The other morning, I bumped into a client who had hired me to declutter a few months back, and we had a nice little catch-up over coffee. She’s a thinker and one who likes to observe herself, so I wasn’t surprised when I received a interesting answer to my question, “How’s the house?”
She replied frankly, “It’s good! I’ve really maintained it. And I kept going in the decluttering, especially that one closet in the living area. But I had a few panicky moments too. I mean, strange things. LIke over a book I thought I had gotten rid of. I mean, it was this feeling of real anxiety. I finally had to talk myself down, and come to the terms that if the book was gone, it was gone, and of course, I could replace it. It wasn’t anything…logical.”
“Oh yes, this can happen,” I told her. One client of mine calls it ‘declutter regret.’ I call it ‘PDA.’ Post-Declutter Anxiety.”
“Really? Yeah, it was interesting, I started to freak out about this one book. Like I suddenly couldn’t survive without it. And then, it turned out the book was there all along!”
She also mentioned a T-shirt that she had indeed had let go of, that she suddenly really, really wanted for no reason.
“You know, I was looking for that shirt, and I realized it was as if I wanted to go back to some time that wasn’t exactly positive, but it was like comfort food. And that shirt represented that time. It was weird!”
After some discussion, she admitted: “I wasn’t really in a positive place on those days that this happened. It was as if I was in some negative spiral, and I was looking for reasons to take myself lower, to punish myself for having gotten rid of something that, in the moment, I thought I wanted or needed.”
Decluttering is such an interesting process. And a PROCESS it is.
There’s Step One: the preparation, and by that, I mean the mental preparation. This, most often, shows up as major resistance to the actual act of declutter (i.e. “I don’t have time.” “I shouldn’t have to do this by myself.” “This is way too much work.” “I’m totally overwhelmed by this.” “Does it really matter if it’s cluttered anyway?” etc.). At some point, something clicks,and the person makes the decision: “I have GOT to do this.” The decision moment is key here.
Step Two is the actual decluttering itself. Which can be simultaneously daunting and freeing. A LOT can come up for folks. And then some people are just so ready, they sail right through it. Everyone’s experience is unique to them.
And then, yes, as this client voiced, Step Three of the decluttering process is the aftermath. There is the obvious freedom of owning less stuff and being able to find everything when you need or want it and living more simply and streamlined for sure. And of course, in a practical sense, ya gotta maintain it!
But sometimes there are these moments of fear, Post-Declutter Anxiety (PDA) or “declutter regret.” It’s kind of like “buyer’s remorse, which I looked up on Wikipedia (where you will find some great psycho-babble, if you’re interested).
Then it hit me! One the biggest reasons people don’t declutter in the first place is that they are AFRAID of Post-Declutter Anxiety (PDA). It’s as paralyzing as the fear of buyer’s remorse. In fact, it IS sort of a delayed buyer’s remorse, in that when one declutters, they must face the decisions of what they have purchased in the past AND make new decisions based on these items!
After all, how many times have you cleaned out your closet to find apparel with the tag still on it?
What about all those well-meaning projects you have spent time and money on, promising to get to? These have now become clutter, representing hope turned sour, excitement turned to burden. Guilt.
And of course, there are the items that come in multiples. Too many coolers. Too many rolls of tape. Too many paint brushes, toothpastes, nerf guns, you name it.
SO WHY DECLUTTER?
Because avoiding it is much, much worse than dealing with it. All the stuff that comes up during the decluttering is already there anyway, lingering on a subconscious and gnawing level.
Would it be fair to say it’s like Stage 4 cancer, that if it were caught earlier, would’ve been a lot easier to “deal with?
Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic of me, but is it?
How many people do you know, overwhelmed in their “stuff,” psychological and otherwise?
A person must start somewhere…and the best place to start is in your own head.
Wrap your mind around how much these items are (secretly) representing to you, and you’ll be 70% there, and the decluttering will go much more smoothly.
In other words, don’t be afraid to let go.
Katie’s 27-day online course, Declutter Your Way to Clarity, is happening soon! Check it out, and sign up!