Decluttering Tip – Let go of ‘sunk costs’

If something has no longer value for us, it’s clutter.

And it doesn’t matter how much we paid for it. 

Sometimes we hold on to something we don’t need, use, or love any longer, just because we have spent money on it.

We believe that we are obliged to continue valuing (= keeping) it because of the money we once invested into getting it.

However, money that has been spent is gone – it’s ‘sunk cost’, it’s gone as soon as we spend it.

Keeping something that no longer serves us but once cost us money means – in our mind – we still ‘own’ it and that makes us feel like we are somehow still having the money’s worth in our pocket.

But that’s not the case, of course, the money is gone.

Any unused item holds no value at all any longer: it holds no monetary value and no practical value – if we don’t use it, it’s useless, at least to us.

And then feelings of guilt tend to creep up. We look at that item, we know that the money is gone, and we know that it is useless to us, but it still sits there and stares at us – it makes us feel miserable.

However, it might be able to make someone else happy, it might have huge value for someone else, someone who needs it, who would use or love it.

As we release the item, we should also release any feelings of guilt, shame, or anger that go along with it. There is no upside in holding on to those negative emotions.

EXERCISE 1

    • Walk around your home and pick up some of the things that you haven’t used for ages. Or that you haven’t used at all.
    • Take each of the things in your hands and ask yourself: ‘Does this have still any value to me?’ Be absolutely honest!
    • Make a decision: To keep or not to keep?
    • If you decide to keep it, assign it a home, honour it by giving it the space and the use that the things you really want to have deserve.
    • If you decide not to keep it but want to sell it because you believe it has monetary value for someone else: Go out and find that person. Enjoy the money you get.
    • If you decide not to keep it and you can’t / don’t want to sell it: Donate it.
    • If you decide not to keep it, not to sell it and not do donate it (because there is definitely nobody who wants it): Say goodbye and put it in the rubbish or recycle bin.
    • And then enjoy the things you kept – because you truly need, use, or love them.

While going through the process of letting go and analysing why you bought the item, you can gain valuable insights from your sunk cost purchases.

EXERCISE 2

Asking ourselves some uncomfortable questions helps us understand the reasons behind the purchase and this new awareness will make it easier to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

You can you learn a lot about yourself from your answers to questions like these:

    • Was it an impulse buy? Did I acquire it without consideration or need? Why?
    • Did I succumb to pressure from a salesperson, my family, or friends?
    • What else could have caused me to buy it?

Any insights?

What did you learn from these exercises?

Are you more aware of the belongings that you value – because you need, use, love them?

And more aware of the things that no longer have value for you?

Any decluttering plans?

 


HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

Are you tired?

Tired of trying to (re)organise the various areas of your life entirely on your own?

Tired of investing vast amounts of time and energy in finding a way to create a better organised = better life?

Tired of feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, stressed, disappointed, exhausted, …?

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.

We can do it together.

You can decide to get my support, advice, and guidance – and achieve the desired changes in your life so much faster and easier. 

Check out how I can help you.

How to choose your next decuttering project – Some ideas.

What’s your next decluttering project?

Every home is different, and every place has its own challenges, of course.

And we ‘declutterers’ are all unique, we all have our special requirements and preferences and our personal ideas about how our home should look like.

Only you can decide which areas in your home or which categories of belongings need some decluttering, and in which order you wish to organise the work.

If you are not sure where to begin, you could first do a little awareness-exercise:

Walk through your home and create a list of all those areas you don’t feel happy about because they look cluttered or disorganised. 

And then – don’t overthink it – you choose the problem area you wish to tackle first.

Areas to declutter – Some suggestions

Focus on the very personal stuff

You may decide to concentrate on the very personal areas in your home first. This will let you experience the benefits of your decluttering work immediately and personally.

Examples:

    • the content of your briefcase/handbag (click here for some inspiration);
    • the top of your dresser;
    • the drawer with your underwear;
    • your email inbox;
    • the make-up drawer;
    • etc.

Focus on open areas

It’s a good idea to focus on open areas in the beginning because you’ll very quickly see positive results of your work. This will keep your motivation up.

Examples of open areas:

    • the top of the dresser;
    • the top of the kitchen counter;
    • the dinner table;
    • the window sills;
    • the stuff in and around the shower and the bath tub;
    • etc.

Focus on one room

As soon as the open areas are clear and clean you could choose one room to declutter, step-by-step, over the course of a couple of days.

Divide the room into several smaller areas. During each decluttering session you work on just one area until it’s completely decluttered and re-organised.

Example – the kitchen: the fridge, the freezer, one or several drawers or boxes in the pantry, the cabinet under the sink; the pet supplies/toys, one or several drawers or cupboards with the pots and pans, the cutlery, the dishes, glasses, flatware, the drawer with the herbs and spices; etc.

