Decluttering Minimalism

Decluttering the Soul – Overwhelm

Physical baggage correlates with emotional / psychological baggage – at least that appears to be the case for myself. Once I started decluttering my home and my life, I found myself faced with a lot of emotional turmoil and arising patterns which were “attached” to the stuff I was dealing with. The emotions covered a wide range of the spectrum but mostly they all felt overwhelming.

I remember many times, where I would sit in a room during or after a decluttering session and just have to pause for a few minutes. I would open a window and then sit and stare blankly at nothing in particular for a while.This often puzzled me, but I suppose that it was a reaction to the overwhelm which can sometimes result from decluttering.

Also I believe decision fatigue plays a role here too. After handling so and so many items, it becomes more and more difficult, to be able to make good choices about what to keep and what not to keep. Even though the Mari Kondo approach helped me with this, linking the decision making to the physical level as well, I still found it incredibly tiring at times. (Her method includes holding each item in your hand and looking for a physical reactions to it, then only keeping those that “spark joy”)

Yet despite the struggles, my experience is like that of many others. Afterwards, there was always a sensation of peace and clarity. Often I would find it easier to breather, as if the freed up space created the sensation of more oxygen being available to me.

What helped me greatly through many a decluttering crisis, is remembering that I am not only working on the outside level of my life (meaning the actual physical objects in my home). Instead I was also working on decluttering my inner space, my mind, my emotions and my attachments at the same time. I found decluttering  was therapeutic in many ways, even though it also was extremely overwhelming at times.

It is worth it though. During decluttering I had to deal with waves of overwhelm followed by a rewarding calm and freed sensation in the end of the process. Before my decluttering journey, I was dealing with different levels of overwhelm all the time. I realized this in retrospective, by comparing how I felt back then to how calm I feel in my home surroundings these days. I am by no means at the end of my journey, but things have significantly improved around here -and in here <3 too.

So keep in mind that you are not only working on your outer space, when you are decluttering. You are also re-organizing your inner world. Be gentle with yourself, it is part of the process for many of us, especially when you have formed a lot of attachments to your things. You may find yourself faced with the most difficult and the most liberating thing to let go: your identities, who you thought you are (or who you thought you had to be).

Three things that have helped me along this road, especially in moments of overwhelm or decision fatigue:

  • Take a break.  Seriously. Take a walk, meet a friend, go out for some physical activity and leave the space where you have been decluttering. Leave the house if you can, even if it is just for a five to ten minute walk in the rain.
  • Then: keep going! You need a break. But after the break, make sure to keep going as soon as you have the time/energy for it again. This may mean going right back to the battlefield after a short walk or continuing on the very next day after work. Don’t be tempted to put it off until next week. Keep the momentum going which you have built up. Even if you just continue a little bit, you are in a process and if you keep going won’t have to invest the energy of starting the process over and over again.
  • Put on music. Whenever I freeze because of whatever reasons, music mostly does the trick. Set up a playlist of upbeat flowy tracks that you love and use that to change your state. Move, dance a bit, shake your body, feel alive again.  

A side note on music:for me, it usually helps to use upbeat music to wake me up and give me an energy boost. However, during the next decluttering round I often found energetic tracks counterproductive and would turn to silence or more quiet flowing tunes without lyrics. Find out what works for you. So if you have decluttering tunes recommendations for me, bring them on, let me know. 🙂

In my experience, decluttering is a lot like stirring up the sediments that have settled at the bottom of a clear looking pond. Suddenly, the water is dark and dirty, it seems like things are worse than before. Your living room floor looks catastrophic, your emotions and thoughts are in turmoil.

Don’t fear, don’t run, this is the point at which you take all that dirty water and run it through a filter to cleanse it. Go through your stuff, make your decisions, free up your space and your life. You deserve to feel lighter and to be more focused, in tune with what is important to you.

Remember that you are really clearing the water, not just waiting for the dirt to settle again. When you are done, the pond is truly cleared and with that comes this sense of peace and calmness that we are after.

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