When I first started decluttering, it was very overwhelming, and there were days when I wished it would all just go away. Have you ever had those thoughts? If so, here’s something that might surprise you…
If I could wave a magic decluttering wand and make all your clutter disappear, I would not use it. Listen to this episode to find out why.
** Clear Your Clutter is open for enrollment from 20 – 29 July. **
In This Episode:
- why slow decluttering isn’t a bad thing
- the unexpected benefit of decluttering
- how you can work with me to clear your clutter
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 for enrollment on 20 July: simplyfiercely.com/clearyourclutter
Subscribe to The Simply + Fiercely Show
Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.
Ever Wish Your Clutter Would Just Disappear?
Hey, everybody, it’s Jennifer here, and welcome to the Simply and Fiercely Show.
In today’s episode, I want to explore something that came up in a decluttering workshop that I was teaching this morning.
But before we dive in, I’ll quickly say that that workshop was one of three in a series that I’m calling prep school. Prep school is all about going back to basics with decluttering and really making sure that you have some strong foundations to work from.
If you’re interested in that, the Live series will have been completed by the time this podcast goes to air but you can go to simplyfiercely.com/prepschool. If you sign up there, you will get instant access to all the live recordings. Each workshop is only about 30 minutes long so it’s pretty manageable.
Back to today’s episode.
One thing that came up during this workshop was, if I had a magic wand and I could make all of your clutter instantly disappear, I wouldn’t do it. That’s what I want to talk about today.
I want to explain why I wouldn’t do it. And it’s not because I’m being mean or because I want you to suffer with your clutter for any longer than necessary. There are two really fundamental reasons why I wouldn’t wish your clutter away.
The first reason why Jennifer wouldn’t wish your clutter to disappear overnight
Number one, first and foremost, if your clutter disappears overnight, I can almost guarantee you that it’s going to come back.
It might not happen next week, or next month, it might even take a few years. But if you don’t take the time to figure out what the habits, the thoughts, the beliefs, the triggers, all the things are that created your clutter in the first place. If you don’t figure that out and address it, then what’s to decide that you’re not going to just repeat the entire process?
All that clutter is going to come back again. I say that with confidence because I’ve actually experienced this firsthand.
The real reason why Jennifer had so much clutter before
So as some of you may know, I originally grew up in the States. I am originally from Maryland, but I moved to Australia when I was in my early 20s, almost 20 years ago now.
Even though I was in my early 20s, I already had a lot of clutter, I was already struggling with shopping addiction. When I moved to Australia, I did so with just a few suitcases. I did ship a pallet of stuff over, about a cubic meter, so I didn’t come over without anything. But, relatively speaking, it was a blank slate for me.
I was coming over quite minimalist, to be honest. But it only took me a year, probably less than a year, to fill up a large three-bedroom apartment to the point where it was overflowing with stuff.
So, I did have that magic fairy who erased everything, so to speak, but it didn’t work for me.
If you are a regular listener, you may have heard me talk about this before, but the real reason I had clutter was not because I was bad at dealing with stuff or because I had no self control.
The heart of the issue was that I really struggled with insecurity. I did not like my physical appearance. I was not happy with my career success.
I’ve changed a lot over the years, but back then I really compared myself to my peers. It felt like everybody I went to school with had graduated from university and had all these ‘successful careers’ while I was working in a sales job. I felt like I wasn’t living up to my potential. I didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
The way that I dealt with all of those feelings was to buy more stuff so that’s why I had a home that was absolutely bursting at the seams.
If I got rid of all of that overnight, yes, I would have less stuff in my house, but I would still have that insecurity and no healthy way of managing it.
I would have followed the same routines and habits and I would have continued to buy things to help me with my insecurity. That’s not even up for debate because that is exactly what happened.
Reasons why people have clutter differ for everybody
The reasons you have clutter may very well be different from mine. That’s one thing about clutter, it’s very personal.
Our struggles with clutter are often a reflection of our lived experience so it’s different for everyone. If you don’t take the time to figure out your clutter story, What are the thoughts, beliefs, and habits that hold you back? It’s almost guaranteed that your clutter is going to come back.
It reminds me of those stories you hear about people who have money problems and then they win the lottery. It’s like, oh my gosh, everything is fixed. Hurray. Then within a few years, they are bankrupt.
And, look, I’m not a psychologist, I’m sure there are many reasons for why that happens but I’m sure a huge part of it is, if you’re having money problems, there might be some money mindset issues, right?
Or you need to learn some new skills, you need to learn how to be financially responsible, and just throwing cash at the problem isn’t going to fix it.
It’s the same kind of lesson with decluttering.
I often say that clutter is a symptom and if you don’t get to the heart of the problem, figure out what it is, and address it, the clutter is going to keep coming back.
That is the first reason why I would not use my magic decluttering wand, which by the way, I don’t have.
The second reason why Jennifer wouldn’t wish your clutter away
The second reason, I think is possibly more impactful, I recorded an episode about it actually.
It was about how my minimalist wardrobe and decluttering my closet really helped me with self acceptance and overcoming my insecurity. You can listen to it here The Link Between My Minimalist Wardrobe And Self-Acceptance [Episode 11]
What I found is that the decluttering itself, the act of going through the decluttering process, is very healing. Let’s break that down a little bit.
When I was suffering from these deep insecurities, my stuff was like a mask almost, or maybe like a costume, or a suit of armor. I’d wake up and look in the mirror and I’d be like, ‘Oh, God, I feel all these feelings that I don’t want to feel’.
But then instead of having to deal with it, instead of having to confront my insecurities, instead of having to, you know, make peace with myself, and start that self love journey, I just kept buffering and hiding.
