The Hard Truths About Decluttering


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Decluttering can be tough. When you get rid of things, sometimes there are emotions tied up in them. There’s certainly a lot of time tied up in decluttering. So, how do you push through so you can open a world of possibilities for yourself once clutter is gone? Here are some thoughts on that.


Everyone tells you decluttering is the best thing ever. You see those decluttering shows and it’s like they unleashed the Anti-Tasmanian Devil in the space to reverse-whirlwind all the madness. Poof! It’s done! DECIDE AND CONQUER!

Us gurus tell you people-of-clutter how it’s just a matter of determination and these 89.7 steps will see you to success before the chill on your beer is gone.

It’s not really true. It’s hard.

A proper perspective

Ambitious decluttering is seriously tough, even when you’re someone like me who does it every couple months or so. When you make the choice to do a large decluttering project throughout your home, it can take some serious time if you’re doing it like I am — donating some, “seriously” selling some, garage-saling the rest.

That organization takes space. The time-table can be tricky, and for some, every minute that crap sits scattered around can be overwhelming to the point of being unable to act futher.

Money and space

But rushing through it can also lose you money, so if you’re after the bucks AND the sanity, playing it pragmatically really adds up. If I take my crystal dishes I’m selling over to a consignment shop now, for instance, the low season might mean it doesn’t sell for awhile, possibly killing half or more of my profit, but if I wait until April, cruise-ship season is on, and that same consignment store doubles its business.

This means my chances of getting top-dollar increase by two-fold too. Sadly, that means the crystal sits around for a while, but at least I know I have a plan.

Patience, Grasshopper

For most people, it’s hard to find enough time and motivation at the same time. It’s a real chore to set aside three full days or something. Me, I’ve been doing decluttering now for two weeks, intermittently. Work’s been interfering and so has life. The result is a lot more mess than I want. It’s the opposite of what I was motivated to create, but that’s the price to pay for just a little while.

There’s a huge sigh of relief as I near the end of what was a good, but hard, bit of struggle that saw me reducing my belongings by about 10-15%, with a plan to get rid of another 20% in coming weeks.

The fact is, large-scale decluttering is essentially almost as chaotic as living with home renovations going on, but at least the resolution can come quicker if you’re determined, and there’s no need to wait for any permits.

The only true thing you often hear is: Decluttering usually gets worse before it gets better. But it does get better.

A de-cluttering philosophy to live by

Here are some other truths to remember:

1. You likely won’t get it all the first time. Decluttering is something you improve at. You take babysteps. You give it your best shot, and the next week you’ll look at something else and wonder, “Hmm. Why didn’t I include that in my thrift store donation?”

That’s okay, grasshopper. Life’s accumulation continues and in mere weeks you can do this again, but on a smaller scale.

2. It’s an addictive activity. Seeing order descend on your planet is like Harold and Kumar finally seeing White Castle on the horizon: It’s euphoric. You’ll want more. More of the tasty, wondrous glee that is a well-organized home. You’ll find yourself setting things aside more often, tossing unused things, or even selling things for profit and piggy-banking the dough for that Hawaiian vacation you’ve wanted.

3. It’s way more emotional than you expect, but not in the way you expect. When you get rid of your stuff, it’s like a crash course in mental well-being. You have to face what’s behind your stuff, confront memory after memory, and reach the ultimate realization that your stuff isn’t your life. Then you let it go, and something else hits you: That it’s okay. A bit of freedom washes over you, then strength, and you realize it’s all gonna be fine.

4. Decluttering regularly will change the way you shop. When you realize how much crap you have to get rid of from over the years, it helps you “click” that every single thing you buy is eventually a thing you have to get rid of. You’ll spend money more meaningfully both for your home and for others. You’ll stop buying “gag” gifts. You’ll skip trinkets. You’ll want to buy better quality so it lasts longer.

Challenges and rewards

Going through your home, having the focus to see the whole home through a decluttering project, is a much more time-intensive and emotionally-challenging activity than most people prepare you for. It’s also far more rewarding than all of us D-I-Y writers can possibly explain. It’s honestly life-changing and worth every moment of the grief. Like many experiences in life, you’ll never be able to grasp how it makes you feel until you’ve been through it yourself.

Make this the year that you really attack your clutter and change your life. You’ll wonder what took you so long. I promise.

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