Have you got skeletons in your closets? Not literally, of course (unless you’re storing Halloween decorations). But do you have things in your clutter that represent a past that makes you feel ashamed, afraid, or angry? If you do, welcome to the club for people that avoid decluttering because it sucks.
Many clutterers have things in their clutter that represent painful memories. So they avoid it. I had one client who opened an innocent looking box only to find it filled with personal items his ex-wife had owned before she bailed on their marriage. His response? “I didn’t expect to find tears in here.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with those skeletons to make some room in your closet. In fact, it’s even OK to just ignore them and work around them. Easier said than done? Yep. But here are some things to consider when your past wants to mess with today and your chances of decluttering right now:
You can’t change what’s happened. Even if it was the biggest mistake of your life, no matter how much you talk about it, think about it, wish it wasn’t there, your past is done. Over. Finito.
It may be the case that you’ve become used to thinking about your past. This can really get in the way of your progress. When those thoughts start, you can teach your mind to think about something else. You’ll need to have a different/new thought ready ahead of time so you have a good plan for changing your thoughts. Maybe a mantra, a poem, or my personal favorite, repeating the phrase “I love myself”.
If you’ve gotten used to ignoring the skeleton in the closet, keep it up! Nothing requires that you give that skeleton all your energy just because you come across it. Just say out loud, “not going there” and move on.
What about the box full of tears? You’re probably not going to know in advance what emotions those things will release, but you can make a plan for when it happens. The important thing is to have something useful and positive to say when you come across unpleasant surprises. Maybe even write it out and have it handy. Again, my go-to phrase is “I love myself”. Or it could be something like “I choose to move to a better box”. Or “Ain’t gonna let that mess with me.” Or “HA! As if I need that right now.” And then you take action by closing the box of tears and moving on. Don’t worry if your feelings take a bit of time to catch up with your actions. You can do this!
Another thing to avoid is mentally beating yourself up for past mistakes. First, it accomplishes nothing good (even though you may be very ‘good’ at being hard on yourself). Second, it keeps you focused on something you can’t change, rather than what you can do today. Sometimes just asking yourself “What will I do today?” will help you refocus your thoughts on the things you have control over. Other times you will need to practice changing your thoughts and then taking action. Give yourself an encouraging mental pep talk, followed by “I love myself”. (Need some mental pep talk ideas? How about listing three things you’ve accomplished today? Yes, getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Bonus if you’ve brushed your teeth today too! Were you nice to someone? Did you work a full day today? Are your children alive, fed, and dressed? All of these things are things YOU did TODAY so they count!)
You do NOT need to be trapped by your past when its’ time to declutter! When the time is right, you can start taking those skeletons and boxes of tears and letting them go. You’ll know it’s the right time because it won’t feel overwhelming. Right now, go ahead and open that closet, push the skeleton out of the way, and give your brain a big “Well done” for learning to think positive thoughts about the things you DO have control over TODAY.