Home » Blog » How to Create Decluttering Breakthroughs [Episode 16]

How to Create Decluttering Breakthroughs [Episode 16]

In this episode of The Simply + Fiercely Show, we delve into the plateaus and breakthroughs that are an inherent part of the decluttering process. Discover effective techniques to intentionally create more breakthroughs, and unlock the secrets of a clutter-free life.

In This Episode:

  • Why “more time” doesn’t always lead to results
  • The #1 way to create decluttering breakthroughs (with examples!)
  • A surprising link between clutter and physical health

Featured In This Episode

Subscribe to The Simply + Fiercely Show

Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.

How to Create Decluttering Breakthroughs

Hello everyone. It’s Jennifer here, and welcome to the Simply + Fiercely Show. Today we’re going to be talking about the concept of decluttering breakthroughs and how they can make a real difference to your decluttering journey.

What are decluttering breakthroughs?

Basically, it’s an idea that came to me when I was in the shower this morning.

When I was showering, I was thinking about recording a podcast episode and what I wanted to talk about, and I was reflecting on my own decluttering journey.

Jennifer’s journey into decluttering before she became a reformed shopaholic.

For those of you who are new here, I’m a reformed shopaholic. As you can imagine, I used to have a lot of clutter, my home was overflowing with stuff.

Over the past decade, a little more than that now, I have downsized to the point where I currently live with my family of four in a 660 square foot apartment. Obviously, it didn’t happen overnight, but I was thinking about how it did happen.

Most people expect that it will be a fairly linear process. Like housework or spring-cleaning where you just have to roll up your sleeves and get it done. The results you get are relevant to the time and the effort that you put in.

In my experience, that has not always been the case.

I mean, yes, time and energy important. If you don’t have any time or any energy, you’re not going to get anything done.

But what I found when I was decluttering is that often I would make the time and be there doing the work, but I wouldn’t get much done.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had that experience where you’ve spent an hour or two hours decluttering and then at the end you look around and you think, “Gosh, is this all I’ve got to show for it?” Do you know what I mean?

Jennifer describes her own decluttering breakthroughs.

That’s how I found a lot of my decluttering journey went.

Then I would have these breakthroughs where I’d have an aha moment and I would get a ton done in a short period of time.

If we’re looking over several years, close to a decade, it wasn’t like these breakthroughs happened all the time either. It was more plateaus than anything.

I would have this breakthrough and declutter a whole bunch of stuff, and then I’d kind of exist on that plane for a while, and then I would have another breakthrough and I would get rid of more stuff, etc.

Repeating that process of having these breakthroughs over the course of many years is how I got to the point where, as I said, we live quite comfortably in 660 square feet.

So, what I was thinking about when I was in the shower this morning?

What to expect when decluttering and what do you need to accept?

I was thinking about what we can do to intentionally create these breakthroughs.

To be clear, I think that it’s normal for decluttering to be hard. There’s a lot of emotion. There’s so much wrapped up in letting go of your stuff. I’m not trying to imply that people should expect that they should declutter their home in a weekend or in a week even, but there are things that we can do to try and speed the whole decluttering process up.

I was really trying to pinpoint in my mind the things were that helped me the most so that’s what this episode’s going to be about. I’m going to share some of these top tips to try to help you have your own decluttering breakthroughs.

So, if you’re feeling like you’re in a bit of a plateau or you feel like you’re doing lots of work but you’re not making any real progress, this episode is for you. Okay?

The difference between knowing how to declutter and knowing how to let go.

The very first thing I want you to know is that there is a big difference between knowing how to declutter and knowing how to let go.

This is where I think, if you find yourself, for example, in a cycle of always reading blog posts and you’re wondering why it’s so hard for you. You’ve read 50,000 articles about how to declutter, but you’re still not making any progress.

The reason is because decluttering in and of itself is not very difficult. The concept is to just go through your stuff, decide what to keep, and get rid of what you don’t want. It’s very basic. You don’t need help learning how to do that.

It’s the how to let go that’s a challenge.

Sometimes the first step is just acknowledging that that part is hard so you’re not beating yourself up for struggling so much. One thing I will say is that’s something that I struggled with a lot when I was decluttering in the beginning.

I remember being really distressed thinking, why is this so hard for me when I see everybody on the internet who was making so much progress so quickly?

In fact, I was reading through an old blog post the other day, and one of the comments was like, “How do you do it? It sounds like it’s so easy for you.” And no, no, it was not so easy for me. It was really, really hard.

What kept me stuck on one of those plateaus was that I was internalizing the shame that it was hard. I was really beating myself up for taking my time and that just made the whole process harder, if that makes sense.

It’s like if you are constantly trying to get into shape, and when you go to the gym and you’re struggling every time and it’s not easy for you. If you’re sitting there thinking, “God, you’re such an idiot,” or, “You’re never going to get in shape,” or. “You just can’t do this.” Well, of course it’s going to be a lot harder.

Decluttering is easier done when there is a shift in the mindset.

Whereas if you come in with the mindset saying, “Hey, I know that getting in shape is hard, it’s going to take some time. I just need to practice.” If you have that kindness and self-compassion, it’s going to make it easier to keep going.

