A few weeks ago, a reader left the following comment:
“I’m having a really tough time overcoming feelings of being wasteful. If something still has utility, it’s so hard for me to release it into the trash can. Even if I’m ready to part with something — if someone else could use it, I go down the time suck rabbit hole of who could use it & how to get it to them. I know logically that it’s not worth my time. But even knowing that — it’s still difficult for me to let go. Any suggestions on how to get over this hump would be appreciated.”
It’s a really good question, because feelings about being wasteful are a big challenge for clutterers and hoarders when they try to declutter. In itself, wanting to find a good use for things when you’re ready to let them go is a good thing! But like our friend shared, it gets to the place where you become so focused on finding a good home for everything that it feels impossible to let go and move on.
In order to declutter you have to let some things go that could be useful. You cannot find good homes for everything you let go of. Some things will just need to go.
But all that doesn’t really help with feelings of being wasteful. So here are some strategies:
You knew I was going to go here first, right? (New readers, welcome to the biggest theme on the entire blog!!) When you have a plan to declutter because you want to live in a nice space, you are making your self and your life important to you. This is great! But when you pick up an object and start to focus your energy on how it can still be useful and start to fall down the “time suck rabbit hole”, you are putting that object at a higher value than you are putting your self.
When you find yourself here, stop, release the object from your hand, and take some time to say “I love myself’. Then, reframe the situation by asking yourself (preferably out loud) “What is the best way to take care of myself and my life?” Keep this question at the front of your mind when you pick up the object again, and make caring about YOU the priority as you send it away.
Think About the Environment Inside Your Home
When you keep more things than you can use, it starts to impact the environment in your home. Instead of bright open spaces that are easy to clean, your home begins to collect dust, mold, and bacteria. This environment isn’t good for you. Look for opportunities where letting something go will help your own environment. Ask yourself “What’s the best thing to do to take care of my environment?” Even when that means putting something into the trash.
When you start to create a healthy environment in your home, you will also start to feel healthier, happier, and more energy. And you can use this to do even more good things for the environment both inside and outside your home!
Divide and Conquer…Later
When you are decluttering and you come across something that you are feeling resistant to letting go of (even though you know it’s time to let it go), put it to the side and move on. Continue to do this with anything that threatens to stop you from decluttering until you’re finished with your task (for many this is 15 minutes, or one box or bag). Then, gather up the things you are ready to let go of, take them to their destination (recycling, donating, garbage) and walk away! While you’re walking away, choose to fill your mind with something positive that has nothing to do with decluttering or feeling wasteful.
An hour later, or a day later, come back to that pile of things. Without touching them, look for anything that is easier now to let go of and go ahead and remove those things to their end destination. If you don’t see anything that feels easier to let go of, that’s OK! But you may see a few things now that you can let go of. This is really important so make sure you let those things go and celebrate your victory!
As long as none of the items remaining is a current hazard (such as food, or biological waste) you can label the whole thing with an ‘I Don’t Know’ label and leave it while you work on things that are easier to let go of. If there is waste that must be removed for your own health and safety, you will need to take some brave steps and do this even though it doesn’t feel right.
Over time, decluttering gets easier, especially if you’re using strategies to train your brain as you go. Leaving the difficult things for later can free up time and energy for the things you find easier to let go of. When you come back to those difficult things, it is quite likely that it will be a little bit easier to let them go too.
Have a Chat With Your Feelings
Let’s face it, sometimes our feelings can really mess with us! Feelings are not always based on facts, and they can take us on some really unpleasant trips. BUT feelings are not permanent!! Thank goodness!!
Feelings of being wasteful are not based on facts. Your desire to find a good home for everything is absolute proof that you are not wasteful! So, have a little chat with your feelings, “It may feel wasteful to let this go, but it’s not actually wasteful. I’m going to let it go now, and move on.” Maybe your feelings will start to shift right away. Maybe they won’t. But take the action anyways, and you will begin to shift your feelings so they are more in line with your goal of creating a space in your home that has room for being healthy and happy.
Get Someone Else to Do Your Dirty Work
There is no rule that says you have to do everything yourself! Consider having someone else help you out. Remember in ‘Divide and Conquer’ when you put the things you were having a hard time with to the side? You don’t have to be the one to take care of them! If you have someone you trust, ask them for help. Explain that you want to let the items go, but are finding it hard. Ask if they will help you by taking these things and finding the best home for them that they can.
The important part here is that you let them (and the things) go without any obligation to you. They don’t tell you where they’ve taken them, and you don’t ask. Whatever ‘best home’ they find is up to them.
Try the strategy that you think will be the easiest first. Give it a couple of tries. If it helps, keep it. If it doesn’t help, try something else. Decluttering is not a one-size-fits-all. There are some strategies that work for nearly everyone, and some that don’t. That’s OK!! You WILL find things that work for you! You CAN do this!! And when you do find something that works, please share it here in the comments or with someone who can celebrate with you.