Focus on one category

It is also possible to work on one category or sub-category of belongings at a time.

Examples:

    • gardening tools/equipment/supplies;
    • medicine, vitamins, and supplements;
    • linen and towels;
    • shoes;
    • the boxes/bags with the holiday decorations;
    • photo albums and lose photos;
    • hobby/craft supplies;
    • sports equipment;
    • the files and folders on the computer;
    • etc.

Have you got some ideas for your next project? 

Pick up your calendar and schedule the first decluttering session. And then stick to that appointment with yourself.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed now?

What if you feel like freaking out now because your list of projects seems to be overwhelming? Not doable? Exhausting?

Take a deep breath and calm down.

Remind yourself that you don’t have to do your decluttering projects in one go.

You can decide to take the small-steps decluttering approach.

Click here to learn how you can get all the work done, step-by-step.

Preventing the influx of new clutter – A shopping ban can bring surprising insights. About you. And your stuff.

The purpose of daily-life experimentation

Creating and conducting experiments in our daily life is a playful way to develop greater self-awareness and to try out new ways of behaviour or testing the effects of new ways to solve problems.

Shopping bans – Experimenting with buying less

Shopping bans, for example, are a way of temporarily experimenting with drastically changed shopping behaviours.

Do you have any experience with shopping bans?

Some time ago I imposed a 3-months-shopping-ban on myself – no spending on books and clothes for 3 months.

This is what my shopping-ban exercise taught me:

    • I appreciate more what I have and I use it with more care and attention if – for a while – nothing new is coming in.
    • A lot of my buying behaviour is directed by spontaneous shopping decisions.
    • I can break this circle of ‘automatic’ money spending if I postpone the decision for some days.
    • Often, I no longer want to have the desired item and don’t buy it, without any regret.
    • And if I decide to buy it after some days of consideration, I appreciate it more consciously and gratefully.

How do you feel about experimenting with a shopping ban?

EXERCISE

Impose a shopping ban on yourself to understand your shopping decisions better or to change them.

    • Determine the duration of the shopping ban. (Two weeks? One months? Three?)
    • Transfer the start and finish dates of the ban into your calendar.
    • Decide what type of shopping is not covered by the ban (Groceries. One coffee-to-go per day? Eating out once a week?)
    • Start a little journal and keep notes of your experiences – Your thoughts and feelings and actions.
    • In situations where you didn’t stick to the ban. What did you think and feel while you were making the purchase? And after it?
    • In situations where you obeyed to your rules and didn’t buy something that you’d have bought without the ban. Was it difficult? Or easy? Why?
    • Start a list and take notes of the things you would like to buy. You can promise yourself to revisit this list and to purchase whatever you still desire to have after the end of the ban.

At the end of the ban, sit down and evaluate your experiences.

Summarize what the shopping-ban exercise taught you about yourself.

And your shopping behaviour.

And how you plan to make use of those learning-gains in the future.

Decluttering & organising your life – Do you know what’s in your handbag? Really?

Decluttering and organising – whether it’s our home or any other area in our life – can feel overwhelming.

We often postpone certain tasks because we believe that it’s too hard, that it takes too much time, that we don’t know how to do it, that it wouldn’t make a big difference anyway, etc.

However, we can decide to start small.

We can create some small wins first. And some confidence. And move on from there more easily.

Starting and finishing an decluttering & organising project – no matter how small it is – is a first win – and an important step of our journey into a simply organised life.

It’s proof that making changes is possible and that we can achieve visible and valuable results even if we invest only a few minutes at a time.

Our first little successes increase our confidence (‘Yes, I can do this!’) and can help us get inspired and motivated to plan bigger projects. Or to create a new habit, applying the ‘little-step-by-little-step’ approach consistently – which will create huge progress over time.

A powerful little exercise: Declutter and re-organise your handbag

This little project will help you get a better understanding of the simply organising process in general.

You will directly experience how the 3 steps of any decluttering/organising project work together to create positive results: More space and clarity and lightness. And positive feelings about yourself.

Choose a ‘space’ that you use regularly, a personal ‘container’ like your purse/handbag, your backpack or briefcase (We’ll call it ‘your bag’ here.)

The condition of your chosen bag can be seen as a reflection of who you are and how you treat yourself.

    • If this space is cluttered and unorganised it sends the message to its owner (you!), ‘I am a bit messy/disorganised’.

Each time you grapple with trying to find what you need, or you suffer from the heavy useless stuff you carry around in your bag, you experience frustration which reinforces the message ‘I am so disorganised’ and the feeling of frustration.

