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Looking for a Fresh Start? Start with Your Stuff

Updated on March 5, 2020
Susan Caplan McCarthy profile image

As a professional organizer, Susan also helps clients develop the habits and mindsets that allow them to be purposeful and productive.

Gain Clarity with Less

Think back to times in your life when you wanted to do something new. Maybe you decided to give a new hobby a try. Or, you got talking to someone about their interest and you became intrigued.

Maybe your life changed because of marriage, divorce, a new job, a move to a new state or country and it brings new places, activities, and people into your life.

Something happens when we want to include new experiences in our life – we go shopping and buy new stuff! You want to learn to knit, so you buy needles and yarn. Maybe a you also get a book and some of the other recommended supplies. You decide you’re going to kayaking on weekends and you buy all the stuff that will encourage you to pursue this activity.

All this sounds like a great plan until day-to-day activities get in the way and that hobby or interest falls to the wayside. Maybe things you bought to support your new relationship, job, or home aren’t as important as you thought they would be.

You may push these things out of sight – the attic, garage, or a spare room – and that’s where they stay to be joined by other things you thought would make your life more interesting and fulfilling.

What I want you to consider is that decluttering these things, identifying what isn’t important to you, can make you feel lighter and clearer about what you want from your life.

How Much 'Someday' Stuff Do You Own?

Decluttering isn't just about getting rid of stuff but about eliminating the expectations you have for yourself.
Decluttering isn't just about getting rid of stuff but about eliminating the expectations you have for yourself. | Source

If everything is important, then nothing is important.

Stuff Isn’t Just Stuff

Some people look at physical objects and simply evaluate whether they want, need or like the things around them. If the things don’t fulfill a want, need, or like, they get rid of the items by selling, donating, giving away to friends and family, or throwing away the items.

However, for a lot of people, they look at physical objects and pay more attention to the thoughts and emotions that are swirling around the items.

  • “I spend so much money on that.”
  • “My grandmother gave that to me. I don’t even like it, but I’d feel so guilty to let it go.”
  • “Someday, when I lose weight/the kids grow up/I’m not caring for my parents/I’ve finally moved to Seattle/etc. I’ll need that.”
  • “I just need to buy shelves and bins someday and get organized.”
  • “I thought I’d use this more often. I’m going to try again to do this.”

These types of thoughts and feelings become ruts that leave you feeling like you’re stuck without any other options.

Less stuff but the right stuff.

— Regina Wong

Reframe How You Think about Your Belongings

Your belongings – the ones you use, want and like – as well as those that you don’t – are reflections of who you were, who you are, and who you wished you could be.

If you want a fresh start in your life, you don’t have to do anything as drastic as moving, quitting your job, leaving a relationship, or making other major changes to your life.

Instead, letting go of things that don’t reflect who you want to be, allows you to see what is important to you. And, by important, I’m not just talking about the physical objects but the hopes, expectations, and obligations that surrounds these things.

Sure, those things tucked into boxes that are stored in your garage don’t seem to be bothering you, but some part of your mind remembers that the stuff is there. Those things exist as nagging, unfinished projects waiting to be completed.

Do You Have Any of These Clutter Blocks?

Clutter Block #1
My stuff keeps me in my past
Clutter Block #2
My stuff tells me who I am
Clutter Block #3
There's something here that I'm avoiding
Clutter Block #4
This is my fantasy stuff for my fantasy self
Clutter Block #5
I'm not worth my good stuff
Clutter Block #6
I'm trapped with other people's stuff
Clutter Block #7
This is stuff I keep paying for by giving it space

Tracy McCubbins in her book, Making Space, Clutter Free, lists seven clutter blocks that have an emotional component to them. If you've thought these thoughts, you may be holding onto stuff that you can let go of.

Does Your Stuff Reflect What You Want From Your Life?


Get Out of Your Rut

Have you ever started packing for a vacation only to discover that you were trying to take so much stuff with you that you couldn’t close your suitcase? You could sit on the suitcase and hope that everything would compact enough that you could close the zipper.

Or you could go through everything you thought you needed to take with you and consider if you really want and need each item on your journey. You’d realize some things just aren’t as important to you as others.

Instead of determining what you want to take on vacation, decluttering your home is about what you want to take with you on your life’s journey. Is it really important to surround yourself with things connected to past interests, hobbies, and jobs – aspects of your life that you’ve already let go of?

Do you want to continue holding onto things that reflect your past dreams and desires or release them so you have space to work on things that are important to you now?

Highlight What's Important to You

Decluttering doesn't require you to get rid of your keepsakes. However, you can curate what's most important you.
Decluttering doesn't require you to get rid of your keepsakes. However, you can curate what's most important you. | Source

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