I’m not a psychologist, but today I’m sharing 5 reasons we keep clutter or avoid decluttering. You probably already know that there’s something deeper going on than just the need to “get things cleaned up.” And while it’s not often comfortable to address these issues, it’s incredibly therapeutic, and hopefully this podcast will spark some helpful conversations.
Here’s a quick review of what’s covered in the podcast (to listen, press the “play” button above):
(1) Sometimes we keep things because it’s a way to honor our loved ones.
(2) We sometimes avoid decluttering because we don’t want to face our regrets.
(3) Sometimes the clutter is a physical buffer that helps us to feel emotionally safe.
(4) Clutter shows that we want to be responsible and prepared to serve others.
(5) Clutter helps us to “be a protector.” If we’ve been let down in our lives (by a person, for example), we might decide that we won’t let our “things” down.
I love this quote by Mr. Rogers that says, “If you can mention it, you can manage it.” Today’s podcast might tug at your heart a bit, and it may cause you to take a good hard look at WHY you’re doing some of the things you’re doing. But I promise there’s hope and light at the other end.
Enjoy! And please add your thoughts in the comments. This is meant to be a discussion. 🙂
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Podcast with Julie Morgenstern: Secrets for What to Do When You Want to Keep EVERYTHING
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Carol A Carder says
Regrets: I started an embroidered train project for our first son when he was a toddler. It was a kit and I ran out of the red embroidery yarn and could not find the matching color. This son is now in his 40s. I thought I would finish the project for grandchildren some day. I have no grandchildren! The project is still in my closet.
April Perry says
Carol, I think the fact that you WANTED to embroider a train for your son is something to be celebrated. 🙂 I had a halfway-finished train blanket I made for my son, but I finally parted with it. He grew so tall that the blanket wouldn’t have even fit on his lap. Ha! But at the end of the day, I’m sure you showed your love in other ways over and over again. It’s now one less thing your son has to figure out what to do with, right? I think it’s less the “stuff” and more the feelings ABOUT the stuff that needs to be managed so we can acknowledge all the good we do. Sending lots of love!!
Michelle Chou says
Thank you for this podcast (although, I have really enjoyed all of your podcasts so far – esp when Amy Mcreedy was on your podcast I knew the Universe was working it’s magic by allowing me to find your podcasts)! I appreciate the authenticity so much, and how you can make the topic of organization so palatable. Mostly, this being more than about stuff, it’s mindset.
#3 + #4 really spoke to me and I realized I need to owe it to myself to investigate the emotional buffering that I do with stuff (and food). I never thought about it until you mentioned that I LOVE being prepared and half of my clutter is to be prepared & reliable. Which gives me a lot to think about. On the food note, I am sending virtual hugs, I have struggled with food as my safety net and my “never let me down”
as a child and still do too. I was crying with you too lol, at 5am.
I signed up for the steps program 6 months ago and am still excited to get started past the point of just printing the printables haha. I have two little ones almost 3 and 1 and quiet frankly I’ve been struggling to adjust to home making. But like you said “Life is a series of opportunities. We are growing, we are trying, we are learning from experiences….life is exciting and beautiful” and I am here for it. Currently looking to survive toddlerhood of my girls haha. Thanks!
April Perry says
Michelle, thank you so much for your kind words. You are in a VERY busy stage of life! The good part is that when you get your STEP system in place, you’re going to feel the effects immediately because you have so much going on. Sending you lots of love and encouragement to keep going!!
1-5 Yup, Yup, Yup, Yup, and Yup! But I think most of all I keep stuff because I want to save the day when someone needs it. Being prepared for the unexpected is my superpower and my kryptonite. I will be brewing on this one all day. Thank you for the insight into my reasons to keep stuff.
April Perry says
You’re so cute, Crystal! I’m sure people love and appreciate you–you are clearly responsible and supportive. (Good things!) Dialing things down a bit to the point that we know we are “showing up” well, but not overwhelming ourselves is a process, but not as hard as we sometimes make it. I am sending lots of good thoughts your way!
