Heart-Centered Decluttering || Why It Makes or Breaks the Process

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Starting the decluttering process can be emotional. So what do you do when the emotions get to be too much?

When I started the decluttering process, I was a new mom surrounded by piles and piles of stuff. I didn’t know where to start, and I certainly didn’t have a clue about how to listen to my heart and take care of my soul in the decluttering process.

Years before that I had been trained and certified as a Professional Organizer, so I knew the logistics of decluttering and organizing the home, but I was completely caught off guard by how my emotions changed when I was no longer dealing with college apartment items, and now slogging through baby stuff, childhood mementos, and items we had collected as a family.

This was a whole new dimension of stuff-itis and my training had somehow not given me the tools to process all the emotions. I was stuck.

When Your Heart Directs the Process

In a society where shopping is a sport and everything is available at the click of a button, we collect material goods at an unprecedented rate. Oftentimes, we are making impulse decisions, but that doesn’t mean our heart isn’t involved in the choice.

In fact, many of those split-second choices for sales, clearance, or unplanned purchases actually stem from unmet needs in our hearts.

  • I feel sad… So I’ll go shopping to ease the pain.
  • I work hard and I’m tired, so I’ll go shopping because I deserve something new.
  • I just experienced heartbreak so I’ll go buy all my favorite comfort foods and something new to fill the hole in my heart.
  • I grew up without a lot of stuff, so when my child asks for something, I feel like it’s my job to give them everything they want and more.

When painful situations occur, we often have the instinct to fill the hole as quickly as possible. Put a band-aid on it and forget it.

But usually, sitting with the pain of the experience has value, and waiting before running out to the store will benefit not only your heart, but also your wallet. Of course, if you find life’s pain to be unbearable, please consult your doctor or a licensed counselor immediately–there is no shame in seeking help to heal from difficult times.

So if the heart can cause us to make some not so great impulse decisions, can it also make positive choices when decluttering? Yes!

A rested, peaceful heart will allow you space and positive mind-frame to let go of things you no longer need, and not feel as overwhelmed and guilty about letting things go. A peaceful heart means more peaceful decisions. In Project Simplicity, we walk through 30 days together that help you do just that — rest your heart, create some breathing room, and improve the ease in letting go! You can join for free here. 

Heart-Centered Decluttering

When I stumbled into this realm of “heart-centered decluttering” it changed everything. I’ll be honest here though, this isn’t a “declutter your house in a weekend” method. It’s not fast, though how much time you can put in will determine the rate you work at.

Rather, it’s a slow, pace of life method that lets your heart and mind work together, instead of one being ahead of the other. When clutter hurts your heart (overwhelm, guilt, fear, anger), your heart will hurt your mind (I can’t get rid of that, it cost money, I might need it someday), and decisions will not happen because the heart is conflicted!

This leads to burnout because physically and emotionally you’re drained and exhausted. The clutter isn’t just in your home, it’s invaded your mind, body, and soul.

Heart-centered decluttering means working in small steps. A little progress every day will have a far bigger impact over time than a huge weekend cleanout that only happens once every 5 years because it’s so exhausting.

Because our stuff tells our story, we have to be gentle and listen to our hearts. If you’re not ready to let go of something, you’re not ready to let go of it, and that’s okay. That might seem to be a strange statement from a minimalist, but it’s true. Now, I’m not saying keep everything… I’m talking about very specific items you may come across in the decluttering process that you just aren’t ready to declutter yet.

It’s okay. Come back to it later. You might be surprised what a few weeks or months do when you take the pressure off.

The Heart-Centered Approach

To overcome the hurdle of burnout and overwhelm, I began to take care of my heart by preparing, recharging, and listening. You can take this process step by step too with the Project Simplicity 30 Day Decluttering Challenge!

Preparing Your Heart

The first step is knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. What’s your motivation to declutter? What do you envision for your home through this process?

Then, set very clear goals and boundaries. Start small, create clarity, and know what you are and aren’t doing.

  • What works well in this space?
  • What doesn’t work in this space?
  • What do I want this space to look like in the end?

It’s easy to get distracted and start working on side projects to distract ourselves from the real task, so start with a very small, specific area. One drawer, one cabinet, one surface. Work in that small space until you feel you’re done. Do not try to attempt a large space at once–it won’t work!!

Re-Charging Your Heart

Even when you go slow and start small, you may still feel tired and depleted. This is normal as you build up your decluttering muscles!

