Episode 088 - How decluttering can help you love yourself
Decluttering a home can be difficult, especially if you have years’ worth of memories stored up.
Equally, a lot of those memories could also be causing you stress.
Mindfulness has been proven to be an essential practice in managing stress, lowering blood pressure and helping to increase focus.
If you think about how much information you take through your eyes for your brain to process, the more stuff you have around you the harder your brain has to work, increasing fatigue, and making you feel like you have a million more things to do because you’re constantly shoulding on yourself by saying I should load the dishwasher, I should do the washing, to I should tidy that drawer, I should put those things away etc etc.
So what is the connection between decluttering and mindfulness and self-love?
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Transcript of episode
Today, I want to talk about how decluttering can help you love yourself. Yeah, I know, it sounds like I might be losing my marbles a little. However, it has helped me, so I’m sure it can help you.
We had a saying in the rooms that came from a book that I no longer remember the title of – wash the dishes to wash the dishes. It never really worked for me, because, well, I have a dishwasher. However, the idea behind it is that of anything in mindfulness. Be present, and pay attention to what comes up inside you.
Specifically for washing dishes, being present meant feeling the warm water, smelling the scent of the washing up liquid, playing with the bubbles. As your emotions ran through you, you acknowledge their presence and instead of trying to attach a story to them, you let it go and return your focus playing with the bubbles in the warm water.
There’s a similar connection with decluttering, which seems to have become one of my favourite past-times. I had a massive declutter when we first went into lockdown, 3 years ago. Wow, time has flown. However, after being in the house for 21 years, it appears there’s plenty more to still be done. I originally started on another major declutter a few months ago because I was needing to decide what I really wanted to take with me when I moved. Now that I’m no longer moving, I’m continuing my declutter because, at its core, decluttering is about getting rid of the old to make way for the new.
So what is the connection between decluttering and mindfulness and self-love?
Decluttering a home can be difficult, especially if you have years’ worth of memories stored up. Equally, a lot of those memories could also be causing you stress. Mindfulness has been proven to be an essential practice in managing stress, lowering blood pressure and helping to increase focus. If you think about how much information you take through your eyes for your brain to process, the more stuff you have around you the harder your brain has to work, increasing fatigue, and making you feel like you have a million more things to do because you’re constantly shoulding on yourself by saying I should load the dishwasher, I should do the washing, to I should tidy that drawer, I should put those things away etc etc.
Therefore, decluttering can help you to feel more energetic. Yes, it might tire you as you’re doing it, but once you are rid of the clutter and everything has a place, you’ll spend less time trying to find things or remember where you put them.
As mindfulness requires you to be present in the moment you’re in, combining mindfulness with decluttering allows you to make better decisions on what to keep. If certain things bring up negative feelings, you stay in the present and allow yourself to feel those emotions for a moment before turning back to the bubbles, so to speak.
The first step in self-love decluttering is that you may find things that remind you of parts of your life that don’t serve you anymore. It might be the first time you’re confronting feelings you have been pushing down. Staying with those feelings in the moment means engaging with and learning how to deal with these feelings and can be one of your first steps to healing. Acknowledge how you feel about the item and what it represents. Perhaps losing someone or it represents a dream you once had and start to make peace with how you were accountable with how it went wrong and what you could do differently next time.
It can sometimes be very difficult to accept that in all circumstances we have accountability, even those that seem outside our control. I found something that belonged to my grandmother, and it makes me sad looking at it. There is absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent her dying. However, could I have spent more time with her? Could I have asked her to tell me more about her childhood. Yes. Is there anything I can do about that now? Not with gran, but I can make sure I don’t repeat it by asking and spending time with those I still have with me.
Most of the time, decluttering will lead to your wardrobe.
Facing old clothes and memories is a further exercise in self-love and learning to be content with what you have and who you are. You likely don’t wear all the clothes you own anymore, so it’s okay to transition them out of your home rather than thinking you’ll wear them again, or have to look at them and feel sad.
Most charity shops in the UK will take your clothes in any condition as those they can’t sell in the shop can be sold as rag weight. So not only are the items gone from your home and your unhappiness, they’re out in the world doing good for someone else.
When it comes to decluttering, it’s not about being perfect and making everything super-organised and pretty. If you can only face one drawer. Great. Do it. If you find things you’re not sure of, put them to one side and come back to them. When the 2012 London Olympics were happening, I had a week off to help my friend declutter her craft room. It’s pretty easy to be ruthless with someone else’s stuff… We created a pile of things that she wasn’t sure she wanted to get rid of. By the end of the week, 99% of that stuff went in the bin. Either because we discovered duplicates, or similar items that were better than the ones in that pile, or just because by the end of the week the items hadn’t crossed her mind again.
Decluttering a home isn’t a quick and easy task.
So the last self-love learning is to deal with one mess before you move on to the next one. In decluttering a house you’d do one room at a time, it’s the same with life. I lost the joy in a lot of things the last few months as I tried to suppress the baby grief and then with losing Dots. I didn’t just lose the joy, I forgot what I found joyful! I also lost any patience that I had with myself and the world, so anything that took longer than a few minutes, or could easily go wrong, was completely ditched from my day.
Once upon a time I could spend a whole day getting lost in a book. I could lose a whole weekend and forget to eat if I was making a new dress. The last thing I spent any time on was knitting a bunny over a year ago post-op, because when all I had to do was sit on my arse and recover, what else was there to do! Having spent the last few weeks decluttering, and then Saturday morning handing over a car-full of bags full of clothes, I then spent the weekend at the sewing machine, creating a bed for my new cat Binx. I deliberately didn’t follow a pattern so I’d have to engage my brain and focus entirely on what I was doing. I made quite a few mistakes. Drove me nuts. A few months ago I’d have chucked it to one side. This time I paused, took a few deep breaths, drank some water, and carried on. And I loved it! My mind was focused on something else, and I slept incredibly well, which hasn’t really been happening lately.
It’s not about perfect, but about making it look a little better than when you started. Tackle one thing at a time, even if that’s just taking a few deeps breath to have a minute to think about how to respond as your best self.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Life in Align podcast. If you liked what you heard and want to hear or read more, head over to lifeinalign.com. Please also subscribe and share, so that we can get this out to others who are also wanting to take back the life a chronic illness stole from them.
And remember – you are worth it, and you get to choose.
Have a lovely day.