Moving On Without the Clutter

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sometimes, life throws us some pretty heady curves.

Whether it’s through the loss of a loved one, an unfortunate turn at work, or the ending of a relationship, there are life events that often result in us having to pack up and move to a new home.

A mistake most of us make when we’re suddenly forced to move is that of quickly packing everything up and deciding to go through things when we “have more time” in the new home.

Like most, I’ve learned the error of those ways by living through it once, and only once.

The problem often becomes that we’ve usually labelled those boxes in some way that tells us they’re the stuff we didn’t have the cajones to sort through when we were moving, and then we convince ourselves it’s more important to make the home livable than it is to be Little Miss Molly McSorter or Power-Purgin’ Pete.

So, the box goes in the closet, and excuses pile up. And every time a glimpse of it is caught in passing, some “I gotta make that happen soon” guilt-based thought goes whipping through your head, followed by the stink of shame.

That’s the emotional life of stuff, and when you’re beginning a new life, that’s not the kind of mojo you need to be bring to your new world.

Here are some simple things to keep in mind to make the most of that life-changing move:

De-cluttering plans are for winners

Most of us do best when we have a deadline in place. A great way to approach a total life-purge is to choose your favorite local charity that’ll pick up donations, call them, and set a date for later in the week or month that you know you can get things done for. Honor that deadline.

If you don’t think you can be objective enough about what to toss or keep, let friends know you have this goal, and see if they’ll come and help you meet it before the pick-up deadline.

Clutter vs treasure: the heart always knows

A lot of people are overwhelmed by clutter, but they’re overthinking things. The first thing to go with is your gut response. If you pick up a photo or a toy or a souvenir and the first reaction is one of pain, loss, regret, or anything else that sucks, then donate that thing.

Simply put, life’s hard enough without living with stuff that makes us jump immediately to the Crap Side.

If you smile or laugh when you pick something up, then that’s exactly what you need around you as you tackle your new life. Clean it up and pack that baby.

Every ending is a beginning

There are some Eastern philosophies that will tell you that a full home means nothing new can enter. A full heart has no room for anything else. They will tell you, if you want new things to enter your life, you must have room for their arrival.

Clutter isn’t Zen, and most of those past keepsakes have nothing to do with who you want to be in the future.

Are these Eastern philosophies true? Who knows? But they can’t hurt.

By getting rid of stuff you’ve seen every day, things you’ve lost emotional resonance with, you’ll give yourself space to add new belongings, to create a new surrounding, develop a dynamic mood that’ll help you have a fresh outlook as you face this time of growth and change.

Cover your bases

If you’re scared that your judgment isn’t awesome in this time of change (and it probably isn’t, but that’s okay) there are little things you can do to protect yourself.

Have a couple “I have no idea” boxes where you keep a few things that give you that sad smile of remembrance. They’re the things you like remembering, but because it was so great, it’s bittersweet’n’sad to remember. Put them in there, mark the boxes with “The I-Don’t-Know Sort” and forget about them till you’re willing to face it some month down the road when you’re in a better life.

If you like the memory but it’s stupid to hang onto, or it’s a clutter-creating little knack-knack, consider making a shadowbox for similar items, or have fun doing some kind of photo essay where you take some photos of all these things you love, and find a way to turn it into a neat mosaic photo you can frame and display, while not having to keep all the items.

But don’t be scared

The worst thing that will happen if you donate or sell things is: You might have to buy a replacement one day.

Really, that’s all. Things only have the emotional value that we assign them.

I promise, if you get rid of that souvenir or book or photo, you won’t lose a hand, your hair won’t fall out, and you won’t get indescribably sick with no warning. You won’t wake gasping in horror.

But if you keep it? You might constantly run through moments in the past, be ever-aware of the changes you’re living through, and worse.

Embrace this difficult new time in your life by taking charge of it and choosing to change your environment for the better. Step into your future with a new clutter-free, bad-memory-cleansed world around you, and discover how empowering it is.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.