Get Over Yourself: Five Emotional Obstacles That Keep Your Home Cluttered

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This is what your closet could look like! Overcome the emotional obstacles so that you can relax in an uncluttered environment.

Clutter….we’ve all got it somewhere.

Maybe your garage is so filled with boxes of junk that you haven’t parked your car in there in years. Perhaps you’ve got cans of soup in the pantry that expired in 2005. Maybe you’re generally pretty organized, but there are still those two drawers filled with odd buttons and a letter from your college boyfriend that you just can’t seem to part with.

Clutter is more than just physical piles of stuff. It represents delayed decisions, and those decisions always have a hidden emotional component. Clutter is an energy drain…a negative force that can feel like a constant and unwelcome burden in your life.

The benefits of clearing the clutter extend far beyond being able to find your favorite sweater in an instant. It can create a sense of freedom and space, bringing increased energy and inspiration to your life, your work and your relationships.

So what stops so many of us from doing something about it? Here are the top five emotional barriers to organization - and how you can solve them:

1. Lack of motivation

"How will organizing really benefit me?"

Start by doing a simple exercise. Take out a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Walk around your home, and in the first column, list every space that is crying out for some organizing. Be thorough…every drawer, closet and cabinet counts!

Then, next to each space that you’ve listed, list all of the benefits that you can imagine as a result of organizing each space. What positive outcome can you envision as each space is transformed? Think in terms of time, money, energy, ease, peace of mind or whatever else is really important to you in your life.

Starting to feel a little bit motivated, but still stuck?

2. Feeling overwhelmed

"Where do I begin?"

Remember that third column on your list? Work your way down the list and rank each project in terms of its level of difficulty on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult. Now take a look at all the projects that are ranked with a 1, and pick one.

Start with the easiest one, and conquer that project first. Often a small but satisfying victory provides just the inspiration you need to move onto a more challenging project!

As you move through your list, even with your new found inspiration, the more challenging spaces may still bring feelings of overwhelm. If that’s the case, as you take on each new space, create a plan of attack.

If you think you can handle the whole space, go for it! Work from top to bottom, left to right…whatever makes the most sense to you. Give yourself permission to break the project down into even smaller tasks. Instead of tackling your entire master closet in one session, start with just your shoes. You can move on to your folded or hanging items in the next session.

3. Perceived lack of time

"I just don't have the time!"

Hmmm….do you somehow find the time to watch your favorite television show or read all your friends’ recent Facebook posts? Have you ever considered the possibility that not having enough time is really a cover-up for something you’re afraid to confront?

Maybe you’re afraid to deal with your closet because you know it’s filled with clothing that hasn’t fit you in three years, and diving into that project will force you to acknowledge how your body has changed.  Perhaps you’re avoiding the clean-up because you don’t want to admit how much money you’ve wasted on items that you’ve never used. Maybe refusing to conquer the piles of papers on your desk allows you to avoid dealing with the stress of examining your less-than-healthy finances.

Whatever the hidden fear, identifying it is the first step in breaking through.

One simple strategy for overcoming fear is to turn that fear into opportunity. Use your clutter busting session as a way to generate some extra money. Create an e-Bay account and sell that pair of designer shoes that you wore once and that kill your feet. Find a local jeweler that you can trust, and sell that pair of gold earrings that you haven’t worn since 1997. Find a local consignment shop and bring over your piles of brand new or gently worn clothing, handbags, costume jewelry and shoes. Money is a great motivator, and finding a source of money hidden at the back of your closet is a no-brainer!

4. Holding on to the past

"But, that was a gift from..."

Memories abound, and your inner sentimentalist just won’t let you part with your stuff.

Lots of times, this habit is rooted in the fear of making a mistake. (I might need that some day; it might be worth something, it belonged to my great grandmother…)

I’m not suggesting that you start tossing out all the family heirlooms! Just be willing to look at the emotional cost of keeping certain items, and ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen if you toss it?

Whether it’s letting go of the past or accepting your current body shape and size, remember, it feels great to know that you’ve passed something along to someone who will really use it! If you haven’t used it in a year and it’s taking up valuable real estate in your overcrowded closet, or if it’s a reminder of less happy times, purge it! (Do you really need to keep your wedding gown even 10 years after you divorced your husband?)

Identify some worthy recipients and stage your clutter busting session by creating separate piles for each organization. If you’re like me and you know you’ll never get the pile into the car, find out which organizations will send a truck to your home to pick up your gently used and unwanted items.

How about all those treasured kids’ projects that are taking over your basement? Create a ‘save bin’ for each of the kids and decorate it with colorful stickers or paint pens. (The size of the container will depend on the amount of storage space you have in your home, but something smaller than your refrigerator makes sense!) At the end of each school year, sit down with the kids, sort through their projects, laugh, reminisce…and then purge, and make room for next year’s treasures. Do you really need 37 drawings of your son’s favorite hockey team on the ice?

5. Perfectionism

"I'll do it as soon as ..."

Do you avoid projects and put them off until that ideal someday when you will have time to do it all perfectly?

Take some of the pressure off yourself! Life just doesn’t work that way…there will always be a to-do list, because as you cross projects off your list, new projects will be added! Learn to celebrate each victory along the way. Reward yourself for a job well done, and focus your newly found time, freedom, energy and inspiration on the things that matter most to you!

Tackle the clutter and feel better!

That list you created and each individual plan of attack will really help! Don’t add pressure by thinking you’re going to de-clutter everything all at once.

It all begins with your mindset. Make yourself and your home a priority. Get out your calendar and schedule time at the same time every day (or every week) for organizing. You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish even in 15-30 minute intervals!

California Closets - Debbie Royal Design Consultant

Debra Royal


As both a Certified Design Consultant with California Closets North Jersey and a Certified Professional Life Coach, Debbie Royal brings a passion for making a difference to all of her work. She is proud to represent California Closets as the Northern NJ representative with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

Tags: advice, barriers, California Closets, clutter, declutter, emotional, expert, inspiration, motivation, obstacles, organization, organizing, sentimental, solutions, tips