    • However, if the bag is clutterfree and well sorted, you send yourself the opposite message, ‘I am organised’.

You have positive feelings when you open your bag, and you feel in control because you know what’s in there and where you can find it.

As soon as you have successfully cleared up and organised a formerly cluttered and messy space that you access multiple times during the day – like in this case your bag -, you will repeatedly get reminded that you are able to do successfully whatever you want to do.

You will also have clear proof that you can overcome the overwhelm that in the past kept you from getting certain tasks done.

You will enjoy the benefits of organised spaces – every time you use the decluttered item.

The 3 steps of the decluttering process

Step 1 – Get a clear picture of what’s in there

    • Dump all the contents of your chosen bag on a flat clean surface.
    • Sort everything into categories, such as personal care items, personal documents, paperwork/books, snacks, etc.
    • Notice what thoughts and feelings are coming up while you look at the categories of things. Any surprises? Any items you had forgotten about? Anything you haven’t used for ages? Or not at all?

Step 2 – Decide what you want to discard

    • Start making let-go decisions by assigning things that are damaged or have become useless to a rubbish pile (e.g., crumpled tissues, old receipts, empty water bottle, dried up lipsticks).
    • Sort out what you never use, and let go of all the duplicates, e.g., the additional comb, the second and third pen, another roll of peppermint drops.
    • Now ask yourself: What do I really need and use regularly?
    • Decide and put aside what you are no longer willing to carry around every day. (Reserve the umbrella for rainy days, the sun cream for summer, the novel for times when you use public transport, etc.)
    • Have a look at the remaining items.
    • Appreciate all the things that are helpful and important to you and decide that you are going to take good care of them in future.

Step 3 – Take action and re-organise

    • Throw the rubbish pile into the bin.
    • Find easy-to-access storage options in your house for the things that you only need/use from time to time (e.g., umbrella, sun cream).
    • Re-pack your bag deliberately.
    • Use any compartments that your bag provides to separate categories of things, or find little extra bags to containerise like items (like makeup products, or pens and post-its, or receipts).

Congratulations – You have proven to yourself that you are a capable organiser! Well done!

Now you can feel certain that you’ll enjoy your clutterfree and organised bag – every day.

Notice what else you are feeling at the end of this little project.

Do you feel relief? Satisfaction? Clarity? Pride? Something else?

How could you ‘store’ any positive feelings you have right now and ‘re-use’ them in the next project that you don’t feel too excited about?

The ‘Shoe Parade’ – Decluttering your shoes CAN be fun

Taking action is not always easy, especially if we feel worried about the size and complexity of a home decluttering project. It often helps to start small.

If we begin with one clearly defined decluttering project – and finish it successfully, in a short period of time, with tangible results – our self-confidence and motivation get a boost.

Give it a try, forget about your bigger decluttering projects for a short while. Instead, have some fun with the ‘Shoe Parade’.  

A word of caution:

If your love for shoes is your Achilles’ heel (you own lots and lots of pairs of shoes), the Shoe Parade can be an overwhelming experience.

In this case, it’s better to begin your decluttering journey with a different category of belongings (e.g., socks, books, shirts).

EXERCISE 

Step 1

Before you do anything, please answer the following two questions:

    • How many pairs of shoes do you have? Take a guess: ………
    • How many pairs of shoes do you regularly wear? Take a guess: ……….

Step 2

Now walk around your home and collect all your shoes.

Arrange a ‘shoe parade’ in your backyard or on the kitchen floor – wherever you have enough space to get them all together.

Any surprises?

    • How many pairs do you have?
    • How many do you actually wear?
    • Any shoes you had completely forgotten about?
    • Any really ugly ones?
    • Completely new and unworn shoes?
    • Other insights?

You might wish to take a photograph. And take some notes.

Step 3

Sort out any shoes that are beyond repair or missing their mate.

These shoes need a new home: the rubbish bin.

Step 4

Then divide you your pairs of shoes into three main groups:

    • In one area of the room arrange all your favourite pairs, the shoes you absolutely love and wear often. Celebrate them – they belong to your ‘keepers’.
    • In another area of the room, you arrange all those pairs of shoes that you don’t love but regularly need/wear. They also have the right to stay.
    • In a third area, you place all those pairs of shoes you have not worn in the past 6 months.

Do they still deserve space in your home? Would they be happier with a new owner?

Show them your respect by saying ‘Thank you’ and ‘Goodbye’ and drop them off at your local charity. Someone else will appreciate and use them.

Step 5

Finally, honour the shoes that you love or need to keep.

Clean them, and then organise them nicely and orderly in one place.

Step 6

WELL DONE! – Celebrate your first decluttering success!

You are now ready and well prepared to start working on your bigger decluttering projects.


