De-Cluttering – Why do we save things?
Hint: it’s all about emotion!
If I could sum it up in one word why we save things I would use the word “Emotion”. Emotions, both positive and negative, can impact our lives. As a result, we save and hang on to things for both positive and negative reasons.
In some cases we have things because we wanted to “buy” something. Maybe we were bored, or depressed, or wanted a quick pick-me-up. Other times it’s because we see something on sale and we think about the good feeling (positive emotion) we will have “saving” money.
Emotion and money are so closely tied.
Maybe we hankered after something as a child and were told that we couldn’t afford that so it now becomes the item we “collect”. Maybe we collect too much….that’s because there is emotion (no, you can’t have that – we can’t afford it – lack – leading to feelings of inadequacy). If you find yourself buying more and more stuff you might want to think about the reasons why – really dig down, maybe talk to someone about it. It just might transform your life. Just remember- it all comes down to emotion.
Uncovering the emotion behind the Clutter
Some experts say clutter can be triggered due to a single incident or an emotional event that was so dramatic that it causes a person to stop acting in their normal organized pattern.
I know that for me that the multiple moves ensured that I set up households on multiple occasions and I found myself the proud owner of about 10-12 pairs of scissors (!) and multiple soup ladles, and an enormous amount of excess office stationary.
About that same time my computer stopped working and I starting working with different versions of the same, saved on different USBs. I’m digging my way out of duplicate files.
Was there a specific moment in your life that was the cause and stopped your carefully planned system functioning? Or maybe it too much happened in a short period of time and you lost control and haven’t been able to get it back?
It happens. It happens to all of us.
I’m now sorting through the multiples and making my family, friends, and charity shops very happy.
I’ve nearly dug myself out from the clutter and man, it’s been a process.
Do you keep items (paper!) as a way of validating a past career? This is such a loaded question. You may have been been down-sized, right-sized, or have taken early retirement (not by choice). These files can represent your life’s work.
Are the files and paperwork useful information you can pass on to someone else?
For instance, is it possible that you’re keeping them because they remind you of a past career or a time when your contribution was recognized in a business setting?
Does that stack of paper still serve and define you? If not – can you re-frame it’s use in your mind and let it go?
I have to say that I find de-cluttering paper is the hardest thing to do for me.
The emotion of Fear is at the root of clutter
Fear of letting go – I might not be able to afford a new one in the future if I let this one go.
It’s also possible that you’re afraid of success. You have surrounded yourself with so much clutter that it bogs you down and keeps you from succeeding as you need to spend the mental time dealing with the clutter- that clutter can be mental clutter, paper clutter, or physical things.
Could it be fear of failure? An example of this could be that you’re working so hard and don’t have time to stop and clear the clutter because you might fail at what you’re doing?
Fear of Feeling Stupid –This is the voice in your head that tells you that buying that jacket on sale was a mistake – that it doesn’t look nice, cost too much money. It’s the craft project where you picked up the little dresser, paint, and decals meaning to create something new and unique….and then you ran out of time and interest. Or perhaps for you it’s the one all of us have – that magic kitchen appliance. The one that bakes bread, makes coffee and tells us how wonderful we are. Yes, that one that’s now tucked away in the back of a cupboard, collecting dust. (We all have one of these!)
How does clutter affect you?
Oh, there are hidden and not so hidden consequences of clutter! If it’s bad it could stop you from having people over. You retreat into your cluttered home, embarrassed to think that others will judge you. I think that the one person who suffers most is you. You lose your self-respect. This can cloud your judgement. Stop your creativity. Make you doubt your ability to make good decisions. This all leads to low self-esteem.
Are you having trouble with this? Please seek help if you are stuck with de-cluttering. There are excellent companies all over the country with professional organizers who enjoy reaching out a hand and gently guiding you through the process.
Things to think about – some reasons for holding on to items:
- Overly sentimental
- Have to have it
- Shopaholic – if extreme this is an addiction you may need professional help
- Paper – I have to read it first, I might need that valuable information
- The “it’s perfectly good” can’t throw it out
- I feel obligated to display gift/item that someone gave me
Why do we save things?
If I could sum it up in one word why we save things I would use the word “Emotion”.
Now emotion can cover a lot of ground.
Sometimes we have things because we wanted to “buy”. Sometimes it’s because we see something on sale and we think about the good feeling we will have “saving” money.
Emotion and money are so closely tied and frankly someone could write a book about that – oh, ok, it’s been done!
Dig deep to uncover which emotion is the reason you save things
Maybe we hankered after something as a child and were told that we couldn’t afford that – it now becomes the item we “collect”. Maybe we collect too much….that’s because there is emotion (no, you can’t have that – we can’t afford it – lack – leading to feelings of inadequacy)
If you find yourself buying more and more stuff you might want to think about the reasons why – really dig down, maybe talk to someone about it.
It just might transform your life. Just remember- it all comes down to emotion.
Growing up I had a neighbour, a very old man, who went out scrounging late at night. He collected anything and everything. When his house was finally put up for sale he started putting out the recycling – he had a room of milk containers, a room (a full bedroom here, folks) of sorted and bundled newspapers stacked floor to ceiling. I hear you insurance professionals just shuddering. Ditto for fire professionals!
His back yard (it was not a garden anymore) was stacked with old building materials, even boxes of un-used checks the bank around the corner had thrown out a number of years before. Now, apart from driving the neighbours crazy with his ever increasing piles in the back garden, why would he do this?
He’d grown up in the depression and had never been able to get past the lack. As a result he hoarded – and he hoarded anything and everything to the point that it got completely out of hand.
Is that a life? I don’t think so. It certainly wasn’t for his poor wife who never once disclosed what went on inside her home.
Get help for hoarders – this is a job for professionals
If you think that this might be an issue for someone in your family please get them help. Getting through this on your own is not possible – it takes a professional to work on figuring out the initial triggers that set someone off onto this path. In the past I`ve worked with a few
hoarders and frankly, it`s something I would not do now – it takes a professional psychologist who specializes in hoarding behaviour.
What are the emotional benefits of de-cluttering?
It will make your space feel bigger! Yes – your bedroom, office, living room really is big enough!
You’ll be able to see what you do have, and what you need. You might be surprised to see if your needs change once you’ve embarked on de-cluttering. The process can help stop the “I want that” Gremlins and make you satisfied with what you already have.
Why you’ll love DE-CLUTTERING!
If you missed the first article on digging deep to figure out what your life goals are so that you can create your perfect lifestyle you can read it here.