“Why is decluttering so emotionally fraught?”


Decluttering is the first step to organization. But it can be so emotionally fraught. Read on to understand why and what can be done about it.

“More than mere tools, luxuries or junk, our possessions become extensions of the self. We use them to signal to ourselves, and others, who we want to be and where we want to belong.”1

Think of our belongings as our personal brand. In some sense, our things make up who we are or at least, how we see ourselves.

So no wonder we have so much resistance to getting rid of our things.

By the time I begin working with my clients, many of them tell me they’ve been putting this task off for years.

“It just feels too painful,” they’ll say, or, “I’m so emotionally attached to my things, I get hung up on every item, and never make progress”.

Without seeing progress, our goal to finally get organized this year or to clean out the attic gets thrown out the window. It’s the same reason people get a gym membership in January, only to quit one month later: they haven’t seen any progress yet.

So we put it off again and continue to carry the weight around – either in pounds or belongings, and often, both. And whether you believe it or not, our possessions bare weight on our lives.

Timothy Pychyl, a psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, explains, “it’s not about time management. It’s about avoiding negative emotion.”2

“Human beings are more sensitive to loss than to gain.”

Timothy Psychl, a psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa

If our things are an extension of ourselves, does minimizing our belongings minimize our place in the world?

While it may feel that way, the answer is no.

In the same way that we use meditation as a way to declutter our minds and come back to our sense of self, decluttering our physical space also allows us to peel back what is no longer needed, exposing who we really are.

By the time I’ve done a few sessions with my clients, so many of them feel lighter, brighter, freer than they were before.

But there’s no doubt it can be an emotional process. Which is one of the reasons why it can be so helpful to work with a professional.

Working with a professional offers the following benefits:

  • They’re encouraging
  • It holds you accountable
  • It lessens the overwhelm
  • They help you to create systems that work
  • Professionals have been there, done that — you’re paying for their expertise
  • They are non-judgmental (which can’t always be said for your BFF or sibling)
  • They’ll offer a fresh perspective — sometimes all you need is another set of eyes to provide you with a new way of seeing things

Interested in seeing what a professional can do for you?

Head over to the contact page and get in touch.

I’ll set up a 30 minute phone call with you and an hour-long in person complimentary consultation. During the consultation, we’ll discuss your organizing pain points, envision your ideal space, and map out a plan that we’ll put into action during our first meeting

1Jarret, C. (2013.) The psychology of stuff and things. thepsychologist.bps.org.uk

2Rubin, B. (2021.). My nest is empty, but the stuff remains. Why is decluttering so emotionally fraught? Washington Post.

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