Today, I’m answering a listener’s question about creating a strong vision for decluttering. This is a must-listen if you need help to get motivated or follow through with your decluttering plans! (In fact, the ideas I share in this episode can help you achieve all types of goals, not just decluttering.) Listen to find out how.
In This Episode:
- how to move decluttering from your “someday” basket to the top of your to-do list
- why daydreaming is actually the most productive thing you can do
- how to hack loss aversion so that it helps you declutter
Featured In This Episode:
- Get your free Mindful Decluttering guide: simplyfiercely.com/freeguide
- Read the blog: simplyfiercely.com/blog
- Connect on Instagram: @simplyfiercely
- Clear Your Clutter opens in Jan 2024–get on the waitlist: simplyfiercely.com/clearyourclutter
Subscribe to The Simply + Fiercely Show
Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.
How to Create a Strong Vision for Decluttering and Why You Should
It’s Jen here, and welcome to another episode of the Simply and Fiercely Show.
Today I am answering another reader question that I received via Instagram and it is all about creating a strong vision for decluttering.
Now, I am pretty sure the person who submitted this question has been following me for a while, because another thing that they said is, “I have trouble sustaining decluttering motivation. And I feel a clearer vision would help.”
Now, this is something that I 110% agree with but if you’re new to my work, the podcast, etc., you might not be as familiar with this concept of having a vision for your decluttering and why it’s important.
So before I answer the question of how to create your vision, I want to take a moment to talk about the why, because I really believe that this is something that’s absolutely essential for anyone who is decluttering.
I generally believe that investing just a bit of time and energy into this upfront is going to save you so much in the long run. It’s going to make the whole process more enjoyable and you’re going to feel more successful.
The analogy of decluttering as a good idea, but does not move without motivation
Let’s start with an analogy.
Regular listeners are going to know that I cannot live without analogies. It really is the best way to explain things.
So let’s pretend that you and I are friends and we are out having a cup of coffee. Out of nowhere, you say to me, ‘Hey, Jen, I’ve got this great idea. We should go away for a weekend together, you know, a bit of a girl’s trip. Wouldn’t that be fun?’
If you said that to me, I am sure I would say something like ‘Oh, yeah, that sounds brilliant. We should definitely do that one day.’
Now I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I can say that if we had that conversation in real life, we’d be all excited.
But then the conversation would change and nothing would ever happen. This idea of a girl’s trip would never move beyond the idea stage, it would be something that we keep saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to do that one day’. But in reality, nothing happens.
I think that this is where a lot of people are with their decluttering. It’s a great idea and maybe they’ve poked around, they’ve done a little bit, but in reality, they’re not fully motivated.
Decluttering remains this ‘someday task’ that you’d like to do, but there’s never enough time or energy and it never moves to the top of your to-do list.
That’s where most people are. Now, let’s look at another possibility.
The theory of ‘loss aversion’ that can be applied to decluttering
Back to our pretend conversation about our lovely weekend away.
Let’s say that after you made the suggestion about going away, you pulled out your phone and showed me this boutique hotel in a neighboring city that you’ve been looking at online.
Together we start going through your phone, looking at all the different images, and perhaps even going as far as comparing the different room types, checking pricing or availability of the hotel. We looked at the hotel restaurant and at the menu and talked about what we would order.
If we spent this extra time looking at all these details and feeling more excited about the idea of our trip, how do you think this would change the likelihood of us going away?
Now, obviously, it’s going to depend on your situation. If you genuinely don’t have any money to go on a weekend away, then all the planning in the world won’t make a difference.
But I would say that generally speaking, the more time you spend looking at all the nitty gritty details behind your imaginary trip, the more likely you are to follow through with it. There’s a theory for why this is.
There’s a concept in human behavior or psychology called ‘loss aversion’.
Long story short, the basic principle is that we as very normal human beings, really, really, hate to lose things.
The theory goes on to say that we feel the pain of a loss, considerably stronger than we feel the joy of a similar gain. For example, if you lost $5, that pain, relatively speaking, is much stronger than the joy of finding $5.
If you take this back to the concept of follow-through, right, when you just make an offhand remark about like, oh, yeah, we should go away for the weekend, then you don’t go. There’s no real loss because you never really felt like that trip was yours to begin with.
But if you spend an hour or two planning the trip, imagining the details, how you think you’re going to feel when you get there, what you’re going to do you know, your sightseeing, where you’re going to eat all of that fun stuff.
When you really start to build that vision in your mind, what happens is that then the idea of not following through with your trip, of wasting a few hours planning, all of that feels like a loss. And as I said, we really, really want to avoid loss. Now we’re that much more likely to follow through on the trip.
When we think about decluttering, this loss aversion is obviously part of what makes decluttering so hard, we don’t want to feel the loss of giving up our stuff.
But when we understand how loss aversion works, we can use it to hack our brains. When you have a strong vision of what your life will be like when you do your decluttering, then you start to build an attachment to it.
