Do you wonder what the secret is to finally taking action on clutter?
I bet you’re also wondering why some people are so good at throwing things out and others aren’t.
We all have friends like this. Especially midlife gals. Some of them are constantly going through their kids clothes and sports equipment and don’t have clutter. They mention this clutter-busting activity without stress. Like they’re brushing their teeth or drinking a glass of water.
We all have clutter-loving friends too. These friends have more “stuff.” They are “Queens of their Clutter Castle.”
Sometimes they complain about it; sometimes they don’t. But most of us know who they are because they talk about it one way or the other.
Have you found yourself thinking about clutter in your home?
Perhaps you’re spinning on why you can’t just can’t get though that pile on your kitchen table, throw out your kids’ unimpressive, non-unique childhood artwork or even get rid of your own outdated clothes from 20 lbs ago.
Don’t even get me started on why you can’t ditch your bad underwear.
What’s really going on here?
The De-Clutter Challenge
I participated in a “de-clutter challenge.” My friend Christine pulled together a Facebook group with about over 90 well-intentioned women to support and motivate each other online as we de-cluttered some scary areas of our homes. It was actually fun. People posted before and after pictures. Here are my photos. This bookcase was driving me nuts!
There was a list of suggested areas for us to focus on if we needed guidance. I was even asked to speak to the group via Facebook Live to share some insight about our relationships with our stuff. So fascinating, right?
You might be surprised to discover that the “stuff” is neutral – no emotional charge until we think about it. It’s all about what we make our stuff mean. And thinking those thoughts is what creates our emotions, our feelings about it. That’s why some people have no problem getting rid of old make-up, unworn clothes with tags and stuffed animals. But others do. We each make this stuff mean different things and feel differently as a result.
It’s so important to raise your awareness of what you’re actually thinking when it comes to sorting and getting rid of clutter.
In the group, many of us talked about getting stuck not knowing what to do with the clutter once we decided to get rid of the stuff.
Toss? Recycle? Give to someone?
It feels like so many decisions to make.
Others struggled with the organizational piece related to the clutter.
Questions like reorganizing the stuff, buying baskets, filing, stacking, getting more containers….
All the things!
Wherever the feeling of “stuck” came from, it was because of the thoughts we had.
Thoughts create that feeling. Not the stuff.
We all noticed how motivated we became as a result of being in the group.
No one felt alone or as overwhelmed because we knew we were doing this together.
Most of us didn’t know each other. It didn’t matter.
Personally, I found the thought, “I’m not the only one with clutter” quite comforting and motivating, which helped me take action.
We think that our stuff makes us feel good. Really, it’s our thoughts ABOUT the stuff that make us feel good. But, many of the women shared that their thoughts actually made them feel bad.
Once we got our heads around what was really going on up there in our beautiful minds, it became a bit easier to decide how we wanted to feel about our stuff, on purpose.
Not on auto-pilot for a change.
Even though you want to be a person with less clutter, you may not do anything about actually making that happen.
You might even find yourself thinking, “if I’m so smart and accomplished, why can’t I throw out this crap?”
Seriously, who needs old mascara, a stretched out bra and Oprah magazines from 3 years ago?
You’re not stupid.
I’m sure you see that you can’t wish for these things like this to just magically happen. Of course, we can fantasize about having a Tabitha Stevens moment and POOF! No more clutter.
Yes, that would be pretty cool, but…it’s not the way the world works. If you want something to change, you have to make the change happen.
We talk about what we want all the time, but it’s often NOT in the form of a resolution. Or even a neutral statement. It’s often in the form of a question that we ask ourselves over and over, many times a day.
It’s not a nice question either…
It’s usually subconscious. We don’t even hear it. But it goes something like this…
WHY CAN’T I (INSERT YOUR WISH HERE)
- Why can’t organize my house better?
- Why can’t I ever find my stuff?
- Why can’t I get rid of stuff regularly so I piles don’t build up?
- Why am I so disorganized?
- and so on.
And then we answer our questions too. With thoughts. My clients have shared these little beauties.
- I’m disorganized.
- My house is a mess because I grew up this way.
- I’m a procrastinator.
- It’s a bad habit.
- I hate cleaning up.
- I don’t know where to donate my things.
- I suck at organizing.
- I’m overwhelmed.
So, you might be asking yourself, what gets in the way?
YOUR THOUGHTS. Every time. Simple as that.
YOU can easily get in your own way, without even knowing it half the time.
When you think thoughts like these little devils, they create feelings that aren’t motivating. But that’s what happens. These thoughts go on and on and on in your mind. You’ve been thinking these thoughts for DECADES. It’s easy to believe them.
These negative thoughts create negative emotions. What I mean is that they create negative feelings that make you act a certain way. You end up finding all kinds of evidence for what you are thinking and believing.
The problem is that most of us don’t really know what’s going on up there in our mind so we just accept these thoughts as truths.
We don’t even question them. We talk about them. We share them freely. We think that it’s just the way it is.
It’s pretty simple really. The answer is all about mindfulness and living intentionally. Take a look at what’s happening in your life. If you don’t like what you see, you can trace it back and find the thought that’s creating your result.
Here are 3 surprisingly easy steps to finally take action.
First, become aware of your thinking by asking yourself “why” more often.
Notice what’s going on up there when you’re thinking about your stuff. This step is huge. It means pausing in your life. When you do things, ask yourself why. When you feel things, ask yourself why. When you answer your question, you will reveal your thoughts.
Remember, you are not your thoughts. You are the watcher of your thoughts. So when you find yourself noticing a pile of stuff, also notice what you make that mean. When the thought, “I’m so messy” pops into your head, now you know that you have a thought that you’re messy, but you are not your thoughts. You are simply noticing that you’re thinking that thought. You can be something other than messy.
Second, become compassionate and fascinated with yourself.
Yes, really. Start to see your thinking this way with the goal being that you’ll become more compassionate towards yourself as you’re sorting all of this out. Being judgmental will not help you in the same way that being non-judgmental will because you can’t be as present.
In other words, become a compassionate and fascinated observer of you. So when you notice that you think “I’m a messy person,” also take the time to notice that thought with a genuine curiosity. Ask yourself why you think that way. Don’t be critical of your thought. Just notice it there. It’s just a sentence in your mind.
Third, notice your feelings.
The better you get at your increased awareness, the more you will notice and feel. Then, the trick is to also notice that your feelings are created by your thinking. They go hand-in-hand.
So back to that thought, “I’m a messy person.” When you think this, notice how you feel. You might feel sad, bad, incapable.
You can think you’re messy.
But you can also think you’re learning to be someone who is working on being organized….and many other ways to think about yourself!
When you feel that way, notice what you do and what result you create by that thought. Ask yourself, is this the way I want to fe? If not, you have some work to do, and it starts with your thinking!
It will take some practice, but you can absolutely work on thinking more useful thoughts when it comes to clutter in your home. Have fun with it. You’ll love your result!
Want to learn more?
Perhaps you’re ready for even more change in your life!
Suzy Rosenstein, MA is a master certified life coach and host of the popular podcast for midlife women, Women in the Middle, with over 1.7 million downloads. Having wasted five years being stuck herself, she knows how frustrating and painful it can be. She uses her upbeat approach with the serious topic of aging to help you get clarity about what you want in your next chapter of life with the courage and commitment to pursue it so that you love your life again after 50!
To learn lots of great tips about how to get unstuck, grab the free resource, the Get Unstuck in Midlife Podcast Bundle at www.freepodcastbundle.com . Here some of my most popular episodes to help you keep moving forward!
Originally published January 31, 2017; updated and republished: January 21, 2024