Struggling with the clutter in your wardrobe? – ‘Talk’ to your clothes and ask them for help

‘Talking’ to our belongings can open a door to our unconscious mind

Asking our belongings for their feedback is a playful way to gain more awareness about the things we have accumulated over time. Questions like ’‘Why am I not using you?’ help us uncover what’s going on in our mind.

If we are willing to listen to the honest answers we get from our stuff, we begin to understand our subconscious attachment to things that no longer serve us, and we find it easier to make let-go decisions that are over-due.

Wardrobe clutter conversations – Your clothes know what’s going on in your closet

There are many ways to declutter and organise our wardrobe so that getting dressed in the morning becomes simple and enjoyable.

One way to understand the situation in our wardrobe better and to simplify the decluttering-decision process is to ‘talk’ to our clothes and ‘ask’ them for help.

EXERCISE

You start the ‘conversation’ by taking everything out of the wardrobe that you haven’t worn for a while.

Spread it out on your bed or another suitable flat surface.

Then take each piece of clothing in your hands and ask it,

‘Why am I not wearing you?’

All sorts of answers will come up and they will help you clarify your relationships with your clothes.

Making confident decluttering decisions gets easier if you hear (and accept) the truth.

Your clothes might give you answers such as

You’re not wearing me because

    • I have stains that you can’t get out’
    • you’ve never tried. Look here, I’ve still the price tag on’
    • you never liked me’
    • I am out of fashion’
    • you forgot about my existence’
    • you have so many clothes similar to me’
    • I don’t fit you’
    • we don’t fit to each other’
    • your lifestyle changed and you no longer need me’
    • you don’t look good when you put me on’
    • I give you negative emotional associations’
    • you don’t like my colour/style any longer’

If you are willing to listen to your clothes and trust their answers, you will find it easier to decide what you want to keep – and to say thank you and goodbye to those clothes that gave you honest and tough answers – because they no longer want to stay with you.


Decluttering your wardrobe can make decluttering your life easier

If you plan to not only declutter your home but other areas in your life as well, getting your wardrobe sorted out is a great starting point.

Many of us feel emotionally attached to at least some of our clothes. This can be the reason why we postpone decluttering our wardrobe again and again.

As soon as we get curious and ask ourselves (and our clothes) questions about all the stuff in the closet, we start to come up with answers that help us clear up the emotional ballast – ballast that causes not only the clutter in our closet but also in other areas of our life.

A small step can change everything: Your home – your mind – your life.

Small steps matter.

They create change, step-by-step.

The first small step is the most powerful. Nothing happens without it.

Having a clear and organised home (or not) has to do with how successful we manage two different but closely related activities:

    • we have to be good at decluttering / organising physical stuff
    • and we have to be good at decluttering/organising our mind.

Our home and our possessions should reflect and support our lifestyle and our values, instead of making life more difficult and stressful.

However, when we are surrounded by belongings that we don’t use, like, need, we can’t relax and refuel our energy resources.

Instead, the mess sucks up our attention and energy. It clutters our mind, the physical clutter bombards our brain with excessive stimuli. We find it hard to focus on our daily lives – it’s all too much!

If we struggle to take action to declutter and organise our home and life, it’s often because the task seems to be so huge that we feel overwhelmed and end up with doing nothing.

We look at the mess and feel stuck, we feel incapable of getting active and making changes.

In this situation, it often helps to just get started – to take the first tiny step:

We choose one small area to focus our decluttering project on and forget about the big rest of the mess for now.

Instead of planning the clear up of the whole house, we decide, for example, to get one drawer in the kitchen sorted, or a little cupboard in the bed room, or our handbag. We set the timer for 20 or 30 minutes, and get the job done, from start to finish.

A small exercise like this, these 20 or 30 minutes, can change everything.

Choosing one small concrete project and tackling it successfully, creates not only new order and space in a little area of our home.

It also changes how we experience ourselves.

Decluttering and organising a small area delivers a visible real result. And this little success triggers a sense of ‘I can take action’, ‘I can organise’, ‘I can achieve results’.

It allows us to start believing in ourselves and our capacity to be(come) an organised person. 

Thus, even just a small successful experience like taking action and changing a cluttered drawer into a clear and organised drawer can have significant effects on our mind and our thinking. (Click Here to read about an example project: Decluttering and organising my office supplies’ drawer.)

It can have the power to set off a cascade of other changes in our life because our thoughts and beliefs are the cause of anything we experience in our life:

As soon as we start to believe that we can organise our stuff, that we can achieve results by taking action, we start to feel more powerful and confident, which frees us up to take further action, which delivers further results.

Which then reinforce and intensify our thoughts of being capable of changing our life and taking control. Which strengthens our feelings of strengths, which … .

