Decluttering and Mental Wellness
I recently cleared out a storage unit that I’ve had for nearly eight years. It’s something I had intended to tackle for ages, yet consistently found excuses to put off. However, it was always in the back of my mind, and as the storage cost steadily increased over the years I felt a gnawing guilt to finally do something about it. So, I set a New Year’s intention to relieve myself of the unit and the majority of its contents.
The reality is, I honestly didn’t know what I had in there anymore. I had a vague idea that there was some furniture, random items from childhood (such as old report cards, worn out dolls, and crafts from kindergarten), as well as memorabilia from my previous lives that I didn’t want to revisit. After a week of mental preparation, I finally put on my yoga pants, poured a giant cup of coffee, and drove to the unit to face the situation with a warrior mindset. As I unlocked the storage space and my husband lifted the door, I instantly cringed at the amount of boxes. But I was more determined than ever to finally let go of those items I knew deep down that I didn’t “need” anymore.
My clear out ended up being quite productive, although time consuming. After several storage room sessions of sifting through boxes and dividing items into keep, donate, and discard piles, I quickly realized that over 80% was destined for the dump! There were some items that I took a sentimental moment with, like an old prom dress, which I knew I’d never have a use for again. So I’d briefly hold those items, enjoy the memory or take a photo, and then move them to the donate pile. I ended up keeping a few boxes of memorabilia and a hope chest, and that was it.
Overall, even though it was a huge task – mentally, emotionally, and physically – I felt an energy shift and my spirit felt lighter afterwards. It was a good practice in remembering the things that truly matter, such as memories and experiences, aren’t really about the physical items. I never even missed any of them while they were tucked away. They weren’t necessary to my happiness or wellbeing and created more of a mental and financial burden in the long run.
It can be easy to accumulate “stuff” over the years, and there may be times when it’s particularly hard to let things go. For instance, when you’ve lost a loved one it can be difficult knowing what to do with their things. You may feel emotionally connected to the clothing they wore, or items you know they loved. After my son was stillborn, I kept a container of his baby clothes tucked away in my garage for about 9 years. Prior to that, I had taken this box with me through multiple moves. I finally opened the box one day and realized that little mice had nested in it and ruined a lot of the fabric. It was sad to witness, but I was also finally in a place where I felt ready to part with them. I had kept a couple of his clothing items in a memory box in my closet, and I’ll always feel a sense of peace around having them. Yet, I was emotionally ready to let go of the rest.
Tip: If you find that you have a lot of your loved one’s clothing and you want to hold onto some of it, a beautiful way to consolidate the fabric is to have it made into a memory quilt.
If you find yourself in the difficult space of sorting through a loved one’s belongings, or you’re at a time in your life when you’re ready for some decluttering, you may want to consider a support person. There are also professional services that help with decluttering and organization. Whether it’s a hired consultant, friend, life coach, or trusted family member, it can be comforting and reassuring to have someone there as you work through your feelings and belongings. Only you can know when or if you’re truly ready to part with certain things, and this should happen within your own unique healing timeframe.
My personal goal is to keep simplifying and looking closer at needs versus wants. But I’m also going about it gently and taking action in alignment with what I’m ready to release. Within my home, I tend to do a quarterly cleaning out process, when I’ll go through bins and closets to see what I can donate. It feels manageable to do smaller, more frequent purges, rather than let things pile up. It can be easier to do small bits consistently over time rather than waiting until it becomes overwhelming.
Whether clutter exists in your current living space or a storage unit, it has a way of taking up space in our mind, which can lead to additional stress and lack of mental clarity. So if there are things you’ve been waiting to clear out, consider taking those first steps. It can be as gradual as removing one item a day to start. Or it might begin with a phone call to someone who will help and support you. There can be many gifts in letting go of items that aren’t serving you in any way. I see it as making room for more peace and grounding, which is essentially an act of self-care. Just remember to be intentional as well as kind to yourself throughout the process. You may even end up feeling a lightness and freedom that you didn’t expect.