Giving yourself permission to let go of what doesn’t serve you is very powerful. You will become highly energized.
People who have done clutter busting on their own have told me about how they embraced the process and were freely tossing things that were no longer a part of their lives. They were enjoying the feeling of openness and freedom. Then suddenly they felt an emotional storm rise up. They lost their connection, it became too much, and they stopped the clutter bust.
Clutter busting is an intimate process. Our sensitivity is on high. Suddenly we come across something that has powerful emotional associations for us. We are used to seeing things through the haze of distractions. Our diversions create an emotional distance that makes us feel safe. But now we are receiving the full impact, and it’s overwhelming. We shut down to protect ourselves.
How To Be Kind To Yourself When Clutter Busting
People often judge themselves for closing up. I tell them it’s a natural reaction. We are sensitive creatures. If we sense we could get hurt, we automatically protect ourselves. When you see resistance in yourself, react with compassion. Be kind and take a break. Getting a glass of water, sitting quietly, or stepping outside for a second takes our attention away from the tough emotions we are feeling and allows them to run their course.
Being hard on ourselves and treating ourselves harshly, only makes us feel more overwhelmed. Criticism doesn’t help us function well; we make mistakes. I see my clutter-busting clients often getting upset at themselves for not finishing things. But under that feeling of upset, I sense their frustration. The upset is a way of covering up the vulnerability of frustration. It’s hard to admit to being vulnerable. It means accepting that we are sensitive and tender, which can be scary. It means we could get hurt. But the thing is, we’re already hurt. And keeping the clutter around will hurt us even more.
So I’m easy on my clients. I don’t demand anything from them. I keep it simple and encourage them to be kind to themselves. We all need encouragement. Analyzing why we are wrong keeps us connected to the disorder. Encouragement brings back kindness and puts the clutter bust back on track.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and you notice that you’re compulsively pushing yourself, you can ask, “Do I need a break? Would a nap help? Perhaps I should eat something?” Or, “Could this be simplified?” It’s all right to think, “I’m tired. I need a treat. I really need some encouragement. Nothing is important enough to make me feel this bad. I need a break.”
Being kind to ourselves is a skill. It’s as important as anything we could learn in business school. We can be pretty hard on ourselves. We think being that way motivates us. Or we were taught that change comes through force. But criticism is ineffective. It creates resistance and tension and makes us cower within.
Don't Force Yourself to Change: Being Open to the Process
I find it’s best to treat clutter busting as an invitation. We must be open to the process, or at least curious, for it to work. We can’t force ourselves to clutter bust. Resistance prevents us from experiencing the nonjudgmental awareness that’s necessary in recognizing whether something should stay or go.
Often when people find out that I do clutter busting, they say, “I can’t have you over. You’ll be telling me I need to get rid of everything.” The funny thing is, when I pay a social visit to someone’s home, I never see clutter, nor do I feel a need to suggest tossing. When someone does hire me, my clutter-busting radar kicks in, and I jump into it because their openness compels me. They have invited me in.
None of us can be forced to be open. Pushing, demanding, threatening, and scaring never make people change in a positive way. They may do something differently because they are intimidated or afraid. But it won’t benefit them or us. When we use those same tactics on ourselves, the results are equally perilous.
In contrast, the openness that allows change to happen comes from a spontaneous, natural reaction inside us. Suddenly we feel we want to do something different. “I can’t keep doing things this way. It’s too painful. I want to do something about this.” It takes that kind of realization to fuel us to do something positive.
Living in Clutter Hell? Giving Yourself Permission to Let Go
I once got an email from someone who wrote,
“I spent most of my life living in the hell of my clutter. I hated it. I felt guilty about it. I told myself I have to do something about it. But nothing changed.
"And then there were the people telling me I had to do something about it. My family would give me books on organization every Christmas. They refused to come over unless I did something about it. But nothing happened.
"And then one day I got this feeling that I had a chance to be happy without all this stuff. I just knew it. It was a simple feeling. It wasn’t me beating myself over the head. It was a permission to start. So I began to let go of what I wasn’t using, and I began to feel better.”
I invite you to let the process in and begin clutter busting your life.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA. ©2012 by Brooks Palmer.
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect with Yourself and Others -- by Brooks Palmer.
Over the course of his career helping people let go of things they no longer need, Brooks Palmer has been struck by the many ways that clutter affects relationships. In these pages, he shows how we use clutter to protect ourselves, control others, and cling to the past, and how it keeps us from experiencing the joy of connection. With insight-prompting questions, exercises, client examples, and even whimsical line drawings, Palmer will take you from overwhelmed to empowered. His gentle guidance will help you to not only clear clutter from your home but also enjoy deeper, more authentic, and clutter-free relationships of all kinds.
About the Author
Brooks Palmer uses compassion, awareness, and humor to help clients get rid of clutter from their homes, garages, offices, and lives. He has been featured in national and local media and offers clutter-busting workshops. He also performs stand-up comedy regularly in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Brooks divides his time between Chicago and Los Angeles. Visit his clutter-busting blog at www.ClutterBusting.com and his humor website at www.BetterLateThanDead.com.