Embrace Your Clutter. . .Release The Guilt


Liz Jenkins


A lot of my clients have a lot of stuff. Some are really motivated to let things go and lighten up their life. They see the benefits in having fewer possessions weighing them down – less to maintain – less to clean. But some of my clients really do love their stuff.

And frequently what they feel is shame. This shame comes from those around them criticizing their decision to hang on to their stuff or picking on them for not having surfaces free of perceived clutter or harping on them that their garage is full of “junk”.

Sometimes I find fear from my clients. Fear that I’m going to “make” them get rid of things. Fear that they will have to change everything about their space. Fear of “forgetting” things because the memory triggers of the possessions aren’t there in their sight anymore.  Fear that others won’t like them if they don’t change.

This fear and shame often results in guilt.  Guilt about not making the right decisions.  Guilt about not living up to expectations.  Guilt about not being perfect.
So I tell them . . . these are YOUR things. It’s your decision whether to keep them or not.

But here are the questions I ask:

  • Does all of this stuff around you make you truly happy?
  • Is everything here important or are there some things that are more important than others?
  • Can you find what you need when you need it or do you spin your wheels trying to get things done?
  • Does your space reflect who you are now, at this time in your life?
  • Are your possessions holding you back or guiding you forward in your life?
  • Are these things around you causing you problems in your life – with your family, work or relaxation?

Depending on the answers, it may not be a case of getting rid of a lot of stuff.  It may simply be a case of creating a system of storage for those important items so that they are accessible or visible depending on the client’s needs.

In that case, please release the shame.  Release the fear.  Release the guilt.  Keep your stuff.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive to my profession but once you let that go, you can look at things more objectively.  When people are pushed, the natural inclination is to push back.

By setting free the fear and shame, it often becomes easier to acknowledge the real reasons for hanging on to things from the past or continual purchasing of new items.  I encourage my clients to look within themselves and determine what THEY want to do.  Not what others tell them they should.  When they can do some internal examination of their feelings, thoughts and beliefs – it’s amazing what progress can be made.  I’m not trying to be a therapist but to help them figure out what is really important to them so we can make progress towards whatever the end result may be.

My goal when organizing is to create a space that my client is happy, content and productive within.  If that means storing & displaying 400 Russian Nesting dolls, well, so be it.  But what I find is that when some inner peace is found, those Russian Nesting dolls don’t have quite a strong of a hold as they may have once had.