The current mania for decluttering, tidying, minimizing our stuff has the same whiff of ‘virtuousness’ as the ‘clean eating’ fad of the last few years, don’t you think? After all, the purging of belongings in pursuit of the purity of minimalism and tidiness smacks of the same old “I’m ‘good’ because I have a carefully curated collection of beautiful things” versus “You are ‘bad’ because you are too lazy to purge your belongings and live with too much stuff around you”. Minimalist v self-indulgent, clean v dirty, good v bad, thin v fat, etc etc.
Having said that, it is actually a less stressful way to live when your environment is reasonably tidy and you can find things. “A report from 2016 in Psychology Today, found that "people with clean houses are healthier than people with messy houses". Women who complained of cluttered homes were more likely to complain of depression and fatigue and expressed higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.” (Shelley Gare, Good Weekend, 25 May 2018).
Now I for one read and applied the Konmari method back in 2015 when the book came out. I loved the respectful approach to the energy of things and the concept of only keeping those items which ‘spark joy’. I embraced the life-changing magic and tidied my stuff. As most people who read Marie Kondo’s books do. Simple.
However, there is an issue which hasn’t really been addressed and that is: what if deciding about and letting go of possessions causes great anguish and anxiety for someone? I’m not necessarily talking about diagnosed ‘hoarders’, although the cruel psychological treatment and the voyeurism on those TV shows like ‘Hoarders’ leaves me stunned. I’m talking about those of us who invest a lot of meaning in our stuff, in particular the things that hold memories of times and people past. It can be a real emotional wrench to part with these things – even when the person actually does want to cull and declutter. Saying a quick ‘thank you’ to the item doesn’t cut it.
In these cases it is useful to have a way of diffusing the strong emotions that make letting go so hard. A strategy such as EFT Emotional Freedom Techniques (Tapping) is perfect for this job. EFT calms the part of the brain responsible for the stress response so using this simple but profound technique whilst decluttering can make a whole lot of difference to the anxiety of letting go.
EFT is also fabulous for helping with the indecision that can plague some people when it comes to deciding which items to keep and which to pass on. Creating calm in the brain and body, as EFT Tapping does, allows the fog of stress to lift and so that your thoughts become more resourceful.
I have worked with a number of clients who struggled with the concept of decluttering and letting things go. Each time, as we used EFT to alleviate the anxiety of making decisions on items which items to keep and which to let go of, these women were able to move past the overriding stressful thoughts and beliefs and the fears of not having these items in their homes any more.
It may not surprise you that the emotional struggle goes much deeper than just mere indecision. All of us have our own values and beliefs and subconscious conditioning when it comes to our relationship with our things. So for some of us the decisions and the actions of letting go is simple and fun and a relief. For others it is a deeply personal challenge and causes great anguish.
Using EFT, a simple, proven technique which has a distinct action on the brain to calm and sometimes allow a ‘cognitive shift’ or new way of seeing things, can create some great ‘ah-ha!’ moments, and makes the process of decluttering and tidying much more peaceful.
So, until the great pendulum of change swings in the opposite direction and we all embrace maximalism, get on with the tidying and decluttering. Don’t buy replacement stuff. And seek professional assistance if the emotional struggle is too real.