When Is Decluttering Too Much?

Creating a “healthy and balanced relationship with our physical environment” is probably one of the things you’ll hear me talk about most. Why is that?

I have to say that makes me sad to see how much the area of decluttering is miscommunicated or misunderstood at times. And how there’s a line of thinking that having a clutter-free, organised home is obsessive and unrealistic and that decluttering and organising are the enemy.

I can see how it’s all got a bad name. No different to other areas of our lives like beauty, diet and fitness, decluttering and organising have gotten a little out of control of late. Working with clients who are self-professed perfectionists, this common need to have everything always “just so” is very overwhelming and debilitating. We learn to focus on the fact that perfection is an illusion, and that this “perfect” that is defined by society, friends and family and isn’t anyway achievable or life-enhancing. The guilt and hopelessness of perfection is so heavy and there is such freedom when we let go of this need.

Would you believe it if I said I’ve also worked with people who were throwing everything out to the point that they felt they were unable to enjoy any material possessions around them? It’s interesting when I take a stand at events how the odd person makes a beeline for me so they can tell me “Well I’m fine anyway, I throw everything out!”. Surely we can come to a place where we are shopping selectively, using, wearing and enjoying everything we own and are happy to let things go that no longer serve us or make us feel good?

So, when is decluttering too much? I believe we have crossed the healthy line with decluttering and organising if:

  • We are decluttering and throwing stuff out non-stop
  • We are continually organising and re-organising
  • We are organising non-stop but not actually letting go of anything
  • We feel stressed, anxious or any other negative emotions when we don’t feel in control and we are unable to continually declutter or organise

Minimalism is just one style of interior and it’s not for everyone. Nice items are lovely to have. Sentiment is good – it’s important to enjoy items that evoke special memories and associations. We can honour sentiment by creating memory boxes, using fabrics from sentimental items, taking photos, and so on. We can learn to be selective with sentiment in the keeping of just a few of our favourite greeting cards or children’s clothing or keepsakes. Rest assured that the positive memory lasts beyond the physical item.

Decluttering really does work long-term (with oceans of therapeutic benefits) when we do it the right way for the right reasons. Wishing you a healthy, balanced relationship with your wardrobe and home – it is the key to a happy life.

(And thanks to the Irish Independent journalist who prompted this post by asking me a few great questions recently!)

Breda x