Cleaning & Organization

Practical Tips for Conquering the Emotions of Decluttering

January 19, 2021

Decluttering becomes emotional when we get people and memories confused with things. Learning to separate the two is key! Changing your mindset and creating solid systems will help manage your stuff and keep your home clutter-free.

how to conquer the emotions of decluttering

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing New York Times best-selling author Ruth Soukup and founder of Living Well Spending Less last year for my Beautiful Home, Beautiful Life Summit. Ruth has written not one but TWO popular books on the topic of decluttering and simplifying. You may have even read them (you can see them below)!

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When I polled my audience about what sessions they wanted to see included at the summit, decluttering was at the very top of the list! And more specifically, countless people asked for a session on how to handle the emotions of decluttering. So that is exactly what I interviewed Ruth about! You can listen in on the interview below (or if you prefer to read her tips, just keep scrolling).

So many of us are sentimental by nature. If you feel like your attachment to your stuff is causing your house to fill and keeping you from being able really purge, then you are not alone!

A huge part of decluttering is having the right mindset. What does that mean? It means you must learn to separate your memories from your things. So much of purging and getting rid of the things you don't need is slowed down by the emotions that bubble up while we are working through the clutter. It is absolutely vital that you learn to separate people and memories with things. Once your heart and emotions are in a good place, it becomes much easier to work through the process of decluttering. Getting rid of the stuff does not change our memories!

Ruth’s Expert Tips

  1. Understand that decluttering will never work if you don’t have systems in place to keep the stuff from creeping back in.
  2. Understand the problem is not the amount of storage you have! It is the amount of stuff you are storing.
  3. When you get a gift, your only responsibility is to be appreciative and grateful. What you do with the actual gift is totally up to you.
  4. People and things are not the same. Getting rid of things from people does not mean you are throwing the person away.
  5. Don’t move stuff from one place to another. Actually get rid of it.
  6. Get a label maker!

Action Steps

  1. Create “if this then that” rules for papers. Having concrete rules about what to do with each type of paper that enters your home will eliminate piles and stacks sitting everywhere!
  2. Think about your space. How do you want to use it and who lives there and uses it also. Even within families, we all have a different threshold for stuff. 
  3. Establish strict limits for everything you have.
  4. Pair kids’ rooms down significantly. The more toys they have the less they actually play with them due to overwhelm and mess.
  5. Use a label maker so everyone knows where everything goes! If it is labeled, then there are no excuses.
  6. Create systems that are not overly complicated. Organization should be the simplest possible solution and the closest to what you are already doing.

I'm happy to say we already used a lot of Ruth's methods in our own home. We have strict rules for papers and follow-through with them thanks to the set up of our command center.

And though we probably don't label things as extensively as Ruth does, we do have a home for everything and even our kiddos know where everything goes (and actually put things back because they things always go in the same spot). This is especially true when it comes to their toys and art supplies, but it's also true in our kitchen which we recently spent a lot of time organizing.

I encourage you to go connect with Ruth on her site Living Well Spending Less where she shares simple solutions for a streamlined home life. And get excited for this year’s Beautiful Home, Beautiful Life summit–registration opens on February 1st and the event begins on February 16th.

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