep into why it feels difficult. You might just learn something about yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to let go of something so much bigger than the item itself.

The next time you find yourself struggling to add an item to the Donate Bin, try envisioning all of the stress, fear, or negativity you’re harboring going into that item. In doing this, you just might allow yourself to say goodbye to all of it.

Decluttering our space can make us feel lighter because we have less to manage and less visual stimulation, but I also believe we feel lighter because in many ways we’re letting go of a lot of the internal baggage other people can’t see. And letting go of that stuff, is truly the most freeing.

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We don't talk about how decluttering our stuff can be really emotionally painful. Here's how to let go of the stuff and the pain.

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