Emotional Clutter – Get a tissue

About 2 years ago, my mother and I embarked on our own little decluttering journey: We went through the storage room which also included some of my grandma’s stuff. Even though my grandma passed away in 2000, it was a deeply emotional process. For my mother, it was a final good bye from the woman who meant the world to her.

There was the manicure set which my grandma frequently used. It had surely outlived its days – it was so loved. It was time to throw it out. Besides, my mom probably had 2 or 3 manicure sets of her own. Yet, she struggled to put it in the bin.

The question asked most often that day was: “How about we give this away? You don’t need and there are other people who’ll enjoy having this item.”

Knowing that she could help other people made the process of clearing the storage room and letting go of my grandma’s belongings a lot easier. She would make someone else happy with things she no longer needed or wanted. And for that, my mom was grateful.

You may have gone through similar experiences. A relationship has ended or loved one has passed away. You don’t want to simply throw out their things. Emotional clutter, just like physical clutter, can weigh you down and pause your life. But what do you do with emotional clutter?

  • Anyone who has ever decluttered knows how exhausting it can be. Professional organising sessions wouldn’t generally take place for 5 full days in a row, but they’d leave breaks in-between. When you’re ready to review your sentimental clutter, start off in shorter intervals. You may experience tears when picking up an old item and the emotions may be so overwhelming that you’ll need a break. Take it.
  • If it’s easier for you to work with a friend, enlist the friend that gives you the support you’ll need during this process. A loving friend or a more radical friend? Or do you prefer to work with an impartial supporter like a Professional Organiser?
  • Very often, you hear friends say “Oh, just move on”. For some, this is not as easy and Kimberly Lo proposes a different approach. “Put it in its place.” Memories of a broken relationship can be kept, provided they don’t interfere with your current one. They should be in a box tugged away and not on display in every room of your house.
  • Giving away or tossing out a piece doesn’t mean you’re removing that memory. If you’re not using the item, it is clutter. If it’s a heirloom, would another member of your family like and use it?
  • Take a picture of the piece, then donate it, give it away or throw it out. In most cases, it’s not the actual piece that we can’t depart from but the memory attached to it. Taking a picture gives you back physical space. If the item is reminding you of a joyful event, display it in a picture frame or set up a series of pictures for your digital picture frame.
  • Blurb or Riot Photobooks create printed photo books with your pictures. Memories of your grandparents can be put into such a book and you can share a copy with other family members.
  • A question to ask yourself is “If I don’t want this, could someone else need it?” By donating or selling things you no longer want in your life, someone else may be very appreciating of them. You’re giving them what they need and helping others has been identified as one of the most rewarding ways for personal development and gratification.
  • Joshua Fields Millburn explains how his late mother’s belonging aren’t needed to remind him of her. He still has his mom in his life, but Joshua found a way to cherish the memories of her, rather than her stuff.

How are you dealing with your sentimental clutter? Are you ready to face the emotions and create more space in your life?

Until next time,

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