Life is messy and sometimes so is your space. As a reformed hoarder turned professional declutterer, Irish writer Emma Gleeson knows how easy it is to be overwhelmed by stuff. In her new book, Stuff Happens, she offers practical advice on what to keep and what to get rid of. Digging deeper, Gleeson also asks why we buy so much in the first place, highlighting the negative impact on our mental health …
Decluttering is an emotional process. After all unwanted physical items are removed from a home, it’s really important to check in with yourself. Any feelings of guilt or grief for items now gone need to be processed fully and with self-compassion. I find journalling to be the most effective way of processing thoughts and emotions, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe choose a trusted friend to whom you can vent your feelings, if you prefer talking to writing. A technique that I have found to be beneficial for processing confusing emotions is proprioceptive writing. This process allows specific issues to be explored deeply through a structured journalling practice. You journal for twenty-five minutes at a time and use the question “What do I mean by . . .?” to interrogate ideas that come up as you write. For example, if I write, “I feel tired”, asking “What do I mean by tired?” can open up how you’re actually feeling. It’s a great way to build trust in yourself and your own feelings. It’s honestly like DIY therapy. For more info, go to pwriting.org.
I would also advise a post-clutter brain dump. By this, I mean write out all the to-do items swirling around in your head. Everything from “learn Portuguese” to “wash the dog” should be written down here. Then this list can be decluttered.
Choose projects and aims that are truly important and achievable. Divide these items into long-term projects and short-term projects, house projects and personal projects – whatever categories work for you. This will hopefully help clear your head. Lists do not work for everyone, however, and no one understands more than me how unruly the insides of our minds can become.
Decluttering is a mammoth task, and it is important to reward yourself once a process is completed. If nothing else, this is positive reinforcement for future decluttering pushes. (Remember: it happens in layers.) Use the fancy bath salts you have been saving for good, read the book you forgot you owned, wear your most treasured garment, light the expensive candles. Enjoy your home and the work you’ve put into it. Savour the achievement.
From: Stuff Happens! by Emma Gleeson, Sandycove Hardback, €14.99.
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