Valerie Recore

When Your Stuff is Holding You Back

by Valerie Recore

Are you surrounded by clutter in your house that you feel is holding you back? Maybe it’s items that remind you of a time you’d rather forget. Or a time long past that you can’t let go of. How does all this stuff make you feel? Are you feeling weighed down by it? Maybe you start getting organized then slowly sabotage it by buying more things or not fully completing the job. Or the idea of being organized or finishing the project or digging through boxes of memories is just more than you want to deal with. Or you’re worried about who you will be without the stuff.

Clutter can be more than just things that surround us. For some people, it can be the root of feeling anxious, sad, worried, depressed, or a combination of all of these emotions. We might be holding on to things because we don’t want to deal with the emotions that come up when we look at them. Or we feel overwhelmed by what our stuff represents. The good news is, it is possible to move beyond these difficult emotions. If you feel like your surroundings are holding you back from who you want to be or who you are now, then it’s time to take a serious look at why!

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the idea of getting rid of anything upset you?
  • Are you constantly rearranging your stuff but never satisfied with the end result?
  • Do you spend more time organizing than doing the things you enjoy?
  • Are you constantly buying more baskets, bins, etc. to hold everything?
  • Are you a high achiever who must do everything perfectly?

How many of these did you say yes to? There are so many more questions to ask here to dig into the reasons behind why you want to get organized but just can’t seem to get there, but these few can get you started.

Below I’m going to outline a few psychological obstacles that may be getting in your way. These ideas come from Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out, one of my favorite books on organizing. I think we all hit one or more of these obstacles from time to time. And it’s ok to ask for help when you do! An outside perspective can help you move past the stuff and move forward in your life.

A Need for Abundance

Maybe you grew up in a house that was full of scarcity – lack of food, security, money, love. So you surround yourself with abundance. Maybe it’s food, clothing, crafts, collectors items, anything that brings you a sense of security. I don’t want you to feel burdened by this need of abundance or force you to get rid of it. Instead, let’s work with it. Dedicate a closet or a room to your scrapbooking items or knitting items. Create some open shelving for your collection so you can see and enjoy it. Organize everything in a way that you can find what you need, when you need it. When things are spread around the house, you don’t know what you have, you won’t use it, and you’ll feel guilty about it. But once it’s sorted by use and together in one space, it’ll be easier to see what’s in excess and maybe you can start letting go of some of it. But only when you’re ready.

The Need For Chaos

Maybe you keep your house in disarray because you like being able to conquer the mess. You like solving complex problems, tackling your disorganization and creating new systems. You thrive on chaos, work better under pressure, and are always on the go. But what if you channeled that energy towards something different? What if you got yourself organized then focused on starting your own business, learning a new skill, or overcoming your fear of public speaking?

Lack of Goals and Priorities

Setting up a successful organizing system or time management system only works if your priorities are clear. If you’re pulled in a dozen different directions and don’t know the next step towards your goals, you’re not going to get there. So get clear on your priorities, and then get organized in a way that supports those priorities.

Fear of Success

Maybe you are unconsciously keeping yourself disorganized because you are afraid of success or failure. You are fighting to make changes because you’re afraid. Once you acknowledge this, you can start making little changes, one step at a time. As you get organized, you can then work through your fear.

Need for Distraction

Sometimes we just don’t want to face something that’s going on in our lives. It’s easier to focus on cleaning out a closet or creating a filing system. Instead of dealing with bigger emotional issues, we use our clutter as a distraction. When you find yourself doing this, see if there is a way to face the emotional issues head-on – find a therapist, take a walk, whatever it is you need to deal with it (in a healthy manner). You can still clean out that closet, but don’t use it as a distraction for too long!

Sentimental Attachment

We attach a lot of meaning to our items. We feel that if we get rid of something, we’re getting rid of the memory associated with it. We’re losing a sense of who we are. In reality, we’re not. Our memories are inside of us, we carry them with us. We are not that item. If you’re struggling to let an item go because of its memories, try taking pictures and creating a memory book with stories. Then you can let go of the physical item while holding onto the memories.

Need for Perfection

Do you have a hard time completing a task because you need to do something perfectly? Or you don’t want to let go of an item because it needs to go to the perfect place? If the answer is yes, then think about how that’s holding you back. If you’re unable to complete any tasks because you can’t do it perfectly, then what are you completing? What would good enough look like? What would that allow you to accomplish?

If you find yourself in any of these situations, call someone! A therapist, a professional organizer, a friend are all great places to start. Sometimes having someone who is not attached to your stuff in the same way you are can be a great way to work through the stuff and the emotions. Having someone listen to the stories and ask questions about your items helps you move towards a space where you can let things go. Find a therapist if you find yourself feeling sad or depressed about your stuff and think talking to a professional would help. Find a way to take the next step towards change, even if it’s a small one. The energy and freedom from taking that step will be worth it! And your future self will thank you.

About Valerie Recore: I’m a changemaker. A time-giver. An organize-not-just-your-home-but-your-whole-life kind of consultant. I help people shift their habits, organize their home, and be more productive. Everyone needs help organizing their home and time so they can do less looking (for keys, phones, spatulas) and more living (hiking, recitals, bedtime rituals). And I do it from a no-nonsense, sometimes sarcastic, always supportive perspective.

Valerie Recore is the owner of Home Most Simple. To learn more about her services, visit Photo courtesy of Ms. Recore.

Valerie Recore