There’s more to decluttering than just creating an orderly space to live in.
Going through the process of working out what to keep and what to let go of has a world of insight to offer you.
Lately, I consciously used decluttering as a personal development tool as I went through all the items in my home. It helped me in so many ways, including getting much clearer on my sense of self, and offering insights into my patterns in relationships.
As I let go of physical stuff, I let go of emotional stuff.
Years of journaling, self reflection and meditation were not as effective as this recent breakthrough… though they may have laid the foundations for it.
Decluttering is a great opportunity to get clarity on who you are, what your values are, and your patterns of holding on to things (and people) in life.
Decluttering as a self development technique
Decluttering can be much more than just tidying up. To use it as a self development tool, we’re not just talking about removing minor clutter. We’re talking about going deep and examining some of the sacred cows that have been occupying space in your home and mind unquestioned.
Any task you do will have different significance to you depending on the meaning you assign to it. So there are various ways you could use it as a self development tool.
For me, I chose to use it as an opportunity to get clarity on my identity. I saw that by discarding things that are “not me” I would become clearer about “who I really am”.
Deliberately and consciously letting go of things that are not me made me much clearer on what IS me and what I value.
How decluttering helps you get clarity on who you are
Let go of what isn’t you to get clearer on who you are.
To get clearer on my identity I chose to let go of a lot of stuff that had been hanging around for decades. This came in various categories…
- Stuff that isn’t me and never was (what was I thinking when I bought that?!).
- Stuff that was once me but is no longer me (childrens stationary I used to write to my grandma with 30 years ago, wedding dresses when I’ve been divorced 6 years).
- Stuff that other people told me to be/have/do rather than what *I* genuinely value (eg stuff that’s more my mum’s style than mine).
- Stuff that was given to me but I wouldn’t have chosen.
- Stuff I once thought might be me but have since realized I’m not (equipment for hobbies I tried but didn’t continue).
- Stuff I wish was me but isn’t (sexy dress in my wardrobe 20 years and never worn).
- Stuff that represented past struggles that I no longer need to carry the baggage around with me (old journals processing childhood stuff).
- Stuff that reflects old beliefs and values that I’ve since changed.
The more I let go of the easier “letting go” became. In fact, over the course of a month I went over my wardrobe 3 times, each time letting go or more things than the last time.
Letting go not only got easier, but felt better the more I practiced it. At the start of the process there was a lot of resistance… towards the end it was more like relief and pleasure… like letting go of a bag of rocks that I had no need to carry.
I became clearer on who I am, and I became more accepting of who I am. I let go of ideas of who I could have been or should have been or might become or once was, and embraced who I am today.
How decluttering helps you reflect on your relationships
There’s a saying: “How you do anything, is how you do everything“.
In other words, as you look at patterns you have in one area of your life, there’s a good chance you have similar patterns in other areas of your life too.
In going through the decluttering process, and thinking about all this old stuff I’ve kept around (and why), I was mindful of the parallels to how I’ve held on to old relationships.
- How I have held onto relationships for years and years longer than was good for me.
- How I have held onto relationships that didn’t really “fit” well but I thought I might one day be able to “fix” them.
- How I’ve held onto relationships that I never really liked that much in the start but I held onto from a scarcity mentality.
- How I’ve held onto relationships that weren’t flattering/pleasing/good for me, because of sunk cost fallacy.
- How I’ve held onto relationships because it was easier to settle and make do with what was there than to go out and get something that met my needs/desires better.
Decluttering toxic relationships from your life
One of the best lessons I ever had in letting go was in getting out of a toxic romantic relationship.
While I was in it, despite all the drama and pain and suffering and stress it caused me, I found it so hard to let go.
When I eventually did let go, I wasn’t just letting go of the relationship, but of my hopes, fantasies, habits, patterns, assumptions, limiting beliefs and idealizations. This was a painful process!
But a few months later I felt SO much better. I learnt the value of letting go and the value of having peace and space in my life… I learnt how great it feels to get rid of stressful things from my life.
This was a big step that paved the way for me to drop a whole heap of other things that were taking up space in my life without adding value to it.
Decluttering has so many benefits to it beyond just cleaning up.
I can see why Marie Kondo managed to create an entire book on its benefits. If you’re not yet convinced of it’s benefits, try reading her book “The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing”.
When I started, I didn’t realize all the benefits of decluttering. I felt like the more I let go of, the more life lessons I received. It was a wonderful blessing and I feel so much lighter and wiser for it.
Give it a go… Start small and build up. What can you let go of today?