I’m glad I listened to this. I bought your course at the start of the pandemic and never did it.
I have an issue thinking I have things I can sell but don’t know how to, so I just leave it all.
I have started to give stuff away to dear friends but the stuff I can sell is hard.
Now I am starting to go through stuff in my parents apartment since my dad died, my own childhood stuff, so this is going to be interesting as I still have so much clutter in my own apartment. But the selling stuff. thats hard. I want to learn more about how trauma is related also. Is there a good reference for that? Thank you
April Perry says
Such a great question, Dorit! I would strongly recommend posting in the STEP Facebook group (if you’re Mastery) or the LearnDoBecome Community Facebook group because there are thousands of people in there who could provide ideas for selling things. Regarding trauma, have you listened to my two podcasts with Dr. Don Wood? (There’s a search bar at the top of our website to help you find those!) In the first podcast with him, we talked about the 10-frame mix-up exercise that has been super helpful for me. And Dr. David Burns’ book “Feeling Great” can help you identify the thoughts that are linked between trauma and “things.” We talk a lot about mindset, how our brains work, how to move forward in our ARISE membership, too, if it would interest you to work more with us on a personal level. (You can see links to all these things on our “connect” page: https://LearnDoBecome.com/Connect.) Sending lots of love!
Lori Tucker says
This touches close to home for one of my biggest declutter challenges. My parents collected antiques, and I inherited part of the collection. I enjoy some items and don’t benefit from others. I feel responsible for many items because they are collectible or historic. Often, I feel these can’t be donated to charity — they are not items poor people need. However, finding the right new owner for a rare item is not easy! Researching for a solution is a project itself. Also, I have family photos and history going back several generations. I feel it’s my job to take care of these so they aren’t destroyed. I think I’m past keeping things simply because they belonged to Mom or Dad but there’s more to it for some items.
April Perry says
Lori, you are definitely not alone! I have several bins of my parents’ journals, photos, etc. that I am currently sorting through, and I can totally understand the feelings you have over the collectible items. If you have room for those things, and if they are not a high priority to give away/sell right now, that could be a project for a future day! But if those items are taking up so much room that it is impacting the rest of your life, I’d prioritize the research, check out local Facebook group or antique sellers in your area, ask around, and set a goal to find homes for as many things as possible by a certain date–and then donate the rest to an organization that will take them. A lot of thrift/goodwill stores are visited by collectors, so even though they aren’t “basic needs,” they could still generate income at the store that could then have funds to donate to others. Just some thoughts! Keep up the great work!
Karen Stephenson says
Thank you so much for this podcast. I can relate to all 5! My mom passed away earlier this year and I am holding on to a lot of her things I know I most likely won’t use for many of the reasons you give. I had my husband listen to your podcast so he could begin to understand my reasons for holding on to things for longer than he would. Thank you. ♥️…
April Perry says
Sending you a huge hug!! I hope that you can find some happy, consistent ways to feel your mom’s love and feel great about the items you do choose to keep. Sounds like you have a very supportive husband. 🙂
Thank you for this x and your obvious emotional authenticity x So much of what you have said resonates strongly with me. I’m just finding it difficult to justify prioritising me (aka dedicating time to learn and build through STEP) which I KNOW will help but feel guilty that I am taking time away from my housework challenges and child care (and loved) responsibilities. I am very recently separated from my husband and trying to figure things out. Thank you for your encouragement and very logical approach to understanding and getting in control of my feelings of overwhelm x
April Perry says
Jilly, you definitely have a lot on your plate, and being present for your children is obviously a huge priority. You’ve probably already seen that the STEP program is divided into 10-minute lessons so you can do just a few at a time–even with a child on your lap, or while you’re waiting in a carpool line. There’s no rush, but I guarantee that when you put forth just a little effort each day or a few times a week to learn the system (and think of it as an investment in your family, which helps alleviate any feelings of guilt), you’ll notice that things will move more smoothly and you’ll feel less stressed around your family…and the house will stay cleaner, so you’ll save a ton of time. We’re all here for you!!
