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The clutter that encroaches on our lives is about more than physical stuff – it’s also about holding onto emotions that are no longer serving us. This applies to the emotions that can arise while we’re decluttering our physical or digital space. But emotional decluttering is also an ongoing process that affects all areas and stages of life.

In part 2 of the Decluttering Your Life series, we’ll talk about emotional decluttering as one of the core parts of the basics of decluttering.

Processing Emotions While Decluttering

While you’re actively decluttering a physical or digital space, be aware of the emotions that you’re feeling. Sometimes, the physical act of decluttering can be stressful on its own. Being around unwanted items, shuffling around a messy room, kicking up dust, it can all feel like a lot.

But don’t forget the emotional component as well. As you sift through your clutter and let go of what’s no longer serving you, that can trigger an emotional response. Honor it and feel those feelings as they come up. Use mindfulness and deep breathing to stay in the present moment. Avoid getting swept up in the emotions and making unhealthy decisions. Acknowledge them as they arise, but if you let them come up without resisting them, they won’t have to take over.

Harnessing the Power of Your Emotions

Managing your emotions is a lifelong process. But as we practice more, we gain confidence. Your emotions are a powerful tool; listen to them! They exist to serve us, not to harm us.

Identify a vocabulary of emotions and check in on your feelings often, assigning names and words to them that feel right. Check in on your emotions often, especially while decluttering, but also throughout the day. Becoming aware of your normal mood and emotions as they ebb and flow throughout the day will help you identify patterns.

If you notice yourself feeling fearful, take special note of that. Fear has been called the most powerful of emotions. It can cloud the strongest parts of our intelligence. Acknowledge and name fear, but don’t let it take over.

2020’s Emotional Toll

2021 is an especially relevant time to talk about this. After undergoing a huge paradigm shift as an entire culture in 2020, the collective mind now has to focus on letting go of the parts of 2020 that no longer serve us and integrating the lessons of the past year into our daily lives. That’s its own kind of emotional decluttering process.

Being ready to move forward and setting that intention is the first step. Whether you’re decluttering your kitchen or letting go of the emotions of the past year that no longer serve you, you’re altering your frame of reference. That means emotions will come up.

Remember, regulating your emotions is a skill that requires practice and patience.  But over time, it promotes stability and builds resilience.

Obstacles to Emotional Decluttering

  • Negative/critical self-talk
  • Toxic people/distorted or sometimes untrue stories circulated in media, including social media
  • Heavy emotions, regrets, guilt, expectations of ourselves and others
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Burn-out
  • Accumulated clutter adding to the daily stress load

As you declutter, notice what emotions brings up in you. Identify what reduces your energy levels and what stresses you out. That’s the first step to solving the problem. We’ll talk more about this in Decluttering Your Life Series #3: Decluttering Your Mind.