I often find that the number one reason that makes it hard for people to let go is simply that they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of items they need to look at and take decisions about! Think about it: if you have two pieces of paper on your desk that you need to treat, that’s easy. You look at both, take your pick, deal with it, then pick up the other, and deal with it. Simple. The choice is not difficult as you know you’ll be able to finish both tasks in no time at all.
Change of scenery: think of a garage full of stuff. Not only is it hard to gauge how much is in there and what it is, but you’ll have a hard time even dislodging some items and getting to all of them. If that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, nothing will.
You can probably see the issue here: each decision takes a bit of effort, and the sheer level of effort to be expected from a lot of items leads to a short circuit and you’ll be tempted to not even begin. Maybe you’ll start, but stop again as soon as the first tricky item comes your way.
There are, however, ways to deal with this element of overwhelm:
Call a friend or – better yet – call a professional!
For one thing, decluttering on your own usually ends quickly, as soon as tedium sets in or you realise that it will take much longer than you initially thought. The answer to that particular issue is simple: don’t do it alone! That gives you a couple of options, to either work with a friend or a professional. While a friend might be more emotionally attuned to you, they are not in a position to really challenge you if they don’t want to put your friendship at risk. A professional will be able to push you a little further, but you’ll have to pay for the services. Up to you.
If you have decided to let something go, get rid of it as soon as possible!
When it comes to dealing with items you feel could be let go, it sometimes feels too radical to let go of them right away. Of course, making a clear decision is preferable, and taking those items out of the house very soon is ideal.
Before you even get started, you may already have an idea of the type of items you might be letting go. It might be a good idea to find out ahead of time how you can dispose of those items. Is there a charity around you can give it to? Do they maybe do pickups for larger items? Do you need a man with a van to take things to the tip? Can you sell things? If so, ‘where’ and ‘how’, or maybe even ‘who’?
Stop overwhelm in its tracks: determine which area you are going to tackle and stick to it!
There is nothing better than identifying a clearly defined area and only working within that area: I like to get started with a drawer, or a table top. Those are small enough areas to keep track of, they tend to be done relatively quickly, they provide a quick success and help the client to see how much can be done when they stick to one space at a time.
Once that first area is cleared, move to the next one and repeat that process. You’ll find that this does lead to a certain level of chaos at first because all those items will, of course, be added to other spaces that are probably overcrowded as well. The good news is, however, that the more areas you have tackled, the more the items in the remaining areas will turn out to be similar in nature. They now only need a bit of sorting, and then to find a space to remain from now on.
Make sure to put time limits on reviewing and letting go!
Another way to avoid overwhelm is the element of time: if you go in with the idea “I’ll work on this until it’s done”, you’ll set yourself up for failure because it usually is impossible to stick a time stamp on this kind of work.
What you CAN do, though, is to say “I’ll work on this for one hour”, then take a break and see what you have achieved, before setting another period and continuing. The trick is similar to the previous one: you create a specific chunk of time (rather than a specific area) and keep going until that is done. By giving yourself an end point, you’ll be sure to keep the overwhelm under control.
Give it a go and try these techniques.
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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.