Shedding Those Last 5 Pounds…of Clutter

istock_000015977374xsmallHave you ever found a really good hiding place for something valuable, put it there for safe-keeping…and then torn the house upside-down frantically looking for it later –  because you forgot where you hid it?  This was the experience of one of my coaching clients recently – yet something really great came out of her moment of panic. She gave me permission to share her story…

Karen (not her real name) was looking for her son’s passport. She looked everywhere for it, in all the obvious places, but it was nowhere to be found.

Have you ever had the experience of looking in your purse for something – say, your wallet – and couldn’t put your fingers on it. So you turned your purse upside-down and dumped everything out on the floor?

Well, my client started emptying everything out of closets and drawers looking for the passport. It wasn’t as daunting as it would have been in the past, because she had been working diligently on purging the excess and felt she had decluttered as much as she could.

But now, with everything out in the open, she could clearly see that there was still more to get rid of. Many people stop decluttering after their initial purge, and hesitate to go beyond what’s comfortable.

She shared with me that there were many items she had kept ‘just in case’ – and this came as a complete surprise to her. She went ahead and removed those last few articles (about 50 things), donating some to charity and others to friends that could really use them.

And afterwards, she felt triumphant. It was a much more powerful feeling than she had experienced before, during the initial purge. She likened it to losing that last 5 pounds you can’t seem to shed, even years after you lose lots of weight on a diet. It’s a really good analogy because when you get rid of stuff, you do feel lighter.

She told me “I feel the most organized and in control I’ve ever felt in my entire life” and that she feels like a new person (music to my ears – I felt so happy for her). She is confident that she will never find herself with clutter again, and I believe it, because she has had a complete shift in her perspective.

Those ‘just in case thing’ we hold on to, it’s just fear. What you are really saying is ‘what if I can’t afford to buy them again if I need them?’ Once scarcity thinking is replaced with faith and the belief that abundance is your birthright, you think differently. The shackles are off and you do become a new person. Karen agreed to let me share her epiphany so that it may inspire others to tackle those last few items and finally be free. And by the way, freedom is not the only thing Karen found. She found the passport too! How has Karen’s story inspired you? Please share in the comments section below.

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This post has 17 comments

  • Debbie says:

    This is great news for me, as I need to move, and it’s HARD to get rid of some things. I was partly raised by my Grandmother and, after going through two world wars and being poor for much of her life, she saved all sorts of stuff “just in case”. It turns out that she was a very good teacher, and I love to save stuff for the same reason. BTW, did ‘Karen’ ever find the passport? I didn’t when it happened to me!

    • Thanks for your comment Debbie. Yes, holding onto things ‘just in case’ can be a learned behavior, but you can begin to change your thoughts – it’s never too late. Rather than thinking about how hard it is, start shifting to something like this: ‘It’s getting easier and easier every day, to let go of things that get in the way’. Over time, it will change your behavior – and you will have less to move!

      And yes, ‘Karen’ did find her passport eventually.

  • Lindsay N says:

    This past summer I thought I had lost my Passport. I do not drive so my Passport was the only photo I have. After tearing the house apart looking in all the usual places I stash the passport I never found it. In order to obtain a new passport I had to have some form of photo ID and had to fill out a more detailed Passport form plus obtain guarantor signatures. The cost of getting photo ID through Autopac was $50.00 as well as interview to pass security issues. Luckily I had not cancelled my passport and within a few days of received my photo ID I found my passport in a folder I took to a job interview several months earlier. Organizing paperwork is the most difficult form of organizing for me and I find it more overwhelming than clothes and household items. Since I move house every 4-5 years I find it difficult to get rid of extra items of furnishings as I always think it might be perfect fit for some future home. I can see from your article how getting rid of those last 5 pounds and fear are holding me back and next time I declutter I will think of this article.

    • Hi Lindsay. Wow, I’m so sorry you had to go through that…must have been so frustrating! Yes, paperwork is a challenge for most people, so you are not alone there. I have lots of tips and suggestions on organizing paperwork on my blog, so feel free to look for them in the search engine on my website. Hope that helps.

  • Steve Shope says:

    Hello everyone,

    I am at the “last five of pounds of clutter” stage. It is awesome to be organized! Everyone can do it.

    I do eliminate stuff I may need sometimes. Spices, food and cooking utensils for example. Food goes stale anyway. I’d say for every 50 items I get rid of there is one or two that I really miss (toss the cookies and candy first). But easily replaced.

    However, I am to the point where there is expensive stuff that I may not be using but will probably need in the future. Tools, gloves, sports stuff, hobby stuff, prescription glasses.

    I got rid of a ton of tools but have a hard time organizing all the various sizes and shapes of things. And things are still hard to find. Always looking for new ideas.

    Thanks for always being awesome Helen!

  • Nancy says:

    Here’s the problem: we hold on to stuff “just in case” and the habit is reinforced EVERY TIME a costume piece, a craft supply, an electronics accessory, etc. is readily available in the apartment and doesn’t have to be re-purchased. After 5+ years of not being used, the sewing machine came out. Now it’s back again for more than a year. After donating all my dog’s accessories (travel bags, kennels, etc.) after hanging on for 5+ years, within another year we’d added another dog to our family. EVERYTHING had to be re-purchased at considerable expense. Clothing that hasn’t been worn in a couple of years get hauled out again for a special occasion. More than anything, I’d love to live a simpler, less cluttered life. I feel overwhelmed, and I can NOT trust that the money will be there to constantly replace the things we might part with. In all honestly, money is just too tight. SO, any advice would be welcome!

    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks so much for sharing. Here’s the thing…when we believe that we will need the things we get rid of, that becomes our reality. Change your thinking and your reality will change. Don’t take my word for it…I encourage you to do some reading in this area…there’s lots available online and in the library.