I don’t like my face, that’s fine, I’ll pile a ton of makeup on. I don’t like my body, I will wear designer clothes, or the latest trends or the latest outfits or the highest heels. Anything to distract myself from my discomfort.
What really happens when you declutter? (…Why is the process healing?)
When I was decluttering several things happened. First, I had to ask myself, why was it so hard to let go?
Things like shoes, as I said, I had a lot of insecurity. High heels were like my secret weapon. I always felt more confident when I wore heels, I had a collection of over 100 pairs of shoes.
So when I was going through them, I really had to ask myself, ‘Why does it feel so emotional?’
You’ve all probably heard the saying it’s just stuff, right? I don’t subscribe to that belief. I believe that your stuff is more than stuff. Your stuff tells a story.
That’s what I was trying to do. I had to spend some time figuring out what my stories were. Because even though it’s easy for me to tell you now ‘Oh yes, I was dealing with this crippling insecurity’, it somehow wasn’t obvious to me back then.
It was only through decluttering and as I got rid of things, it was like taking off that suit of armor.
I was saying earlier that it felt like I was wearing a mask. I had my clothes and my shoes to protect me. But as I put them down, I had to practice looking in the mirror without those things. And it was this work that I was doing, the work of decluttering, in many ways is the work of healing.
There’s growth, there’s so much that comes out of the process. It’s like that saying that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. I really experienced that myself.
When I look at my life right now, and you know, first, let me say, I’m not perfect, I’m so far from perfect it’s not even funny. But I can see when I reflect back and I look at what my life was like, you know 15 years ago, that I have come so far.
I am 42, I have gray hair. I’ve had two kids, I definitely don’t look like I did in my 20s, but I have never felt more confident. I feel at ease in my home, I have ended my shopping addiction, and I have developed healthier coping habits for stress and anxiety.
All of these changes happened because I took my time with decluttering. Also, just to point out, I never bullied myself when I was decluttering. This is something that I’m very passionate about. I hear a lot of people talking about discipline and willpower, and just kind of trying to force themselves to let go. But that does not work for me. I also think that it’s not beneficial.
It’s kind of like a mini version of the magic wand. If you force yourself to let go of something without taking time to learn the lessons and working through, ‘Why is this hard for me?’, then again, you’re still not getting the full range of benefits.
The value and emotional benefits of slow decluttering
I’m telling you this for a few reasons. First of all, I’m hoping it may reassure you if you are taking a long time to declutter. I’m not saying that everybody has to take years the way that I did. But I do think that there’s a lot of value in slow decluttering.
You’re giving yourself the opportunity to feel all the feelings and learn from them. Slow decluttering is not bad. I would even argue that I’m probably in favor of slow decluttering over fast decluttering.
Slow tends to be more intentional and there’s more time for reflection so that you don’t repeat the same habits.
And two, to maybe inspire you and to let you know that yes, there are benefits of decluttering. There are the physical benefits, you have less stuff, fewer things to clean, and less to trip over. And of course, it feels really lovely to spend time in a home that is decluttered.
For me, I really found that decluttering transformed my living space from a place that was quite stressful and that caused me anxiety, to a place that felt really warm and almost like a haven. It’s like an oasis. It’s where I go when I want to rest and recharge, as opposed to somewhere where I go and feel all stressed out.
So obviously, those kinds of physical benefits are wonderful.
But when you take your time to declutter slowly, it unlocks a whole other level of benefits. You find yourself overcoming demons that have haunted you for a long time. You may find that there are increased feelings of self worth, and you can get closure on old wounds. There are so many emotional benefits of decluttering.
There’s a methodology for decluttering: Invitation to join Clear Your Clutter
The final point I want to make is that the methodology of how you declutter matters.
Like I was saying before, you don’t want to be bullying yourself but I think it’s a little bit more than that.
The way that I teach decluttering I try not to rely too heavily on things like hacks. You’ve probably heard things like, turning your hangers around to see what you wear or packing things up in a box and putting them in the back of your closet. Then if you don’t use it for three months, or six months, or whatever, you just get rid of it.
Those tools have their place in decluttering, so I’m not knocking them or saying that you should never use them. But beyond that, I think that the real key to successful decluttering, and when I say successful, I mean, getting rid of your stuff, maintaining a decluttered home in the long run, and also experiencing all of that personal growth and emotional change that I’ve already talked about, is to get to the roots of your clutter.
Sometimes I think of clutter a little bit like weeds. You can just keep chopping them but they’re going to keep growing unless you really get down there and pull them out by the roots.
If that’s something that speaks to you, if that’s something you would like to learn more about, then I would like to invite you to join me in Clear Your Clutter.
Clear Your Clutter is my group decluttering program. There are eight live calls, where I walk you through my entire method for decluttering and then we spend time understanding why you have clutter, really getting to the root of it. Then we talk about different ways to change your thoughts and beliefs so that you can feel empowered, and excited about letting go.
Not to say that it’s always fun or that it’s always easy. I don’t want to make false promises but it feels good, like a workout. It’s all about getting to the roots and really making those foundational changes.
Now a few technical things. I run the program twice a year, it’s eight weeks of calls. There’s also a pre-recorded course, which is kind of like a textbook that accompanies the live program. You have lifetime access to everything and something else that I’m really proud of is that when you join Clear Your Clutter, you’re also invited to attend all future live sessions.
I can’t promise that I’ll be doing this forever but as long as the course is running, as long as I’m out there doing the calls, once you’ve joined the program, you’re always welcome to come back.
If you would like to learn more, you can go to simplyfiercely.com/clearyourclutter.
Thanks everyone for listening. I hope that nobody holds it against me that I’m not using my decluttering wand and that you are all feeling a little bit more inspired to do the work of decluttering because I promise that at the end of the day, it will be worth it.