A tiny small action creating small but real results can get the ball rolling, can trigger a circle of success. 

A small step can change everything. Give it a try.

Home-Clutter and Mind-Clutter – Summary of the ‘Clutter Series’

Short Intro

TheClutter Series 

The main purpose of the  ‘Clutter Series’ is to help us understand the clutter in our homes better.

We learn what clutter is and why we accumulate it in our homes, why the awareness of our values and our ability to make decisions are so important, and how we can improve our decluttering skills.

The ‘Mind-Decluttering Series

The most damaging category of clutter is the clutter in our mind.

This type of clutter – all the self-limiting thoughts and unsupportive beliefs – is so powerful because the mind-clutter causes all the other types of clutter in our life

The ‘Mind-Decluttering Series’ is all about how we can get the mind-clutter sorted out.


The most important insights of the ‘Clutter Series’:

Part 1, What is clutter? Why is your clutter different to mine?

Clutter is anything that no longer serves us. Thus any decluttering decision is absolutely subjective.

Our personal situation and our individual values, beliefs and perceptions determine what is clutter – it can mean something different to each of us.

If you decide that something you own is clutter, it’s clutter. If you decide something isn’t clutter, it’s no clutter. No matter what someone else says about your stuff.

Part 2, What are the negative side-effects of clutter?

Clutter steals our energy, it limits our personal potential, and decreases our decision-making ability – we tend to feel stuck, overwhelmed and stressed.

We often struggle to take action and change our life to the better.

Part 3, What are the benefits of a clutterfree home?

Being aware of the benefits of a clutterfree home can help us to stay motivated and excited during the decluttering process:

If we let go of what no longer serves us we can only win: More space, more time, more money, more productivity, more peace of mind.

Part 4, What causes clutter? Part 1: The inflow of stuff is too high

Impulsive and excessive shopping is one of the main causes of a too high inflow of stuff into our homes.

We all have our own special and very personal reasons why we buy too much.

These are some of the reasons:

Escaping from difficult emotions, fearing of missing out, feeling excessively attached to past experiences, hunting for live improvements, etc.

Part 5, What causes clutter? Part 2: The outflow of stuff is too low

Often, we don’t pay attention to the point in time when our formerly needed and used belongings have done their job. They could actually go but we keep them. They become clutter.

We all have our own personal reasons why we want to keep things that no longer serve us, for example:

We believe the stuff has still a financial value, feelings of guilt or shame keep us stuck with unwanted items, we want to avoid change and decision-making, we lack self-awareness or declutter-skills, we have not time to sort our stuff, etc.

Part 6, What is decluttering?

Decluttering consists of two main activities:

The practical/physical activity of removing/discarding the things we decided to get rid of and the mental/emotional activity of making decisions about what belongs to the category of things we no longer need, use or love.

If we wish to make our decluttering project a success, we have to ensure that both activities are conducted efficiently.

Part 7, What are the benefits of the decluttering activity?

Making decluttering-decisions in our home offers the opportunity to simultaneously make positive changes in other areas of our life as well.

If it’s prepared and executed in a careful way, the activity of decluttering can evolve from a very productive home-improvement experience into a powerful self-development and life-improvement exercise.

Part 8, How does decluttering help us to become better decision-makers?

Making hundreds of small and large decluttering decisions improves our general decision-making skills and our self-confidence – we become experienced decision-makers which helps us in all areas of our life.

Decision-making increases our self-awareness. We learn to better understand what’s truly important to us, thus each decision we make helps us to make the next decision easier.

Making decisions and getting active result in feeling more powerful and in control

Decluttering decisions make it easier to accept or initiate change.

Part 9, Why is the preparation of decluttering projects so important?

For most of us, decluttering our home is a challenging project. Like any bigger project it needs proper preparation.

To make real change happen, we need to invest some time and mental work before the practical activity of decluttering physical belongings begins.

We need to understand where we are now (current reality), where we want to go (vision, values, and goals), and how we want to get there (action plan).

This article focuses on our values and why honouring them is so important for our decluttering success.

Part 10, How do our values and our vision help us to make better (declutter) decisions?

Becoming aware of our core values and our vision makes us feel stronger, more confident, and more decisive.

Our vision determines our direction in life.

Getting clear on where we want to go is essential for setting ourselves up for long term success, not just a temporary adjustment.

Once we have a clear picture of the live we desire to live in our mind, making decluttering decisions becomes easier.

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 10 – How our values and vision help us to make (declutter) decisions

The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general well-being.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.


Knowing our values and our vision helps us make (decluttering) decisions easier

Before we can start to make decisions about our belongings, we have to become well aware of where we are now, how we got there, why we want to change our home/life,  and where we want to go.

Having a deep understanding of our current situation, our values and our vision for the future enables us to make the right decisions during the decluttering process and to get and stay focused and motivated.

Recently, we talked about the importance of our values, today we discuss why we need a clear vision for our decluttering success.

OUR VISION

Our vision determines our direction in life.

Getting clear on where we want to go is essential for setting ourselves up for long-term success, not just a temporary adjustment.

    • It’s hard to figure out how and where to move if our mind is still occupied by the past. That’s one of the main reasons why managing change can be so demanding and frustrating.
    • It can also happen that we feel stuck and unsure because we are surrounded by too many options or opportunities.
    • Or we might feel lost and desperate because we don’t see any alternatives at all, no way out of the current reality.

Defining our vision of the future clearly—a simple, powerful statement, just a word or a short phrase (see exercise below)—can help us get unstuck and active.

A clear vision gives us confidence and motivates us to let go of what no longer serves us and to say ‘goodbye’ to the things and issues (thoughts, feelings) of the past.

Our vision helps us make (decluttering) decisions

Similar to our values, our vision helps us make clear decisions at the crossroads in our life – or in the middle of a decluttering process.

Whenever we have to make a difficult decision or choice, we can ask ourselves

‘Does this (activity, decision, commitment) take me closer to my vision?’

Being aware of our core values and our vision makes us feel more powerful, confident, and decisive.

In our daily lives, we often make decisions without thinking much about them. We base them on habit, convenience, conformity.

But knowing our values and our vision – and continually getting in touch with them – allows us to take a step back and to remind ourselves to live our lives with purpose, not by default.

EXERCISE  

What’s the title of the next chapter of your life (your vision)?

    1. Start by describing the main topics of your current life phase.
    • What’s been your main focus of this current chapter of your life? Your main goal?
    • Which roles, responsibilities and tasks determine your present daily life?
    • What do you like about your life today? What do you not like about it?

Imagine you were writing a book about your life – what would be the title of the current chapter? Write it down.

2. Now develop ideas and plans for your future, such as:

    • How do you want your life to be different? (In one year? In five or 10 years?)
    • What are your goals for the next phase of your life?
    • Who do you want to be? What do you want to do?
    • Where and how will you live? How will your home look like?
    • Which interests/hobbies do you have that you want to invest more time and energy in?

Continue working on your life book: What’s the title of the next chapter of your life? Write it down.

Try to define an inspiring vision that is broad enough to cover all areas of your life (personal, professional, social, at home) and keep it simple.

Listen to your intuition and not to what others might expect of you.

These are some examples of visions, expressed as ‘life-chapter headings’:

Type of change: Downsizing Getting divorced Decluttering and  simplifying life
Theme of current life chapter: Taking care of the family and the family home/story Fulfilling others’ expectations Accumulating experiences, information, stuff
Theme/Vision of future life chapter: Independence and freedom, Travel time Self-discovery and self-expression Enjoying a spacious home and a spacious mind/life

Now it’s your turn.

What type of change are you going through, and how do you wish to title the current and future chapters in the book of your life?

What’s your vision? What’s the title of the next chapter of your life-book?

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 9 – Why is the preparation of decluttering projects so important?

THE CLUTTER SERIES

The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general well-being.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.


For most of us, decluttering our home is a challenging project.

Like other bigger projects it needs proper preparation.

Prepartion of a decluttering project

A proper preparation is super-important if we want to ensure that we have a good start with our decluttering project and to increase our chances to arrive safely at the finish-line.

Removing the clutter without a deep understanding of its causes and its ‘purpose’ in our life is like ‘sending it on a short holiday’. We remove the symptoms for a while but we don’t resolve the underlying problem(s). The clutter will come back!

How our values and vision help us make (declutter) decisions

Before we can start to make decisions about our belongings, we have to become well aware of where we are now, how we got there, why we want to change our home/life,  and where we want to go.

Having a deep understanding of our current situation, our values and our vision for the future enables us to make the right decisions during the decluttering process and to get and stay focused and motivated.

Today, we talk about our values, in another article we will discuss why we need a clear vision for our decluttering success.

OUR VALUES

Decluttering can be seen a process of honouring our deepest held values.

Every time we decide to keep or let go of an item, we are effectively saying, “This matters to me” or “This is no longer a priority.” We must make this decision hundreds of times while we are decluttering an entire home.

In order to make the right decisions, it is vital for us to clarify and confirm our personal values and motivations before we start to develop a vision for the next chapter of our life and set goals for our decluttering projects.

Differentiating between values and goals is important because, in the long run, it’s our values – not our goals – that direct and motivate us. We experience our greatest personal alignment with ourselves when we set goals and take actions that align with our values.

Values are what we find meaningful and important in our life, they give us clarity and direction. They are like an internal compass that guides and motivates us.

Values exist, whether we recognise them or not. Life can be much easier when we consciously acknowledge our values – and when we make plans and decisions that honour them.

Knowing and honouring our values helps us make decisions.

Having clear values not only keeps us focused and motivated. They help us make decisions.

Whenever we have to make a decision or choice, we can ask ourselves

‘Is this (activity, decision, commitment, possession) in alignment with my values?’

Usually, our decision to declutter or make changes in our lives has to do with our values. We are probably not happy with the current reality because we have neglected some of our important values—we haven’t ‘valued’ enough what’s really important to us.

Knowing our values helps us understand our ‘Why’.

Redirecting our attention to our core values helps us to truly understand our Why – the purpose behind our decluttering ambitions:

    • Why the clutter in our home (or the change in our life) is a problem for us,
    • and why we decided to get active and to do something to make things better.

Whenever, later in the decluttering/change process, we struggle to set goals or decide on the next action steps, or when we experience a drop in energy and motivation, we can remind ourselves of our core values and let them guide us.


HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

Are you tired?

Tired of trying to (re)organise the various areas of your life entirely on your own?

Tired of investing vast amounts of time and energy in finding a way to create a better organised = better life?

Tired of feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, stressed, disappointed, exhausted, …?

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.

We can do it together.

You can decide to get my support, advice, and guidance – and achieve the desired changes in your life so much faster and easier. 

Check out how I can help you.

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 8 – How our decluttering work helps us become better decision-makers

THE CLUTTER SERIES

The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.


How decluttering helps us become better decision-makers

Decluttering consists of two main activities: (Click to read: What is decluttering)

    • The practical/physical activity of removing/getting out the things we decided to get rid of,
    • and the mental/emotional activity of making decisions about what belongs to the category of things we no longer need/want to have with us.

The first activity – the physical work – has to be done properly, of course, if we wish to make our decluttering project a success.

However, it’s the second activity – making decisions – that holds the potential of far-reaching life changes.

Immobilisation and stagnation are caused by a lack of decision making.

That’s how the clutter comes into our home:

We, for example, make spontaneous shopping decisions without considering how useful the new possessions actually are to us. And we avoid to make let-go decisions about those of our possession that we no longer use, need, love.

So things that don’t serve us are allowed to come in and then to stay where they are – they don’t get used, they don’t move, they become clutter.

When we make decisions, we create momentum and action.

As soon as we decide to declutter our home, we have done the first and probably most important decision of the decluttering process:

We made the decision to no longer tolerate the current reality, to change it actively, and to move on to a better – or at least different – future.

Decluttering improves our decision-making skills and confidence.

While we are sorting and clearing up our stuff we need to make decisions about whether to keep or discard items, and where to put them. This is not easy, at least not in the beginning.

However, while looking at hundreds of items and asking ourselves if they serve us, we get fitter and faster in making decisions.

We begin to feel more confident about our decision-making skills, and we are more willing to use these skills – not only to solve clutter problems but also to make changes in other areas of our life.

Decision-making increases our self-awareness.

Many of our belongings are closely connected to certain expectations or emotions which we are often not consciously aware of.

We buy something because we believe: If I own this thing, I will be, look or feel a certain way.

For example:

    • If I buy this nice dining table, I will become a great entertainer.
    • If I get new running shoes, I’ll get properly prepared for the marathon.
    • If I use this cream, my skin will look fresh and young.

As soon as we realise and accept the fact that we often buy things because of the person we want to be or the lifestyle we want to have, we can dig a bit deeper to find the emotions, needs and desires behind our shopping behaviour.

The analysis of our deeper motivations doesn’t feel comfortable all the time, we might experience feelings of guilt or shame.

But the self-discovery process helps us let go of our emotional attachment to certain things.  

We gain clarity and it becomes easier to decide what needs to go because it has nothing to do with our true self.

If we decide to let go of false aspirations and hopes we also get rid of stress and negative emotions. 

Decision-making requires us to uncover and realise our values and our vision in life.

Before we can start to make decision about our belongings, we have to become well aware of where we are, how we got there, why you want to change our home/life, and where we want to go.

Having a deep understanding of our current situation, our values and our vision for the future enables us to make the right decisions during the decluttering process and to get and stay focused and motivated.

Making decisions and getting active result in feeling more powerful and in control.

In most paralysing life-change situations just getting active, doing something, can immediately make us feel stronger and more in control.

Decluttering a room in our home, for example, or clearing up a kitchen drawer, re-organising the paperwork – these are all examples of hands-on activities that directly deliver visible results, an experience of personal power, and a proof of our ability to initiate positive change.

“A messy closet or an overflowing in-basket is a trivial inconvenience, yet getting control of our stuff makes us feel more in control of our lives.” (Gretchen Rubin)

Decluttering helps us to learn from past decisions.

One of the reasons why decluttering can be quite painful is because it confronts us with the effects of our past decisions.

We, for example, realise how much money we spent on items that have become clutter. This can cause feelings of shame and regret.

The upside of facing our past mistakes is that we can learn from them.

Becoming more aware of what went wrong can help us make better decisions in the future. We might also become more intentional in our shopping habits.

Decluttering decisions make it easier to accept or initiate change.

The only way to grow and expand is to release the past.

Our mind, however, doesn’t want us to change, it wants us to be safe by taking no risks and holding on to what we know and are used to.

If we are hanging on to the physical items that belonged to our past, we may find it difficult to grow and develop. We tend to beat ourselves up for not enjoying the same things we used to, or not getting enough use out of some equipment we once loved.

Sorting through our belonging and discarding what no longer serves us allows to remove the past from our space physically, and this is an important step in figuring out new opportunities and creating change.  

Decluttering decisions are especially helpful in life-change situations.

Decluttering during or after a life transition can help us make necessary – and often unwanted –  changes easier.

It’s hard to move on into a new chapter of our life if we are surrounded by reminders of past phases of our life and past relationships and experiences.

Decluttering physical items in our home can enable us to let go of old aspects of ourselves that no longer suit to our current life or the life we now want to live.

The decluttering process can also be used to process and then let go of feelings of sadness, grief or regret that are tied to items in our home.

Knowing for sure what we wish to leave behind because it no longer serves us, makes it is easier to decide how to move on and what to take along when we enter a new chapter in our life.


HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

Are you tired?

Tired of trying to (re)organise the various areas of your life entirely on your own?

Tired of investing vast amounts of time and energy in finding a way to create a better organised = better life?

Tired of feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, stressed, disappointed, exhausted, …?

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.

We can do it together.

You can decide to get my support, advice, and guidance – and achieve the desired changes in your life so much faster and easier. 

Check out how I can help you.

The ‘Small-steps-approach’ helps us to get started with decluttering

Would it be possible to clear up your entire home by doing one little decluttering step after the other?

I actually prefer to do things in one go – to start a job and only stop when it’s finished.

However, often it’s not possible to complete a decluttering project in one go. 

    • If we are in an extremely busy phase of our life we might just not have the time for a decluttering project that will take several days or even weeks to get completed.
    • There might be other reasons why we don’t feel physically or mentally able to go through a complex energy- and effort-demanding project.

Thus, the decision to do it all in one go can become the reason why we don’t start at all!

The solution is to let go of the idea that we have to do it all at once:

We move towards our decluttering goal by taking one little step after the other.

CLICK HERE to read more about the ‘Small-Steps-Decluttering Approach’.

Example of a small-steps decluttering project

I haven’t been feeling comfortable in my home office for a while. 

There is too much stuff lying around on my desk, the drawers are too full, the filing cabinets need to be cleared up, the files on my computer as well, and I also want to sort out and give away some of my books.

However, I don’t have the time to do all the work in one go and – sitting in my messy office every day – I started to feel frustrated.

My mood switched immediately as soon as I had decided to take a step-by-step approach.

This is one example of my small-step projects:

Decluttering the office-supplies drawer

Recently, I had 30 minutes before I had to leave the house to meet a client, and I was determined to finally get the drawer with my office supplies sorted out.

I followed my own advice (read more):

I set the timer, and took a photograph of my cluttered drawer.

Image of Office drawer content - BEFORE decluttering

I emptied the content of the drawer on the floor,

Image Decluttering Step 1 - Drawer s content emptied on floor

Then I got rid of  what was broken or no longer usable, and sorted the rest into categories of like items.

Image Decluttering Step 2 - Drawer s content sorted in categories

Now I created 3 piles:

    • to give away (e.g. note pads I never use),
    • to keep in the drawer (one exemplar of all the different things I regularly need),
    • and to store away (all duplicates and extra stock)

Image Decluttering Step 3 - What has to go

I cleaned the drawer, arranged the ‘keep in the drawer’ stuff nicely, and put the ‘to store away’ things in a storage box. 

My drawer looks very organised now, and I know where to find more supplies as soon as something has been used up.

And it took me just 25 minutes to get the job done!

Image Decluttering Step 4 - To be kept

Yes, I like this result of the ‘strategy of small steps’:

Image of Office drawer content - AFTER decluttering

How do you manage large decluttering projects?

Do you divide bigger projects into smaller steps?

How does it work for you?