The same applies to decluttering and I don’t know if that’s talked about enough.

People make it out like it’s this really simple process that everyone should know how to do. If you are in that mindset, that might be one of the things that’s keeping you stuck on a plateau.

You’re not acknowledging that it can be hard, and that’s okay. 

Once you start showing up for yourself with kindness and self-compassion, the things that will help you have these big aha moments are almost always perspective shifts. That’s the best way that I can describe it.

Setting aside decluttering for a moment, have you ever gone through periods in your life where something happens and then your priorities shift or the way you see the world is a little bit different?

You might be having a day and you’re so stressed about what’s happening at work, or you’re worried about getting your housework done. All these little things are weighing on you, and then something happens. Your sister has a baby, someone gets in a car accident.

I mean, I hate to be morbid, but it could be good, or it could be bad. It could just be anything like that.

Then everything shifts and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I was worrying about all these things and they’re not really that important when I take that step back and remember what life is about.”

Intentionally creating that kind of perspective shift when you’re decluttering can be really, really powerful. There are so many different ways that you can do that, but I’ll share a few ideas for you.

The concept that it’s a perspective shift is really important because again, I want to reiterate, so many people focus on the practical physical aspect of decluttering.

Where really, it’s like that saying, sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

They don’t ever pause to think about the mental work. If you spend a little time just thinking, you don’t have to be in there with your hands and your clutter going through boxes. Just think first, give yourself a little space to reset your mind before you start your work and you’re more likely to have a breakthrough.

So what are some of the different ways that we can have a breakthrough?

The different ways to achieve decluttering breakthroughs

First – Are you thinking of your stuff to be your legacy? (…How do you want to be remembered?

I actually wrote a blog post with some ideas just the other day. It’s called 10 Ways to Get Rid of Clutter Quickly and Easily.

One that I really like is this idea of thinking about your stuff as your legacy.

You can do this with yourself. Or I’ve worked with clients who are trying to declutter things from a parent or a loved one, someone who’s passed on, and now they’re going through their stuff and they’re finding it very overwhelming.

Obviously, there’s a lot of emotional attachment, but if you take a big step back. Don’t even think about your clutter, just think about yourself or your loved one and think, what do I/they want to be remembered for? What is the legacy that I/they want to leave to the world?

Then when you have that vision in your head, take another look at your clutter with these fresh eyes and see if you see things differently.

Now, of course, not everything is a legacy item. My toilet bowl cleaner is not something that says anything about me. But still, just having this mindset can be really helpful.

Sometimes it’s not even about the stuff. It’s like, when I leave my legacy, do I want to be remembered as the kind of person who was always stressed out looking for stuff.

Do I want to be remembered as the kind of mom who was always cleaning or shuffling piles of laundry around? Or do I want to be remembered as the kind of mom who was present with my kids?

It’s like that whole tapping into your why.

Then when you go to declutter, you’re thinking, “Oh, before, I was going through this drawer of kitchen utensils, and I was really stressing about whether I need this whisk, or do I need these mini wooden spoons?”

Now you have a new perspective.

You’re thinking, “Who cares?” What I want to be is the type of person who doesn’t care so much about what kitchen utensils I have.

Of course, I do want to point out this is very personal.

There are no rules with minimalism.

Let’s say cooking, for example, is a huge part of who you are, and you do want to be remembered as someone who created a really wonderful inviting space in the kitchen. So maybe for you personally, you might have more kitchen stuff than for someone else, and that’s fine.

When I use examples, I’m not trying to shame you into thinking that you should get rid of certain things.

The whole point though is to think about your legacy. What’s most important for you? If someone was looking at your life and how you were living, what would you want them to remember?

I was reading some comments about a workshop I taught a few years ago and someone picked up on this legacy thing and said it was quite well-timed. Their father-in-law or someone like that had passed and left so much stuff that they were going through and decluttering. They were sort of joking among themselves like, “Oh, he wants us to remember him. Oh, we’ll certainly remember him now.”

Of course, that’s a bit of tongue in cheek, but that is kind of the idea.

How do you want to be remembered? Your stuff is like a living legacy of that.

Second – Think about how you want to be living in five years?

Alternatively, if you find that thinking that far into the future is a bit daunting and the legacy idea doesn’t really resonate with you, sometimes it’s as simple as just thinking, how do I want to be living in five years?

I read this really good book, I think it was called Anti-Time Management. Something like that. I do apologize, gosh, I’m really horrible at quoting things.

But the whole concept was to think about the life that you want in the future, to imagine what it’s like and to then bring it forward. How can we start living that kind of life today?

If you are imagining how you want to be living in five years, what do you want your life to be like?

You don’t have to have all the details, just sit on your sofa and daydream.

It’s work you can do with your feet up. Just daydream about the life that you want. Then when you get up to start decluttering, ask yourself, “If I was living that life now, would I want to keep these things?”

Again, that can create a perspective shift that really helps you see things in new light. Suddenly you don’t care as much about the things you thought were so important. That can create a powerful perspective shift.

