A thread on clutter and organization on one of my MT sites this morning made me think. What’s so hard about dejunking and decluttering? It’s emotional, that’s what. We may think we are just disorganized or apathetic to clutter, but it’s all a response to emotions. I remember going through my Past Boxes in 2005, trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. I laughed, sobbed, and smiled my way through them. Of course, I put stuff in my Past Boxes for a reason - I thought they were worth keeping.

What about all the other accumulated stuff in the house? A lot of it is created by the emotion of fear: “What if I throw this away and need it again some day?” Guilt: “I shouldn’t have spent good money on this in the first place. If I give it away, it means I’ve wasted my money.” Grieving: “I can’t bear to part with this because is reminds me of someone who’s not here anymore.” Envy: “I can’t downsize because the rest of the neighbors have such nice stuff!” Paralyzing anxiety: “I don’t know where to start, so I just won’t start!” The fact is that it is highly probable that living in chaos is a form of avoidance - our minds are too harried to make important decisions in our lives that need to be made, or to come to terms with our life circumstances, whatever they may be.

I’m not saying emotions are bad; on the contrary, we have to feel them and work through them. That’s what’s hard about downsizing. You have to take a long, hard look at yourself and your priorities, what you consider beautiful and what you consider junk, what you are keeping just for yourself and what you are keeping for future generations to enjoy. It’s not easy; in fact, it can be quite painful - but cathartic.

My mother-in-law and my mother both lived through the Great Depression. Each woman came out on the other side of it changed in some way. My mother-in-law, who was financially well-off when she died, let the Depression turn her into a hoarder. Like Scarlet O’Hara, by God, she was never going to go hungry again! So she became a miser. My mother, on the other hand, came out with the idea that, as she had suffered, she didn’t want anyone else to suffer, so she spent the rest of her life being generous, giving away everything she had to give, living a meager lifestyle herself.

We are all tied up emotionally in our “stuff.” The trick is to dig deep within yourself, analyze the emotions, helpful and debilitating, behind your lifestyle, then act on it. The bad news is that these are decisions you will have to continually remake as long as you live. The good news is that you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.