Although clutter is something that lives with you in the here and now, one of the reasons why it feels great to have a good declutter session is because most clutter is rooted in the past. And by living with remnants and relics of your past all around, you are unconsciously holding yourself in that past, preventing yourself from moving forward in a freer present and towards a lighter future.
Most people’s clutter is a mixture of their ancient history, their middle past and their recently lived present. It can be most interesting to take a look at your own clutter and see if there’s a period of your life which you’re holding onto particularly strongly. There may not be you may find that your clutter is a mishmash of past life stages and more recent procrastinations.
The reason why clutter accumulates in the way that it does is because most of it doesn’t actually start out as clutter at all. Think about your own clutter and you’ll probably realize that most of it started out as something useful, valuable, attractive, creative, supportive, positive…
As time passes, though, what happens is that those valuable and attractive items simply get out of date. Over the months and years they reach a point where they’re no longer useful or valuable to you. But instead of recognizing that fact, you hang onto them out of habit. Or just in case. Or for sentimental reasons.
Sentimentality around clutter most often occurs after the death of someone close. You inherit all sorts of items which, under happier circumstances, you would easily identify as clutter and dispose of. But there’s an emotional attachment to these particular items and to the past memories that they hold.
A coaching client of mine, living in a small house, inherited a large amount of family memorabilia when her father died. She kept it for a while, but didn’t really have either space or use for most it and felt guilty whenever she considered the possibility of not keeping it all. The moment of truth came when she realized that her dad would never have wished for her to be leading a heavy hearted existence full of clutter and obligation to old memories. She chose a couple of items that she wanted to keep, then contacted an auction house about the rest. She knew her dad would be proud that she was being decisive and getting on with her life.
It may be a painful truth, but in these circumstances, you are the one moving forward with your life and you need to choose what will serve you best as you do that. You most certainly do not have to discard all your happy memories in the decluttering process, but do make sure that you ditch the guilt!
Decluttering is never a one-off. However careful you are not to let obvious clutter into your life, there are always going to be some things that evolve into clutter over time. So if you want to be clutter free in the long term and you want to live your life in the here and now instead of letting your clutter drag you back into the past, there’s a really important skill you need to learn…
By developing an awareness that allows you to recognize when something that was once useful and valuable has evolved into clutter, you will be well on the path to clutter free success. The second step involves learning to thank that clutter warmly for its previous usefulness, and then to dispose of it with gratitude in your heart. In this way clutter is not the enemy, holding you back, it is simply a reminder that you are involved in the ongoing process of staying present in the present.