Just like you were building that attachment to that weekend away, the potential pain of giving up that vision, of giving up the dreams that you have for yourself becomes stronger than the pain of giving up your stuff.
The power of having a strong vision
This is why I am so obsessed with the concept of having a strong vision.
From experience, I can say with 100% confidence that it helped me stay motivated to declutter. It also helped me stop shopping.
As all of you probably know, I used to be a shopaholic and I think that for most people shopping is the flip side of decluttering.
Having a strong vision makes it easier for you to decide what to keep.
If you think about it, when you have this strong vision for your future you have some criteria and you can ask yourself, ‘Does this item I’m struggling to declutter belong in the future that I’m imagining for myself or not?’
Alright, so that is the ‘why’ behind having a strong vision. There are so many benefits and I hope I have encouraged you to really think about it.
I’ll also mention that I am so passionate about this concept and the power it can have in your everyday life that I have a whole program that teaches this called Values and Vision. It is currently closed for enrollment, but if you’re curious, you can sign up for my mailing list.
Go to simplyfiercely.com/freeguide to sign up. You’ll get my free decluttering guide and you’ll also be on my list so you get updates, stories, and advice. Basically, the kind of stuff I talk about on the podcast. You’ll also be notified the next time Values and Vision is open for enrollment.
In the meantime, I have three tips that I’m going to share that I think will really help you create a strong, compelling vision for decluttering.
Three tips to create a strong vision for decluttering:
Tip Number 1 – Be specific and do some research
For example, let’s say that really broadly speaking, one of the reasons you want to declutter, is because you want to spend less time cleaning and more time living your life. That is a valid reason for decluttering and something I hear a lot of people say.
But let’s face it, this concept of having more time for yourself, or more time living your life, or more quality time with family, whichever one of these statements resonates with you. Really, when you look at it, it’s very big, isn’t it? It sounds really beautiful, but it’s not very compelling.
So what I recommend that you do is that you get out a pen and a paper and you really brainstorm.
If you wanted to have more time for yourself or if you wanted to spend more quality time with your family, what specifically would you do? Once you get a few ideas going go a step further, do some research and be more specific.
So let’s say for example, one of the things that you said is, ‘Oh, when my life is less busy and cluttered, I want to get outdoors and spend more time with my family’.
Great, okay. But again, that’s kind of along the lines of ‘Let’s go on a weekend away’. It’s still vague and it’s still hard to feel fully committed.
To create depth in your vision, do some research. Make a list of day trips or walking trails you’d like to visit. Look them up online and figure out the best time of year to visit. Look at the different photos, and map out itineraries.
Pick out those little details that are going to start to make that experience come alive in your mind. When you do that, it creates so much more emotion around the idea.
I should mention that, for me, my vision when I was decluttering was really centered around travel. I’ve always loved to travel but at the time when I was decluttering, it wasn’t realistic for me at that exact moment.
I was still in a lot of debt, which is what happens when you’re a shopaholic for 15 years. So I was thinking about these trips that I wanted to take and it really helped motivate me to declutter, even though it wasn’t something that was around the corner.
I did eventually though. When I got married I went on a seven-month honeymoon, but that was still a few years down the road.
But the time I invested researching these trips really helped me commit to decluttering in my mind. The future that I was dreaming about felt so real, going backward or not following through, didn’t even feel like an option. Because of that loss aversion, I was committed to my future.
I really encourage you to try it, it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as going on a trip if that doesn’t resonate with you. It could even be something as simple as writing a list of the books that you would like to read when you have more time and putting them in order or maybe even putting a hold on the first one at the library or something like that.
Anything you can do to try to make your vision for the future, less imaginary, less, ‘Oh, that would be nice someday’ and to really start to make it real for you. Allow yourself to dig into the details and give yourself permission to daydream.
I mention that because I know that as adults we can feel like daydreaming is a waste of time when we have so many other things that we could be doing. But I genuinely believe that creating space to dream is absolutely essential and it will pay off in spades when it comes to decluttering. Or honestly, with any big goal that you’re trying to achieve in your life.
Tip Number 2 – Having that internal motivation, using your different senses
Moving on to tip number two, I just love this step.
When we think about our vision for the future, most people tend to think in really practical terms and think about things like goals.
For example, I’ll get a promotion or I’ll get a new house or I’ll retire. And of course, there’s a time and a place for that kind of goal setting, but in terms of creating a vision that will help you declutter, I don’t find that kind of thinking very helpful.
That’s because, and I guess I can only speak for myself, but deep down, I am a highly emotional person. And you’ve all heard me say this before but when we use willpower to declutter, when we kind of force ourselves to get rid of things. When we’re thinking that decluttering is going to help us achieve this goal, without a type A mentality I don’t feel like that’s very sustainable in the long term.
Because eventually, your willpower runs out and it’s hard to keep going if we don’t have that internal motivation. That internal motivation from me is almost like a feeling in the body. It’s not logic driven, it’s almost like something that comes from within. I’m having a hard time explaining it, but the way that I bring it into my decluttering is by using my different senses.