Working small, in a short period of time like 15-30 minutes helps, but you’ll still need to balance in rest. Before and after your decluttering session, take a short break. Go for a walk, breathe some fresh air, read an inspirational quote or book. Take off your shoes and ground yourself in the earth outside.

Learn how to breathe deeply and relax your muscles. Quiet your mind (I know…easier said than done!).

Give yourself grace and space. If you find yourself upset, angry, or overwhelmed with a particular area, push pause and let it sit for a few days. If you’re working with a professional or have been decluttering for awhile, you may be able to push through emotional decisions, but if you’re just starting on your own, it’s likely wiser to allow yourself some space.

When I allow myself the time to make a good decision, I have never regretted decluttering an item. There are, however, a few impulse decisions that I do regret. Taking a short amount of time to think it through can make all the difference. 

Now. Hear me. This does NOT mean that when you’re going through an office drawer you need to take 3 days to think about whether to declutter a pad of paper or a handful of pens. I am NOT talking about easily replaceable, excess, duplicates, broken/junk, or stuff you never use. If I can order it on Amazon, or pick it up at Target or any local thrift store, you can probably let it go and if you ever really did need it again, it would be super easy to replace.

I am speaking about sentimental, meaningful, childhood mementos, children’s precious things, expensive purchases, collectibles, and other important items that you may want to use or pass down to your children in the future. If it would be impossible or very difficult to replace, it is well worth it to allow yourself some time to really think about what your life and home would be like without this item.

If you are simply feeling guilt over buying something that you no longer want, you might be feeling buyer’s remorse. Here’s how to deal with that. 

If you are struggling with owning duplicates of something, here’s my thoughts on that issue.

For keepsakes and sentimental items, we want to make the most of them and enjoy them in our home.

Beyond that, take your time evaluating the value of the item and its place in your life and home. Sometimes we find that special items add value, and sometimes we find they add negative emotions and nothing more than clutter. To decide that, though, it might take some soul searching. Give yourself the grace to do that!

Listening to Your Heart

If you’re new to tuning into your heart during the decluttering process, you might be surprised to find just how much your heart has to say about the journey. Take time to enhance your self-care and reflect on how you feel as you make decisions and see the progress unfold.

You may find yourself letting go of old dreams and desires. Things that once were so important, but no longer have a place in your life. As I discovered this, I realized that letting go was truly the best choice. In the process, it brought freedom and joy, but it took time.

Final Thoughts on Heart-Centered Decluttering

When your heart directs the decluttering process, the process becomes more meaningful. You’ll learn from your reflections, and your whole body will feel more at peace, balanced, and rested.

When you take care of your heart, you’ll be equipped to make better decisions about your belongings and open your mind to the values of living with less! Ready to declutter your home with heart? Join Project Simplicity here — it’s free!

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10 Comments

  1. Very well written! I’ve come a long way in the last year or so, with figuring out what doesn’t need to be in our home. It’s still a work in progress though!

    1. Thank you! We are all a work in progress. Little steps are huge! Congrats on your progress so far!!!

    1. That definitely increases your challenge to have more family members in a small space! But the key is small steps and consistent progress! You’ve got this!

  2. I have always struggled with decluttering sentimental items…until the Lord stepped in. He showed me that it’s just “stuff”. And honestly, because I struggled to let go of certain things, He showed me the value that it had in my life. He’s since helped me to take my focus off of my things and to refocus my gaze on Him. That has made decluttering so much easier for me.

    1. Amanda, yesss!!! I had to lay down my attachment to stuff before God and He began to change my mindset and how I view possessions. It has changed everything in my life and home. Life giving freedom for sure!!

  3. I am torn between wanted to declutter and not being able to let go. Without going into too much detail, the idea of going through some things does cause my anxiety to kick in. I will have to re-read this post several times to really help bring the message home. I know it is just stuff but…it is so hard.

    1. I understand that feeling well. My own breakthrough came slowly and took a lot of soul searching (here’s a peek at this part of my story: https://www.lauranoelle.com/lightness-of-minimalism/). I took what I learned on a practical level in Professional Organizing training and added a holistic element to improve the ability to emotionally handle the process and created Project Simplicity. It’s a free 30 day challenge sent to your email every day and it guides you through simple steps to simplify. I’d recommend checking it out! (https://www.lauranoelle.com/opt-in). You’ve got this, Kristen!

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