      I had a similar experience. When our dog passed away, I got rid of all his things. And I said ‘never again’ to getting another dog. A year later, guess what…we got another dog.Yes, we had to purchase new things and it cost us some money – but it didn’t break the bank.

      If we keep everything that we think we might need someday, well, that would cost us a lot more money. We would need a bigger house or a storage unit (or two). And it would cost us in time – to look for things and to store maintain what we have. And it would cost us in peace of mind, and sometimes even in relationships.

      If you truly want to live a simpler, less cluttered life, you need to TRUST that the money will be there to replace things if you need them. And it will be…once you can shift your mindset to a more abundant one (avoid scarcity thinking).

      I hope that’s helpful in some way…probably more advice than you bargained for…but I feel so strongly about this and I’ve seen it come to pass many times in my life and in the lives of my clients.

      • Sarah says:

        Helen,

        I’d love to read more about “Change your thinking and your reality will change.” Do you have any specifics books you’d recommend?

        Thanks!

        • Sarah, there are so many great books on this topic, it would be hard for me to choose which ones to recommend. Wayne Dyer is the grandfather of this though, so I would say anything by him would be a great start.

  • Bonnie Cooper says:

    Hi Helen!!

    I am a huge fan! I loved Neat and I keep trying to watch the episodes online!

    I’m in between yourself and Nancy on this one. I’ve been nomadic for years, and have experienced
    the realisation that those treasured possessions are just things. However, I have also gotten rid of
    Items only to replace them at a later date. As second hand is very hard to come by where I live, I am no longer getting rid of anything, whilst making only carefully selected, quality purchases I will not regret.
    I am mindful that my space is finite and so I can’t go crazy filling it with things, but like Nancy, I know anything once used will eventually be used again.

    Keep up the great work!

    Bonnie

  • Ann says:

    My last 5 lbs are those family “heirlooms” I’ve inherited. Three times I’ve cleaned out homes and two of them were filled to the brim with those heirlooms, many of which I reluctantly took My mother, now 98 and sharp as a tack asks how I’m using specific items constantly. She is sure everything is valuable.

    I’ve gotten rid of much of the furniture, and feel incredibly light as I see only that which we love in our home. Now I’m working on the dishes and tchotchkes.

    The best part is that I refuse to pass these ‘valuables’ on to our children. They are free to keep or pass any item, the only thing I ask is that they be honest!

  • Olive says:

    Hi Helen!

    Our wonderful son just turned one year old and we are not sure if there will be a baby #2.

    I have cleaned out about half of the clothes and toys, but the problem is the big ticket items. The car seat, stroller, walker and swing take up as much room as the clothes and toys. These items are also the most expensive to replace if baby #2 comes along.

    Help! What should we keep?

    • Hi Olive,
      Only you and your partner can answer this question, but if it were me, I would hold on to those baby items for at least a few more years. I don’t consider that clutter…at least not yet. I mean, if you told me your son was a teenager now, that would be another story. Since you aren’t sure whether you are having more children, it’s probably best to keep those items for now. Do you have an out of the way place to store them? If not in your home, perhaps off-site (friends or family)?

  • Andrea says:

    I have had many books, classics, faith, etc. Some I’ve had for almost 30 years, some less. I have not read them yet. My deceased husband was also a ‘reader’ and loved books even more than I do. I also have most of my college text books.
    If I got rid of them (I doubt Value Village will want them), where would they end up? Over the years, my taste in reading has also changed. I am a minister and so read a lot of theology, classics, fiction (for a break). I NEED study material but I can find a lot of things on the internet. A lot of the books I can’t read because of the print – it is too fine and it is awkward and time-consuming to use a magnifier. My heirs would not want them. Nor do they want my china, their great-grandmother’s clock, etc. How do I ‘[break down and ‘give them to Value Village or is there some place else??? Any ideas would be appreciated. (I am over 80) so how much longer am I going to be able to read. By the way, a LOT of the reading I do now is on a KINDLE and I can adjust the print size.

  • Andrea says:

    I have had many books, classics, faith, etc. Some I’ve had for almost 30 years, some less. I have not read them yet. My deceased husband was also a ‘reader’ and loved books even more than I do. I also have most of my college text books.
    If I got rid of them (I doubt Value Village will want them), where would they end up? Over the years, my taste in reading has also changed. I am a minister and so read a lot of theology, classics, fiction (for a break). I NEED study material but I can find a lot of things on the internet. A lot of the books I can’t read because of the print – it is too fine and it is awkward and time-consuming to use a magnifier. My heirs would not want them. Nor do they want my china, their great-grandmother’s clock, etc. How do I ‘[break down and ‘give them away??? Also, I am the author of a book, had to ‘buy 400 copies. Still have 300 in my closet unsold’. Any ideas would be appreciated. (I am over 80) so how much longer am I going to be able to read. By the way, a LOT of the reading I do now is on a KINDLE and I can adjust the print size.

    • Hi Andrea,

      I love books too, so I totally understand your concern. However, it appears from your comments that you are ready to let go of the books, since you admit you haven’t read them in 30 years and are doing a lot of your reading on a Kindle now. Your obstacle seems to be that you are concerned about where they will end up. My suggestion is to take them to Value Village (or have a charity pick them up to make it easier for you) and TRUST that they will end up in the right hands, with a reader who loves books as much as you and your husband did. As for the college textbooks, let’s face it, they are probably too old (about 60 years old?)to be of any value (unless you went to college recently?). Best to put them in your recycling bin. Why keep them cluttering up your home if you are not using them anyway. I hope this encourages you to find the courage and let them go. You will feel so much better – I promise you. And maybe someone out there will find just the right book that shifts their entire outlook and transforms their life…all thanks to you…you just never know.