Let’s Talk About Feelings

Let’s talk about feelings. You are probably saying, “What do my feelings have to do with organizing my spaces?”Organizing, decluttering, and creating systems can be an emotionally charged task. Specifically, when it comes to decluttering.  

When my daughters were younger they had emotional attachments to their things. Favorite blankets, toys and clothes they had outgrown. Whenever it was time to declutter their rooms, I prepared myself for the feelings that would burst forth. I would validate their feelings and help them work through the process of letting go. I had to walk them through why they no longer needed a favorite shirt that was three sizes too small or a special pair of holy socks. It can be emotional and stressful, even for us professional organizers. Learning to get rid of stuff comes down to questioning why you feel the need to hold on to it. We hold on to things for different reasons, but it’s rarely because we truly need them.


If you want to let go, first you have to address why you are holding on. Sounds like dating advice. In many ways we build relationships with our stuff. We form emotional attachments to stuff. We associate our memories: our happy times, our sad times and all other times with feelings related to our belongings. We keep gifts, we hold onto paper, children’s toys and clothing and a myriad of other things for various reasons. At the end to the day, it’s not about stuff. It can be hard for some to think about letting items go, but remember it’s not about the items themselves but the memories we associate with them. When we break down our things and realize what we are holding in our hands, what are we left with? Paper, fabric, wood, metal, glass and plastic. The memories are in our minds and hearts not in the raw materials.

For most of us, we have got way more stuff that we need or use on a regular basis. When there is mounds of clutter it can prevent us from relaxing, finding what we need, and living in peace as opposed to chaos. We can’t fully enjoy what we own because we’ve got too much to deal with and it’s overwhelming. 

According to an article in The Gazette, $38 billion is spent on self-storage every year.  There is an estimated 45,000 storage facilities across the country, and new construction has tripled in the last 5 years. There is now an estimated 6.5 square feet of self storage space for every person in America. Households account for 80 percent of industry revenue. That works out to at least $150 a month for a 10-by-10 unit. By these statistics alone, we have an issue. These items will stay in these units for years to come until you see them on an episode of Storage Wars. 

I know this is a hard subject, but we can do this! Are you with me? Are you ready to tackle the feelings that keeps you holding onto stuff? Let’s deal with the emotions letting go brings to the surface and take back our spaces to allow rest, relaxation, peace and productivity to thrive!

Here are some of the most common reasons why people have such a hard time letting go of excess clutter and some ways to finally purge yourself of all that stuff weighing you down.

Sentimental items tug at the heart strings.  These items are usually the hardest category to deal with and one that is often best left for last. Sentimental clutter, including mementos of special moments, can keep us stuck in the past, instead of living in the present. Storage becomes and issue due to the excess we choose to keep. The problem arises when we attach sentimentality to every item that holds a special place within our memory. You have to decide if something is truly sentimental or just old. When it comes to decluttering special items, be a turtle but not too slow.  Honor the memories. You will always have the amazing memories in your mind and heart, you are just getting rid of the physical stuff. It is not clutter if you put items that truly add value and represent wonderful memories in contained, labeled containers, or display things in your home.  Memorabilia boxes are a great way to store these items and shadow boxes are awesome for displaying special memorabilia. Just make sure you let the space define how many of these type of storage containers or displays you have. 

Clutter fills an emptiness. Clutter can help hide a myriad of emotions like anxiety, sadness, anger, or loneliness. It fills your time and space and keeps you focused on something other than those emotions. For a lot of people, clutter or the shopping associated with it, can be comforting and a break from those feelings.  We hold onto things, or buy new things because we think it will give us comfort or happiness. But happiness doesn’t come from things, or holding on to things. When you free the clutter, it helps you face the root issue of your emotions. Surrounding yourself with possessions you truly love is important.  However, extra stuff does not provide lasting comfort and, in fact, robs you of your time and energy. Try to stop feeling like you have to be “filled” with something.  Or find other ways to personally fulfill yourself. Take the emphasis away from the stuff.  Declutter one room you spend a lot of time in, like a bedroom.  Go through the items and ask yourself do I love it? use it? need it? want it?.  Once you realize how calming and comforting a clutter-free space can be, it will motivate you to tackle other spaces.

Clutter gives the illusion of a sense of security. Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t want to throw out X because I might need it later.  The fear of needing something prevents us from making a choice based on logic or reason now. Value the goals you have for your space today and don’t worry about regretting a past choice. Evaluate the belonging. Is it a low risk item like a kitchen utensil? Is it something that you could borrow or rent later? Is it an item that would not cost a lot to replace?  It is ok to hold on to a few items for the future, but don’t hold on to tons of stuff for the “what ifs” in life.

I feel guilty about wasting money spent. “I paid good money for this.” “That wedding gift was really expensive.”  Even if it is an item you know you no longer need, you have the guilt of how much you, or someone else, paid for it. That is what is called sunk-cost attachment.  The money is gone and holding on to it is not going to bring it back.  Focus on the value to you now.  Don’t waste more time, energy, and storage space on things that don’t bring you value. Contemplate selling or donating the items that have a value to others. 

When we hold onto stuff, it weighs us down. It adds chaos to our lives and stress to our homes. Our environment goes from cozy and comforting to chaotic. Home should be your sacred space. You shouldn’t feel like you are suffocating in it or surrounded by so much stuff that you can’t fully enjoy what you do love. That means being intentional about eliminating the things that overwhelm and burden you. Just remember getting rid of stuff does not mean you are getting rid of the memories associated with your belongings.

In the future when it is time to let go, organize and clean out, it can be hard. It’s emotional. But it is also rewarding. When you have a space that is clean, organized and welcoming, it’s calming. You are able to streamline your process, get things done in a timely manor and be efficient in your life. Your home should be your safe, calm, happy place. You should be able to relax and find what you need without digging yourself in and out. Your home should be a sanctuary from chaos and not add to the chaos of life. 

Whew…are you still with me? I want you to know that we are here to help you with your organizing needs. It is not just the chronically disorganized who find organizing, purging or decluttering difficult. It’s all of us. Here at Compose Your Space we are committed to giving practical advice and emotional support to let go of the stuff that no longer serves you or your space. Let us come along side and encourage you that you can do this and we are here to serve, help, encourage and walk with you through the process.

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