As some of you may know, I originally grew up in the US. I moved to Australia, almost 20 years ago, but I’ve had some pretty big moves since then.

I went back to the US for a little while. I’ve lived in different cities across Australia, and I always find that moving is a great way to declutter because you look at everything differently when you realize that you’re physically going to have to clean it and pack it up and carry it or pay for storage or for shipping, etc. 

That’s always been a big leap forward in my decluttering.

You’ve probably heard this tip before, but it’s always worth reminding because it is a pretty powerful one. You don’t have to actually move. You can just think as if you are moving.

Ask yourself, would this be worth it? Would this be worth packing up cleaning, shipping?

Or the one that always resonates the most with me because I’m quite physically weak, is like, oh my God, can I imagine carrying all these boxes down to the car? That right there is enough for me to want to declutter now to just be kind to my future self.

Third – Think about the shift of moving, the big move. (…Would your stuff be worth packing up, cleaning, shipping?)

Another one I haven’t mentioned that I think is really powerful is to think about decluttering as self-care or as a gift. A way of being kind to yourself.

One thing I talk about a lot is the way that most people stress about decluttering because they’re so focused on what they’re getting rid of, and that feels painful.

You’re like, “Oh, I’ve spent so much money on this,” and “Oh, I might use that someday.” We’re really focused on all those kinds of negative outcomes of letting go of our stuff.

But on a balancing standpoint, we tend to not pay any attention to the negative impact of keeping this stuff in our home and our lives. We say”Oh, if I get rid of that shirt, I might need that someday.” And that feels really horrible.

But we don’t say, actually looking at my overflowing closet every day and not being able to find the clothes that I want to wear or seeing tons of stuff that I don’t fit or being reminded of all the money that I’ve spent on clothes that I don’t wear, is a huge hit to my general wellbeing.

It adds so much stress and anxiety to my daily life, but I don’t even notice that. Instead, I tend to fixate on the cost of one particular item.

Fourth – Think about decluttering as self-care, a gift to yourself

Another big mind shift is saying, “actually, I deserve this.”

Yes, there’s an expense to the things that I’m decluttering, but hey, that’s okay. Because sometimes we just do things for ourselves, and that’s important.

The concept of the aging process when you lack agency and lack of control in your life from Dr. Norman Swan

On another side note, I was at a writer’s festival recently and I saw Dr. Norman Swan speak. He’s an Australian doctor and medical journalist, and he pointed out something that was really interesting to me. He was talking about the aging process, not so much from a physical standpoint, this isn’t about wrinkles and things, but in terms of your body aging better so that you can have a better quality of life.

One thing he said that ages you is when you have a lack of control, a lack of agency. When you feel like you are not living your life, you feel like your life is running you, if that makes sense.

It causes a lot of internal stress, and that causes chronic inflammation and decreases your lifespan and leads to all sorts of health issues.

One thing that really spoke to me when he said that is that when he talked about that lack of agency, that lack of control, I know that that’s often how a lot of people feel in their homes when they have a lot of clutter.

They feel like their stuff is sort of managing them instead of the other way around. Instead of living the life that they want, they spend all their time managing their stuff.

I found that really interesting.

Obviously, I’m not going to imply that minimalists are more healthy or anything like that. Health is a very complicated issue, which I’m not qualified to talk about, but that’s just one little aspect of it, and the way that you can reclaim that agency of your own home by decluttering spoke to me.

I think that could be the perspective shift that you need to help you have a decluttering breakthrough.

Why does the mindset shift differ for everyone?

A really important point that I want to make, is that everyone is different, obviously, and what mindset shift helps you have a breakthrough is going to be different for everyone.

It’s really important to spend time thinking and experimenting with different ideas. Really get to the heart of what your values are, what is important to you in your life. Then intentionally sitting down and thinking about ways to frame decluttering differently. 

How can we think differently about our clutter in ways that’ll make it easier to let go?

I found is that it was a massive productivity hack, so I hope there were a few ideas there that’ll help you.

It might not feel like just sitting around and thinking about your clutter is very important. But when you have that aha moment, it’s like a switch is flicked on in your mind.

Then when you physically find the time and energy to sit down and declutter, you get so much more done in a short time because everything just feels different.

You look at your clutter differently and you’re like, “Oh, I was obsessing over keeping over this sweater, and now I can just let go.” As I said, it’s a little bit complicated.

Invitation to Jennifer’s course, “Clear Your Clutter” and connect with her on social media

I do have a course that I run twice a year called Clear Your Clutter. The next session will be open in July, so you can get on the waitlist and learn more about the program.

This a huge part of what we do throughout the whole course. We spend a lot of time talking about your relationship with clutter, the different ways that we relate to our stuff, so that we can create those breakthroughs, so that you can have those aha moments that make it easier to let go.

If you can’t join me for the program, take some of these tips on board, experiment with the different ideas, and let me know what works for you.

If you are on social media, you can find me on Instagram at SimplyFiercely. Hop on over there and send me a DM. Let me know if any of these worked for you. Okay?

Have a wonderful week and thank you as always for listening.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment