Two powerful decluttering questions

If you don’t feel motivated to get your stuff sorted out and to let go of any clutter, or if you feel motivated but feel unable to decide what’s actually clutter and what’s not,

Ask yourself:

    • Who will most probably (have to) clear up my belongings after my death?
    • And what do I want them to think about my stuff – and about me?

Yes, I know, most of us don’t like to think about our mortality.

That’s why we actively avoid thinking about what is going to happen with our personal stuff and who will have to take care of it when we pass away.

Because it forces us to think about the things we own and the reasons why we own them – and how we feel about those reasons.

Take some minutes to think about the questions. Write your answers down. Have a closer look at them.

Is there anything new and/or helpful you learned about yourself, and about your stuff?

Do you feel more motivated now to start your decluttering project? More determined to make some let-go decisions?

My personal Example:

When I die, most probably my husband will have to take care of my stuff. I assume, however, that he will not be able or will not be willing to do the work. He will ask my sisters or his own sister to help him clear up my stuff.

I imagine my sisters and my sister-in-law at our place, having to go through my possessions – my clothes, my jewellery, my books, my paperwork, my digital information, etc.

In my mind, I see, like in a movie, how they open my wardrobe. I see them as they are taking out all my clothes and shoes. And having to make decisions about them. I see them while they are working through the boxes that contain my sentimental papers. And so on.

And, again and again, I ask myself: What will they think and feel about me while they are going through my stuff? Do I want them to think and feel that way?

I remember that I felt very uncomfortable the first time I thought about the questions. But I tried to answer them. And found the answers helpful.

They really helped me make progress, particularly with decluttering my paperwork. I was able to decrease the amount of paperwork, sentimental and other, by half.

I don’t do this exercise often.

But from time to time, for example, while I’m digging my way through the overcrowded drawer with my underwear, I stop and think:

Do I want anyone to see this mess? And to clear it up?

The answer is usually ‘no’.

And 10 minutes later the underwear drawer is clutterfree and nicely organised. 😊


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.

Clutter Awareness – 4 ways to get to know your stuff better

Before you can decide what to declutter you need to know what you have

If you don’t feel completely comfortable in your home but struggle to decide what you should change or what you should let go of, you can use little experimental exercises that are not only fun but also help you see your home from a different and more neutral point of view.

Your increased awareness will help you make more confident and determined decluttering decisions.

EXERCISE 1 – Take the view of a stranger who is visiting for the first time

Go outside and enter your home through the front door again.

Walk through all rooms and pretend to see all your furniture and belongings for the first time.

Which assumptions are you making about the people living in this place?

Take notes of the thoughts, feelings, and judgments that come up.

EXERCISE 2 – Imagine you would move out soon

Walk through your place. Imagine you plan to move on and to have a fresh start in a new place. You want to take along only what’s really valuable to you.

Consider what you would leave behind because you actually don’t need, use, or love it any longer.

Make a list.

EXERCISE 3 – Use photographs to evaluate your possessions

Walk around your home and take photographs.

Somehow, photographs help us see a space with fresh eyes.

Taking pictures changes our perspective and gives us a measure of detachment. This can help us decide what items should stay and what needs to go.

EXERCISE 4 – Move clutter candidates out of context

Choose some of your potential clutter items and put them into a new context by carrying them into another room.

When we see objects settled into a particular place over time, it becomes hard to imagine where else they might go and how the place would look and feel like without them.

Once you detach things from their settled places, it’s much easier to decide what to do with them.

Do you have a better idea now of what you have?

And of what you no longer want to have?

Any changes you want to make in your home?

The next step could be to plan – and do! – some decluttering projects that will help you create the home you love.

Do you know your ‘clutter champions’? – Is it time to knock them off their pedestal?

Our ‘clutter champions’ are those areas of our home and those categories of belongings that contain a very high accumulation of things that don’t serve us.

It’s usually obvious that we don’t need our clutter champions and that we don’t want them:

    • We often hide them (push them under the bed, into a hidden corner in the garage),
    • we don’t take good care of them (let them collect dush or get rusty),
    • we try to ignore them (don’t look at them, move around them),
    • and we never use them.

Typical examples of clutter champions:

    • areas of our home that are no longer usable because they are overcrowded with stuff, such as a garage that leaves no room for the car,
    • furniture not (or no longer) used, such as an inherited armchair nobody sits on,
    • books we are no longer interested in, or recipe books we never opened,
    • piles of papers we never touch but grow by continuously adding new pieces,
    • papers from former phases of our life, e.g., materials from school years or a previous job,
    • kitchen appliances that don’t fit our current cooking habits,
    • a dresser drawer we never open because it contains out-of-fashion tops,
    • a wardrobe full of clothing that no longer fits, that we hope ‘may come back in style’, that we don’t wear but keep because it was expensive,
    • a 24-piece cutlery set never unpacked but kept because it was a wedding present from our aunt.

Clutter champions are champions because we let them win.

We allow them to occupy space without truly contributing to our life and well-being. They have become a burden to us, but we don’t admit it.

Clutter champions hold us back, they make us feel bad about ourselves because we feel that we should have done something about them a long time ago, that it’s our fault that they are ‘staring’ at us.

We can change the game and become the champions!

If we take the time to intentionally acknowledge and really get to know our clutter champions, we become the winners.

While we take a closer look at them, we also learn more about ourselves, and we better understand why we tend to collect and keep certain categories of things, and why certain areas in our home get so easily overcrowded.

Our increased self-awareness then helps us make long overdue decisions with intention, confidence, and determination.

Making decisions allows us to take actions, actions that create the clutterfree results we want in our life:

Letting go of all or some of our clutter champions not only creates more space in our home, but it also creates more space in our mind. And it makes us feel good about ourselves and capable.

We now know that we can do this and decluttering other areas in our home and life becomes so much easier.

Use the following exercise to clear up your relationship with your clutter champions.


Step 1 – Walk around your home. Open the door to each room and look around.

Ask yourself:

    • Any clutter champions around here?
    • Any stuff that doesn’t serve me at all?
    • Anything I feel shame or frustration about?

Don’t allow yourself to look away! Bend down and look under the bed. Open cupboards and boxes. Drawers and bags. Shine a light in the dark corners. Take photos if that helps you to get a clearer picture.

Step 2 – Create a list of all the clutter champions.

These are my clutter champions:

    • …….
    • …….
    • ……..
    • …….

Step 3 – Now sit down and spend some more time with your clutter champions.

You want to deeply understand what’s going on here.

Ask yourself questions like:

    1. What do I think about my clutter champions?
    2. What’s the story of each clutter champion? How did they get into my home? Has there been a time when they did serve me because I needed and used them? When and why did that change?
    3. Why did I allow them to stay with me after they had lost their usefulness?
    4. How do I feel about still having them?
    5. How would I feel if they were gone?
    6. Am I ready to let them go? Now?

Step 4 – Make a decision:

This is the clutter champion that I am going to clear up first:

    • …….

Step 5Take action

Make an assumption about the amount of time you will need to sort out clutter champion #1, and schedule one or several decluttering sessions in your calendar.

Then stick to your appointment(s) with yourself – and do the work: create some space by letting go of what no longer serves you.

Decluttering & organising our life makes starting something new easier

A clutterfree & organised start into a new chapter of life is a better and easier start.

The beginning of a new phase in our life can be a great opportunity to intentionally give ourselves a fresh start – creating more space, freedom and lightness in all areas of our life.

Examples of new opportunities for a fresh start are:

    • Ending a relationship, or starting a new relationship
    • Renovating the house
    • Moving to a new place
    • Starting a new job
    • Entering retirement
    • Becoming an empty nester

These and other new beginnings become easier if we don’t burden them with the stuff of the past. We don’t want to take along what might hold us back in the new stage of our life.

It can be a relief to intentionally decide what no longer serves us (= clutter) and let it go before we move on.

So how can we manage the re-organisation of our life intentionally?

The three main steps of any decluttering & organising project are always the same –it doesn’t matter if we re-arrange our home, our paperwork, mind – or our whole life:

STEP 1 – We get everything sorted and gain awareness of what we currently have in our life 

We take everything out, we sort and categorise it. What are the things – what are the thoughts and the feelings – that serve us, and what are the ones that burden/hurt us?

STEP 2 – We let go of the clutter by making intentional decisions 

We honour our values, needs, and goals by deliberately letting go of the things – and the thoughts/feelings – we no longer need/love/want to use.

STEP 3 – We create new order in our life by taking massive action 

We reorganise the things – and the thoughts/feelings – we want to keep in a way that serves us, and we move on with clarity, space, and lightness.

Enjoy the clutterfree & organised start of a new phase in your life!


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.

Your sentimental items – Are they treasures? Or clutter?

Sentimental items – Why are we so sentimental about them? 

The difference between aspirational and sentimental belongings

Most of us share the experience that it is particularly tough to make decluttering decisions with regard to these two types of belongings:

We particularly struggle to let go of aspirational and sentimental belongings.

Our aspirational belongings have to do with our future, or our former dreams of the future: They represent our current and past ambitions and aspirations, our ideas of our ideal ‘fantasy’ selves and lives.

Our sentimental attachment to certain possessions is usually linked to our past – to previous phases in our lives and to our past identities: Sentimental belongings refer to past experiences, remind us of people who were/are important to us, or keep memories of special events and accomplishments.

I shared my thoughts about aspirational belongings in a recent article (click to read).

Today I wish to discuss

Our struggle with letting go of sentimental items.

Why we ‘feel sentimental’ about some of our belongings

We all feel – more or less – emotionally attached to some (or many) of our belongings. These belongings remind us of something, usually something related to the past – they remind us of special people, eras, places, experiences, feelings in our life.

Often, sentimental items have no real use or monetary value. And in most cases, we are the only ones who appreciate and value them.

Some of us keep things from our childhood or teenage years such as stuffed animals, books or clothes, some of us have a collection of photographs and papers that remind us of important situations in our lives, some of us act as the guardians of the family heirlooms.

There is nothing wrong with these sentimental things.

If we truly value them and can easily store them in our home, there is no reason to say goodbye to them.

So, why does the expression ‘sentimental stuff’ have a slightly negative connotation?

Why do many of us feel uncomfortable when they talk about and explain the existence of their sentimental belongings? Why do we often feel we have to justify why we keep certain things?

Little Exercise – How well do you know your sentimental belongings?

Lean back for a moment and think about your home and all the things that ‘live’ there with you, all the items you have given permission to move in and to stay with you.

Imagine yourself walking through your rooms, looking at the walls and open shelves, opening cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers, pulling the boxes from under the beds or behind curtains.

Now make a list of the things with emotional value that come to your mind.

What does your list look like?

    • How many sentimental items do you remember (without getting up and checking out!)?
    • Do they all belong to one category of belongings, such as photos, images, papers, clothes, books, collections, etc.?
    • Do all the things you remember refer to one special phase in your life? Are they all linked to one special person? Or one special experience/event?
    • Or do you keep a wide variety of sentimental items linked to different phases of your past?
    • What kind of emotions do you have about the things you remember? Positive feelings? Or negative? Or neutral?
    • How much space does the sentimental stuff on the list occupy in your home?
    • Do you think your list is complete? Or do you assume there are many more things you keep for sentimental reasons but can’t remember at this moment?

Now evaluate the insights you gained from the little exercise.

Do you feel completely happy about the sentimental stuff in your home? Or is there a little nagging feeling that there might be some value in having a closer look at them?

When do sentimental belongings become problematic?

There are three main reasons why sentimental items can develop into problem items and become a burden that makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Let’s find some little example stories to understand them better:

#1 – We keep too many sentimentally charged belongings.

It’s nice if our wedding photo on the shelf in the living room evokes a smile on our face whenever we look at it. But do we really need to keep the other 850 wedding photos in the huge box in the basement that we haven’t looked at for ages?

Our favourite teddy bear is very successful in causing memories of our childhood and warm feelings in our stomach. But does it need 13 other stuffed friends around it?

The vase from Auntie Mary looks really nice on the dinner table. But the three tubs with all the other vases, crockery, and cutlery we inherited from her actually only collect dust and spider webs in the garage, don’t they?

#2 – We hold on to things that are not valuable to us personally.

We never liked landscape paintings. Now we have four such paintings hanging on the walls in the guest room. They had decorated the living room of our grandparents for as long as we can remember. We just didn’t dare to say ‘no’ when they moved to a small apartment and needed a new home for their paintings.

We inherited our father’s coin collection which we actually hate. It reminds us of all the arguments our parents had whenever our father spent money on a new coin.

We never enjoyed the endless piano lessons our parents arranged for us when we were a teenager. Now the piano sits in our living room, silently, collecting dust and causing bad feelings.

#3 – We surround ourselves with stuff that keeps us stuck in the past so that we are unable to enjoy our present life.

Our mother passed away four years ago and we took all her belongings because it felt too hard to sort anything out. We still struggle to look through the stuff that occupies the guestroom and half of the basement.

After our divorce, we moved out and took along the dinner table from the old house. It’s actually too big for the new place, and it reminds us of the best and the worst times of the marriage. Often, when we sit at this big thing, we feel small and lonely. And angry.

We always loved cooking and our kitchen is fully equipped with anything you need to prepare extraordinary meals. However, we switched to simple and easy-to-do meals many years ago and don’t need all the cooking stuff any longer. What we actually would need is more space for our arts and crafts supplies.

How can we clear up sentimental clutter?

Try these strategies:

#1 – Asking the question ‘Why?’

This is the most helpful and effective question we can ask ourselves in any intentional decluttering process but especially when we want to declutter sentimental stuff.

Ask yourself:

    1. Why do I keep this thing? What is the reason behind my decision?
    2. And – very important – Do I like my reason?

For example:

If you use only one of Auntie Mary’s vases but keep another 11 vases in boxes in the attic, you could ask:

    • ‘Why do I keep vases I don’t like and use?’
    • If your reason is: ‘I have to. Aunt Mary was always so kind to me, I really liked her. I can’t give away her vases.’ you can ask again:
    • ‘Why do I think I can’t give them away?’
    • Your next answer might be: “I’d feel guilty and bad if I gave them away.” Ask again:
    • Why would I feel guilty? Would Aunt Mary want me to feel guilty? And even if she did, is being afraid of feeling guilt a good reason to allow things to occupy space in my home and life that I don’t like and use?’

Finding answers to our ‘Why’-questions gets easier as soon as we are aware of our personal values, our goals, and our visions for our life.

#2 – Choosing only sentimental items that give us positive feelings

It is important to uncover and ‘honour’ any negative feelings we have related to belongings from the past. But then it’s time to let them go and close that chapter of our life – so that we can concentrate on the here and now.

Positive reminders of our past, on the other hand, can sometimes help us to feel positive in the present, too.

For example:

If after your divorce the wedding dress – that you keep hidden in the back of the wardrobe – makes you feel sad, or angry, you could decide to go through those feelings one more time, and then let them go – the negative feelings and the wedding dress.

The photograph of your happy face at the finishing line of the marathon last year, on the other hand, might deserve a nice frame and a special place on the shelf in your living room.

#3 – Choosing just a few special sentimental reminders and letting go of the rest

As soon as you have got a better understanding of what’s truly valuable to you, you can make intentional decisions about what you want to keep and take care of. And what you want to let go.

For example:

Knowing now better why you don’t have any interest in collecting coins and why you always hated your father’s collection, you are ready to give the collection to someone who does appreciate it. You might want to keep one coin as a reminder of your father and his enthusiasm for his hobby but you don’t need to hold on to the whole set any longer.

#4 – Taking pictures as memory-keepers and letting go of the physical items

That’s often a good solution if we have so many sentimental belongings, or if want to keep reminders of our family heirlooms, or if we don’t like to let go of certain things but need to give them away because we don’t have the space to keep them.

For example:

If you have to drastically reduce the number of personal belongings because you are going to move to a smaller place with much less storage space, you might feel sad having to leave so much behind. Take a camera, walk around your current home, and take pictures of anything you feel attached to but can’t take along. Then create a nice photo book that you can keep forever and flip through whenever you wish.

#5 – Doing several rounds of sentimental decluttering

That’s a very good strategy if the idea of making let-go decisions about your sentimental stuff makes you freak out. You can avoid a panic attack by taking small steps to get through the process.

Take out some of your sentimental items, and start thinking about them, without any obligation to make decisions.

When you pull them out again some days later, you might notice that your feelings have slightly changed, you might feel less attached to some of the things, and you might even be able to say goodbye to a few of them.

Take out another set of sentimental items, and start the process again.

Spending some time with our sentimental items is a worthwhile experience

– whether we finally decide to keep or discard them – we always learn more about ourselves, our emotions, and our values.

And that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Why it’s so hard to declutter ‘aspirational stuff’

Clutter is a very personal issue.

We all have our own personal special clutter hotspots – those areas in our homes and those categories of belongings that accumulate the biggest amounts of stuff that actually no longer serves us.

We all define ‘clutter’ differently, which means thatyour clutter is different to mine’ (read more).

We also struggle for different reasons to let go of useless possessions, and our decluttering strategies and solutions differ.

However, most of us share the experience that it is particularly tough to make decluttering decisions with regard to these two types of belongings:

We particularly struggle to let go of sentimental and aspirational belongings.

Our sentimental attachment to certain possessions is usually linked to our past – to previous phases in our lives and to our past identities: Sentimental belongings refer to past experiences, remind us of people who were/are important to us, or keep memories of special events and accomplishments.

Our aspirational belongings have more to do with our future, or our former dreams of the future: They represent our current and past ambitions and aspirations, our ideas of our ideal ‘fantasy’ selves and lives.

Today, I wish to share some thoughts about aspirational belongings – sentimental items will be discussed in another article.

What are ‘aspirational’ belongings?

Aspirational items are the things that we bring into our homes because we want to

    • create and project a certain image and lifestyle,
    • develop or improve a special capability or activity,
    • help ourselves believe that we are a certain type of person with a certain set of characteristics and abilities.

Any category of belongings can contain aspirational stuff and therefore can also contain aspirational clutter:

books and papers, kitchen stuff, groceries, clothes and shoes, sports equipment, tools, arts and crafts supplies, etc.

Examples of aspirational stuff that turned into aspirational clutter:

    • We organise the transport of our grandmother’s dinner table with the 8 chairs to our home because we intend to entertain family and friends more often. However, we don’t make any changes in our social life. The dinner table is now a ‘waste paper collection centre’.
    • We decide to start running to improve our fitness and health and buy trainers and running clothes. Our running career ends two weeks later but we keep the equipment because we truly plan to start running again – maybe next summer?
    • We dream about starting a small business and buy any book that offers advice for start-up entrepreneurs. Three years later we are very happy in our corporate job and plan the next step of our career. However, the never-read books were so expensive, it would be a waste to give them away, wouldn’t it?
    • We moved to a new place with a little backyard garden and were looking forward to realise our ‘aspirational’ landscaping plans. We bought and now own all the necessary equipment – but we lack the time and energy to use it. However, we can’t give up our dream of becoming a gardener, at some point in the future. That’s why we feel we have to keep all the gardening stuff. 

Why decluttering aspirational clutter is so hard

Letting go is rarely easy.

Letting go of aspirational stuff is particularly hard because it involves letting go of hopes, dreams, intentions, aspirations, and ambitions.

    • We have to be willing to stop lying to ourselves, we have to admit failure.
    • We have to admit that we made some wrong decisions.
    • We have to be very honest and brave to accept that some parts of our ideal fantasy selves just don’t exist.
    • We have to be willing to experience negative feelings – such as guilt, shame, or disappointment.
    • We have to invest time and thought work to find out who we really are (not who we wished we were), what’s really important to us, and how we truly want to spend our time and life.

Practising self-awareness and intentional decluttering go hand-in-hand

While we learn to get rid of excessive and useless stuff, we simultaneously learn about ourselves and what’s meaningful to us.

And as soon as we begin to understand who we truly are and what we really want to have in our life, we find it increasingly easier to make decisions about what to keep in our life and what to let go.

How can we clear up aspirational clutter?

Asking powerful questions and taking the time to find our answers to them. 

Ask yourself:

    • Why do I keep this thing? What is the reason behind my decision? Do I like my reason?

Another powerful question related to our aspirational stuff:

    • What if now is the right time to let go of these old aspirations (and the related stuff) – so that I can create space for my current and future ambitions and aspirations?

Letting go of unrealised aspirations not only creates space.

It will also bring clarity and lightness. It makes it easier to move on – into the life we truly want to live.

Death Cleaning – It’s never too early to get our stuff sorted

Why we should prepare and keep easy-to-find instructions with our sentimental belongings

Some time ago, I wrote about Margareta Magnusson’s book ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning‘ and about my personal experience with ‘death cleaning’ after my mother’s death.

Sorting through the belongings of a loved one is always tough and emotionally challenging.

My mother was very well organised and this made the unwanted decluttering task easier for us. 

However, there was one category of my mother’s belongings that we struggled to make decisions about.

We found a  collection of the letters my mother and my father had exchanged before they got married. And my mother hadn’t left any instructions or hints about what she expected us to do with the letters.

Had she kept the letters just for herself, so that she could read them again whenever she felt like doing so? Or had she wanted to share the letters with us, expecting us to read them now?

My sisters and I finally agreed on the assumption that she had kept the letters for herself, not for us, – and we burnt them.

But even today, I still feel not completely comfortable about it – because we’ll never know for sure whether this really was what she’d have wanted us to do.

My personal set of ‘Death Cleaning’ guidelines

Based on my theoretical (Margareta’s book) and practical (sorting my mother’s belongings) learning experiences, I now follow

My new personal organising rules:

    • I take my yearly decluttering sessions even more seriously because I don’t want to burden someone else with clearing unnecessary clutter after my death.
    • I keep permanently updated folders, one physical and one digital folder, that contain all our (my husband’s and mine) important documents and personal information.
    • I have reduced the number of photos, sentimental items, and memorabilia. And I keep them all in two boxes. On top of these boxes, I placed a note: “Sentimental stuff, just important to me, you (whoever it is who has to sort out my stuff) can throw it away, without any feelings of regret or guilt”.

I think it is very human that most of us don’t like – and therefore try to avoid – considering the fact that our lives will end at some point in time.


I do believe that we should feel responsible for the future and take care of our loved ones: We should make sure that they don’t have to ‘death clean’ for us.

I also believe that we should feel responsible for the present and take care of ourselvesRegularly sorting through our stuff can be hard work but consider the benefits for your life:

‘Death Cleaning’ (= Decluttering) can be a very intentional and productive experience:

    • It’s an opportunity to learn about ourselves and our very personal values.
    • It helps us to re-focus our attention and energy towards our future and our goals.
    • It clears our space and our mind.

Do you feel inspired now to do some ‘Death Cleaning’?

Death Cleaning – Why we should do it before we die

Take responsibility for your belongings today. Don’t leave them as a burden to family and friends. And enjoy the process of putting your things in order!

A few years ago, Margareta Magnusson, the Swedish lady aged “between 80 and 100”, published her book ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning:

How to make your loved ones’ lives easier and your own life more pleasant’

I am interested in any book that has to do with decluttering. However, I remember that I was a bit hesitant to buy this one when I saw it in the bookshop. ‘Death Cleaning‘?! The title sounds really weird, doesn’t it? But I bought it, – and very much enjoyed reading it.

And I learned a lot about decluttering again, this time from a new and refreshing perspective.

This book is not about someone who’s all her life struggled to keep the house organised, and now presents the perfect and the only solution.

Instead, it’s the story of someone approaching the end of life, sharing what she learned by clearing up after family members’ deaths, and why it’s useful to get our things in order before we die.

“I’ve death cleaned so many times for others, I’ll be damned if someone has to death clean for me,” Margareta Magnusson writes.

‘Death cleaning’ is not only useful for older people.

Clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner than later – before others have to do it for us.

It is not sad at all,” Margareta says. “I’ve discovered that it is rewarding to spend time with these objects one last time and then dispose of them.”

Make the lives of your loved ones easier, sort out your belongings now.

Some weeks after I’d read the book, my mother passed away, unexpectedly.

Clearing out her home was a very sad and upsetting process for my sisters and me. Only many months later, I was able to think about that process in a less emotional way.

I realised that my mother in most regards had followed Margareta’s recommendations – without knowing her book!

My mother’s paperwork was orderly sorted and all kept in one place.

Yes, she had taken thousands of photographs during the course of her life and her travels, but they were all well-sorted in albums and photo books.

She loved decorating her place and regularly rearranged the interior design of her house. However, she left only one cupboard with no-longer-used decorative items she had collected over the years and not managed to dispose of.

She was a great entertainer and often invited people to her place. But she had only kept the amount of crockery, cutlery, glasses, and kitchenware that was necessary to prepare and organise the meals and parties for her family and friends.

She enjoyed reading in the evenings but had kept only those books she planned to read again and again.

Sorting through the belongings of a loved one is always tough and emotionally challenging.

However, my mother had successfully managed to make this unwanted task as easy as possible for us.

There was only one category of my mother’s belongings that we struggled to make decisions about. Read more …

Why Decluttering is so helpful in life-change situations

In life-change situations, the creation of a clutter-free home – the active process of sorting through all our belongings and intentionally deciding what we want to keep – can make the transition easier. 

What is clutter?

My favourite definition of clutter is very simple:

Clutter is anything that doesn’t serve us (any longer). We don’t need it, we don’t use it, we don’t love it.’

This short definition is easy to remember and it’s very helpful while we are sorting through our stuff – whenever we need to make a decision, we can just ask, ‘does this serve me?’

Julie Morgenstern’s definition of clutter helps us see why intentional decluttering projects can make life changes easier:

‘Clutter’ can be defined as any obsolete object “that weighs you down, distracts you, or depletes your energy”.

It “is symbolic of your attachment to something from the past that must be released in order to make room for change”. (Julie Morgenstern)

Clutter is nothing we should feel ashamed of or guilty about.

Instead of judging ourselves and hating the ‘obsolete objects’ in our home, we can decide to accept the clutter as what it actually is:

A collection of belongings that no longer serves our needs but that was useful to us at some point in time.

Positive effects of the decluttering process

If we consider clutter as being ‘anything that no longer serves’ us, the process of ‘decluttering’ loses its negative image.

Instead of being the unpleasant activity of just throwing things away, it evolves as a powerful ‘change assistant’.

In fact, decluttering can be a positive and productive experience, an opportunity to learn about ourselves and our values.

The starting point of the decluttering/change process: Awareness

Before we declutter anything, we take the time to thoroughly evaluate and ‘understand’ our belongings.

We ‘study’ everything we own, but especially the clutter, and explore its former meaning and value.

Then we consider and decide what’s of current and future value to us. These are the things we want to keep.

Finally, we are able to intentionally and decisively loosen our attachment to those objects and issues of our past that no longer serve us, and sort them out.

Why the decluttering process is especially helpful during life transitions

We are all human beings and we all have a human brain. 🙂

That’s good, most of the time. But not so much during life-transitions. 

Our human brain doesn’t like change. It wants us to be safe and to stay where we are, and it wants the things in our life to remain as they are. 

That’s why life-changes – moving from what currently is and what we know well to something new and unknown – often create uncomfortable feelings, like anxiety, sadness, and resistance.

Intentionally decluttering our physical belongings can make change less frightening.

While we are taking everything out and evaluating what we currently have in our life, we become more aware of what we value, what’s really important to us, and what we want to take along into the next phase of our life.

The increased awareness makes it easier for us to decide with confidence about what we want to leave behind because it no longer serves us.

We intentionally let go of the things that belong to the past – which frees us up to move on into the future – with more clarity and lightness.