Your podcast really resonated with me, today! I am definitely in a better place now than I used to be in last year. Still every time I have to process my to-do list of tasks and electronic clutter that can keep piling up (and requires frequent upkeep which can be draining!), things start to feel quite challenging. And I go through at least 1 day of feeling real low each week.
Sincerely appreciate your sharing of a personal sense of unworthiness in your childhood (have a lot of such episodes wherein I would simply shut myself in a room and refuse to venture out, due to a sense of social rejection and not fitting in). It’s like while I have learned some of the tools of how to process and eliminate things, I have not yet fully made a mindset shift or an identity shift to help me stay on top of things for longer periods of time. Hoping that the discomforting emotions get easier (and less messier) to handle with time.
Thanks for giving me a forum to help express my feelings out loud and will definitely be sure to sign onto Step facebook group as well.
April Perry says
Julie, it sounds like you are thinking in a great direction. Focusing on that mindset/identity shift is key, and really looking at WHAT is feeling hard to process is essential. For example, the reason I have hardly any “upkeep” is because there’s a basic flow in place. My inbox has hardly anything in it, and my emails stay pretty streamlined. If you’re in STEP Mastery, I recommend that next time you sit down to “process,” make a list of what you need to process, why it’s been sitting there, how you feel about it, and what you’d like to see happen instead. Then the group can help you figure out what’s going on. 🙂 This is a process for all of us!
Sending lots and lots of love!
Your courage in being vulnerable is such a blessing to us. You are a real person, with real thoughts and therefore are very relevant to all our lives.
Hugs to the grade seven you!
April Perry says
I am glad that this podcast is helpful for you—and thank you so much for your kind words, Cindy! Sending a hug right back! ❤️
Carrie Riff says
When you got to your story about your seventh grade self, it struck me so very deeply. It was like you were describing me, even down to how we all had curled bangs and yours wouldn’t curl the right way. Junior high was the most difficult time in my life and, now that I’ve been through this podcast, I realize that was when my clutter really started. I had just gotten my own room, separate from my younger sister, and I spent all my time there with my music and my comic books and endless rounds of snacks smuggled in without my parents knowing. Even down to you being able to hear the footsteps coming. Our basement stairs creaked and I could hear anyone coming down them and I would desperately hope they weren’t coming down to try to talk to me.
My ‘stuff’ didn’t judge me and it couldn’t be proud of me so, therefore, I couldn’t disappoint any of it. My books, my plushies, my NKOTB posters, my piles and piles of stories and drawings about being better and cooler than I really was? I was safe in there with all of it and it kept the terrible outside world away. Even now, when my therapist had me think of a safe, calm space I could ‘go to’ when I was feeling panicked, that was the image I found myself drawn to. My little lair of refuge.
I still have almost everything that was in that bedroom, to this day. It’s all in piles and stacks of boxes in the other half of our master bedroom. I haven’t taken it out of those boxes since getting married in 2001 but I couldn’t bring myself to part with any of it, either. Now, because of all this, I think I have a better idea of why. And now, maybe, I can start to heal from that, thank all this stuff for it’s years of protection, but also finally let it go.
So thank you, April. From the very depths of my heart, one sad, overeating seventh grader to another, I send all my love to you then and to you now. ♥
April Perry says
Carrie, your story touched my heart so much! I felt kind of embarrassed sharing those stories from my childhood, but knowing I’m not the only person who had those challenges is such a gift. Thank you for sharing your story!! And I am so excited for you to get your bedroom back! ❤️ Eric thinks you should keep a NKOTB Poster, though. 😂 Or at least take a picture and send it to us! So classic—oh my goodness. Lots of happy memories from that period of time, too! xoxo