This being said, it sounds like decluttering is an awful lot of work. And you’re right: it is! Why wouldn’t it be? We have spent years and years accumulating things and now we expect this to be a quick fix? Of course it can’t be: it took time to get accustomed to having more and more things, therefore it takes time to undo that habit and getting used to looking at ownership of things from a couple of different angles.
Habits can be changed, indeed, but it takes time to sink in, and once you get started with those changes it will take a couple of weeks for you to see a change. It’s not always easy, but nobody ever claimed that. What’s easy is the purely practical stuff, that’s where you can roll up your sleeves and really dig in, but sadly that is the second part, and only really kicks in once you have gotten over the initial blocks that have kept you from letting go in the past. Decluttering, done properly, can be a big change in your life! And big ‘changes don’t come easy’.
All this work is hard to maintain if the rewards are not just in a relatively vague future, but also come in so gradually that they are easy to miss at first. Keeping the finishing line in view is helpful in many such situations, but decluttering really has no finishing line as such because the goals may start out looking one particular way, but during the process you’ll realise that your real goal could be something completely different. You may start out with a basic declutter of your spare bed room, and suddenly end up with a full-on reorganisation of the whole flat because you became aware of something that changed your outlook on the situation dramatically.
So. It seems that motivation is pretty much an uphill struggle, then?
Well, there are some ways to keep you active and ready to continue, and one of them is that you set small goals and treat yourself when you have achieved them. Beware: do not treat yourself to a shopping spree!
In fact, you don’t even have to set goals in order to win a treat: sometimes it makes perfect sense to simply let things be for a while and regroup mentally, and then come back to the issue and tackle it with new strength and determination. Sometimes you are stuck and need a bit of distance. Sometimes you just need to let things sink in and settle a bit in the mind before you are ready to move forward. All of these times are good moments to treat yourself to something, and that could be anything really: take a moment to enjoy the sunshine, allow yourself a week off clearing that room and never opening its door during that time, meet a friend and talk about your current hang-up… Anything is good as long as it restores your focus and determination.
Many people get overwhelmed after the first wave of enthusiasm: they jump in and get going without too much of a plan where it should go – their main determination is to get rid of as many things as possible. While that is as good a place to start as any, it quickly leads to the realisation that things don’t move quite as quickly as they were supposed to: not enough storage room for whatever remains, more chaos than before (a very common, but usually temporary stage of the process), tiredness, comments by loved ones or others you live with, to name but a few. Whichever of these you will come across, that first wave will do you in for a while. And when you are ready to resume your declutter, you might try a slower, more organised, more focused approach that leaves time for the occasional slump, setback or tiredness.
Decluttering is about the mind at least as much – if not more – than the physical stuff we own. Enthusiasm helps over the first bumps but it wanes quickly. A quick burn is good for sprints but what you want for declutter is a long distance runner mindset: run slowly, manage your resources, get into the zone and keep going at a sustainable pace. Unlike a long distance runner, though, with decluttering you are allowed a break when you need one.
And a treat on occasion. To keep you going.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.