I still remember the day that I was bringing yet another load of donations to Goodwill. Yes, I know not everyone likes that I give to Goodwill. While I’m sure there are many other worthy causes in my area to give to, whenever I have the intention to give to them I usually end up having 3 garbage bags full of good intentions sit in the trunk of my car for months. Then, one day I open them up — ya know, just to see — and end up bringing stuff back into my house with me. This is why I adapted the habit of immediately donating whenever I found myself with the motivation to clean house. However, I had a shocking realization one day that I was donating an awful lot. I used to think this was a good thing, however, I couldn’t help but realize this meant I was in fact never actually creating a less-cluttered house. I was simply staying an equal amount of cluttered all year long. Sound familiar? Read on.
Decluttering and shopping are sometimes the same thing
If you haven’t heard yet, I proudly proclaim myself as a shopaholic turned minimalist. I even created my own mini crash course on how to curb a shopping habit. It’s called Shopping Rehab, I highly recommend you check it out if you struggle with overspending.
After kicking my shopping addiction I started doing things like selling the kitchen table for $75 to put toward debt payoff.
What no one told me is just like we can turn to shopping impulses to heal our wounds after a bad day, decluttering can be the exact same thing, just in reverse. In either scenario we have lead ourselves to believe that we are in fact in control of our lives.
The truth is, we are putting ourselves in control of stuff. Our real problem, however, is that we are really feeling out of control in our bodies.
Summary: our bodies are out of whack so we either buy shoes or clean out the linen closet.
Then we rest our head at night feeling proud and accomplished that we took charge in our life when really we have simply lulled ourselves into a false sense of security and control.
So what’s with the declutter cycle?
In his book, The Unteathered Soul, author Michael Alan Singer references a pendulum to describe how we often work to create balance in our lives.
Imagine a pendulum being pulled greatly to one side. When you finally release it, what is it going to do? Swing just as far back in the other direction in order to compensate.
This is how we unknowingly try to create balance in our lives.
It’s the reason people who grew up during the depression have children who are mini hoarders. Those children grew up having very little and perhaps had family members who scrimped and saved every penny. No one can blame them of course, they were trying to survive.
However, in order to compensate, that next generation went buck wild and bought themselves everything under the sun and held onto it for dear life just because they could.
Is this everyone’s story? No.
However, if you have ever been someone who is always going through a massive spring cleaning session after a major shopping spree then maybe you have some idea what I’m talking about.
We could also use this reference when it comes to the deprivation that can go hand in hand with crash dieting. You might lose 20 pounds rapid fire but eventually you’ll probably freak out and eat out the menu at Taco Bell.
The real thing we can only hope to do to maintain some form of balance in our lives is to slowly release the pendulum back to the middle instead of just letting it swing like crazy.
Is balance real?
One common thing I have heard from a lot of people is that balance isn’t really possible.
I get what they are saying, however, this is how I see it.
Imagine a tight-rope walker going across a wire from building to building carrying that giant balancing stick with him.
As he walks, he will teeter from side to side sometimes…but ultimately he is remaining balanced.
That is life.
There will be times when we declutter, there will be times when we need to buy more…like back to school hauls.
While we won’t alway be in the perfect middle of balanced, we can take steps to ensure that we stop swing so far from side to side.
Find your horizon
If I’m sticking with the tight rope metaphor (it just makes good sense to), I want you to imagine keeping your eyes on the horizon.
I remember my mom telling me when I was learning how to drive not to stare at the lines on the road. I needed to look ahead. If I looked at the lines, I would go toward the lines.
This same sneaky technique works in life.
What is the bigger picture you have for your life? What can you set your sights on? What goal can you aim for so that all of life’s little distractions are just blurry images in your peripheral vision? This is something I help people do in my Minimalist Reset program. Why? Because when you focus on where you want to go you are less likely to get yourself off track. You avoid the pendulum swing.
Balanced spring cleaning
So now, if you are all gung-ho about spring cleaning, may I encourage you to first set your sights on summer.
What is it that you want to do or accomplish for your summer?
Before you start cleaning house, take a moment to ask yourself what you end goal is. What do you ultimately want to have tidied up before summer starts?
Check your reality meter.
Brene Brown often shares a story of when she took several kids to Disneyland and felt it necessary to pack her bag with multiple novels she intended to read. Her husband paused her and made her check her Reality Meter (this isn’t what she calls it, it’s what I’m calling it). I can’t remember if she brought them all or one or none but she didn’t read anything throughout the entire trip.
This can save you a heap of heartache if you can do this before you begin decluttering. Like me, selling off the kitchen table, I could have checked my Reality Meter and said, “I’ll sell this one when we get another one because when I look at the big picture, having a place for my family to gather is really important to me.”
You don’t have to do it all at once.
Like my latest series on TikTok, If You Only Have 30 Seconds to Declutter I want you to remember that decluttering or cleaning house doesn’t have to be one giant show. You could easily set a box out and whenever you come upon an item you no longer need, place it in the box. When the box is full, donate it. It can be as easy as that.
Beware the pendulum
Remember, this lesson goes for every area of our lives, be aware the pendulum so that you can avoid falling prey to its relentless swing.