It is said that clutter is the physical representation of decisions unmade. That is profound to me. One of the first questions new clients ask is, “What do I do with it all?” They don’t know how to decide what to keep, what to let go of, where to donate, if something has value, what is trash. At first I was puzzled by this question. I thought, “Well, just get rid of what you don’t want or use anymore.” Not that simple!
First off, letting go for many is a very challenging process. Truthfully, I think it is more normal than not. There are the “what if” thoughts…what if I need it, what if the one I am using breaks, what if I lose the weight again? The struggle is based in the fear of not having what we need when (if) we need it.
Then there is financial frugality…“I paid a lot of money for that”, “it is wasteful if I don’t use it”. Feelings of regret creep in for having spent money on something never used or guilt for discarding something that may have a purpose someday…maybe.
Of course there is the big one… sentimental attachment. It is hard to let go of things that hold emotional meanings, attachment to people, or memories. It feels sacrilegious, like we are throwing the person or memory away, never to be had again.
So, with all these mental gymnastics, no wonder clutter abounds. It is easier to avoid making the decisions rather than feeling the yucky feelings involved in the process.
In comes acceptance. Acceptance that much of that thinking comes from listening to the voices of the past or other people’s values, not our own. Accepting that it is OK to listen to one’s own truth…the truth about what we really need, use or value. It might still be a struggle and feel yucky, but acceptance helps build our tolerance of that yuck.
I was speaking with a client today who is working hard to move beyond her hoarding behaviors. Her goal is to make her home safe and ordered and to eventually move to a much smaller home. She described how she is more in a “reality zone.” In that zone, she feels more accepting of what she has to let go of in order to make these goals a reality. She is accepting that her old thinking patterns are not working. In turn, such acceptance has opened the door for her to recognize what she does value. For example, she recognized that most of her clothes were worn and she felt embarrassed to wear them. Connecting with what felt right for her, she was able to let go of a large trash bag of clothes. This is in sharp contrast to holding on to those clothes, out of fear of not having enough, despite her dislike of them or what shape they were in.
What thought patterns are holding you back from letting go? Can you accept they aren’t working for you anymore?