I know it can be disheartening to accept the existence of an obstacle, but it’s incredibly important for you to realize where you stand and what your goals are. From working with clients over the last eighteen months and struggling to complete my own decluttering process, I’ve found that there are a couple of reasons why anyone can get tripped up in a major project like downsizing or decluttering their entire home:
Prioritizing Other Things
There are at least ten things I can name right now that are more important to me than decluttering – and about another 50 I can think of which sound more important but maybe don’t align with my priorities as much as they seem urgent. Hopefully it’s clear that I mean that sometimes other things take priority – things which we have no control over whatsoever – and things which hold greater importance to us and should therefore take priority by default. When one of these things arises, it becomes necessary to choose these things over your organizing. Again, it’s fine to prioritize other things—if it’s intentional—but sometimes what feels ‘urgent’ gets elevated in importance even if it doesn’t have the biggest overall impact in our lives simply because it pulled our attention.
When this happens, we are in a reactive state; a natural occurrence which tugs on our survival instincts because sometimes our brains see discomfort (e.g. doing things we don’t enjoy) as potentially threatening. But a reactive state is not the best place to be in terms of productivity… helpful when you’re in danger, not helpful when you’re organizing. If you find yourself constantly choosing whatever comes your way while organizing, it’s best to step back and refocus your energy for a few minutes, thus allowing yourself time to accurately determine which course of action best suits your end goal.
At its core, procrastination is similar to the reactive state above because it can also serve as a means of self-preservation intended to protect us from discomfort. In terms of decluttering, which involves active decision-making, procrastination allows us to delay lots of little decisions, in order to forgo a bigger decision such as the eventual completion of the project and really letting go of everything.
Counterproductive as it may be, our bigger decision and lifestyle changes might not be altogether positive. For me, one really tough ‘little decision’ was picking a major and sticking with it in college, because that represented progress towards actually finishing school and having to let go of my academic days, which had really been my whole life at that point . Scary!
Okay. So you have a lot of stuff. You’ve admitted it. You’ve committed to sorting through it. And…. you’re already overwhelmed by it!
Sometimes, it’s hard to even think about individual steps of an organization project without wanting to curl up for a nap. In this case, you might just need a break – but beware! If it’s not on purpose, it’s not much better than procrastinating. Use breaks intentionally, build them into your decluttering session and take them on purpose.
So… what else can you do about it?
If you find yourself facing one or more of these obstacles, pause the project. You can always come back to it; but if you are constantly choosing anything and everything over decluttering, or keep telling yourself, “It won’t take that long anyway. I’ll just get to it later,” or you’ve reached a point where you can’t even think about throwing another thing in a box labeled DONATE or KEEP – it’s time for you to spend your energy elsewhere for a while.
Hiring an organizer at this stage is not helpful. If you’re already emotionally over it, having another voice advocating for progress is just going to frustrate you (you will feel guilty about not having accomplished more, guilty for spending money on a project you don’t even want to work on, and irritated when your organizer can’t seem to come up with solutions that actually work for you). What you need to do is take some time to refocus on your end goal. Not five minutes, serious time. You need to really understand why this project is important to you. Consider the short term pain vs. long-term gain aspect of it all and understand that just like every other thing in life – there are bad days and not as bad days. Also understand that refocusing isn’t a magic trick that makes it all better and easier overnight. It will take time. It will continue to suck but maybe not as much if you can keep your goals in mind. You’re changing your life; it’s never easy.
The other thing you can do is a bit more haphazard, extremist, and ultimately not something I would recommend without waivers and contracts,
and possibly signatures in blood. If you really don’t have the time, space, or energy and cannot see a future where you will have any combination of those three necessary resources for this project – pay someone to completely remove everything for you. I suppose that makes cash a fourth resource; although not entirely necessary.
It’s a last resort but you’re likely holding onto things you haven’t seen, touched, or thought about on an individual level in months or years. A desire to keep things you can’t even name more closely reflects an internal disorganization – one which needs patient healing and consideration as a possible top priority; higher even than the physical clutter.
That being said – I do believe it’s possible to work on healing the inside while decluttering your home. In fact, many people recommend it. However, if that is the route you choose, please be prepared for a long process. It didn’t take you a month to amass all of your belongings nor the emotional attachments you have for them and it won’t take a month to sort through them.
**All gifs from giphy.com