I know this probably sounds a little bizarre, but stick with me and I think I’ll be able to explain it to you. Let’s use my bedroom, for example. One of my visions when I am doing any decluttering in my home, particularly my bedroom, is to create a place that feels like a haven. Somewhere where I can retreat to at the end of the day to relax and recharge.
It’s funny because even now when I’m trying to explain this to you, I feel like the words I’m using aren’t sufficient enough when I think about the vision that I have in my head, but when I add in my senses everything changes.
When I’m thinking about that vision, that ‘retreat feeling’ for my bedroom, I think of the smell of lemongrass.
I’ve been really fortunate to have traveled around Southeast Asia in the past and I’ve been to some of the most gorgeous, delightful spas I’ve ever seen in my life. So now I have this imprint on my brain. Whenever I think about the smell of lemongrass, I associate it with this deep, deep sense of relaxation.
When I close my eyes and think about the vision that I have for my bedroom it’s almost like I can smell that lemongrass and the muscle memory triggers something in me. It’s this whole body feeling and it is so strong.
There are other ways, for some people it’s a song. When you hear that song it triggers a feeling inside of you. Or maybe it’s a flavor. Maybe there’s a dish your grandmother used to cook for you and now when you think about that flavor, it really evokes a deep sense of longing. You can feel that welcoming, inviting home.
You might not have a clear vision in terms of ‘this is exactly what my living room and my kitchen are going to look like’, but you can remember how you felt when you ate that meal. That feeling is part of your vision and so it creates a feeling, almost like it’s a deep knowing.
When we bring this back to decluttering, when I’m really aware of my senses about how I want to feel, it’s so much easier to make decisions about what does or doesn’t belong in my life and it makes it easier to stay motivated.
It’s not conscious, it’s not logical, it’s a feeling.
To recap my tips so far for creating a strong vision or to get really specific, do research and get as many details as you can to make your vision seem tangible. Then, to add another layer, use your senses. Things like music or imagining how your skin feels or what you’re smelling.
Tip Number 3 – Tapping into your memories for motivation
My third tip to tie everything up is to tap into your memories.
I think this is really helpful, especially if you are someone who has a hard time imagining the future or if what you want feels impossible, compared to where you are right now.
For example, if your life is super busy and your home is filled with clutter. It might be impossible to imagine just taking the afternoon off to read a good book, no matter how many reading lists that you make.
And I get that, I’ve definitely experienced that myself growing up, in the sense that I believe it can be hard to imagine what’s possible when it’s never been modeled for you.
For example, my grandparents and my mother are without a doubt the hardest working people I’ve ever met. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but my grandparents always deserve another shout out.
They opened a full service restaurant when I was in kindergarten. They worked 365 days a year, well into their 60s. When I was a kid, we would have Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ Chinese restaurant. Even as a kid, we would get up from our own dinner to go serve other people like my grandparents would be, while enjoying Christmas dinner with us
Coming from that kind of background, there was definitely a time when imagining what it would be like to create this vision for a slower, more relaxed life was really incomprehensible to me, it felt so far-fetched.
If you are having a hard time creating this kind of imaginary vision for your future, you can try also just tapping into a memory from the past, even if it’s just a one off moment.
For example, one of my clients was talking about her vision for her home and her decluttering. It was really centered around this concept of family and creating a really welcoming homey space.
One of the things that came up was that she had recently been at a wedding and she had this photo of her with her kids. She was talking about this intense feeling of pride and love that swelled up inside of her when she looked at this photo and remembered that moment in time.
My advice to her was whenever she’s decluttering and she finds herself not feeling motivated, or kind of spiraling.
I don’t know if you get this sometimes where you know that something isn’t that big of a deal. Like when you’re decluttering a shirt and you’re thinking, I know, that shouldn’t be hard, it’s just a shirt, it shouldn’t matter.
But for some reason, it’s really hard and you’re feeling so much more attached than feels logical. Tap into that feeling because that feeling or big picture helps pull you out of that emotional whirlwind where you don’t know what to do. Remember what matters, it’s your family, it’s that pride. You’ve got this memory that you can tap into.
I promise that when you shift gears mentally, you’ll look back at whatever you’re decluttering and go, ‘Oh, yeah, I don’t even care about this shirt’. This shirt matters so little, in the big scheme of things.
And sometimes it’s hard, I’m not judging anyone if you do find yourself spiraling because I’ve been there so many times. I’m just offering this as a hack or tip or whatever you want to call it, a way to pull yourself out of that spiral. The more that you can tap into your vision and what matters to you, it’s so much easier to see what doesn’t.
That my friends was one of the most important keys to my own decluttering journey in terms of finally making progress after a lot of years of struggling. I really hope that after listening to this, you feel motivated and excited to create your own vision and hopefully, make some progress with your own decluttering.