3 Signs You Should Stop Decluttering

We're human beings.  That means we're capable of doing anything to an extreme.

Want to be healthier?  Never eat bread or pasta or rice or potatoes again, let alone pancakes or cookies.  Alternatively, eat 100% sprouted whole grain pasta and bread, along with brown rice, yams, quinoa, and lots of beans, but don't touch beef, pork, lamb, poultry, venison, or seafood ever again.  Even eggs and cottage cheese should be considered suspect!

This is not a comment on what anyone chooses to eat, whether for health, religious, or ethical reasons.  There can be good reasons for removing or consuming any number of foods.  I'm just trying to make the point that we're pretty good at taking extreme positions on just about anything.

And that includes decluttering.  There are hoarders, and there are people who can fit everything they own into a backpack.  I imagine most of us belong somewhere between those two extremes.

Before you declutter, perhaps some or all of these are true:

  • You think that buying or experiencing something new will make your life better.
  • You think you deserve new things or experiences because you work so hard.
  • You think you need to own or do certain things to keep up or fit in with everyone else.
  • You spend a lot of time, money, energy, and attention on all your stuff.

After decluttering, you gain some or all of these:

  • You have a clearer understanding of what you value and what actually makes your life better.
  • You have more confidence in who you are, not in what you own or experience.
  • You worry less about people judging you for what you own or experience.
  • You have more time, money, energy, and attention to spend taking care of yourself and your loved ones, and on projects that you are really passionate about.

These are really valuable results, and even if you haven't reached "declutter heaven," the process has begun to change you.

Decluttering is a powerful tool, but it's not the goal.

It can be a life-enhancing process, but we don't want it to distract us from what really matters.  If we're constantly decluttering, trying to reach a certain "perfect" number of possessions, we might lose sight of our real purpose.

So before you declutter further, stop and think about what you really want for your life.  Should you declutter more, or should you deepen your connections with the people you love?  Is it time to declutter your bookshelves, or is it time to learn a new skill, or create something, or volunteer in your community?  Do you need to declutter that closet, or do you need to take a rest?

3 reasons to take a break from decluttering

1.  Decluttering has made you sad and anxious.  

If you've tried to let go of stuff, but end up feeling a strong sense of loss or worry that you'll need it, give yourself permission to stop decluttering for a while.  If the clutter is really weighing you down, but you feel defeated and frustrated by your own attempts to reduce it, ask for help.  Ask a friend, or a family member, someone you trust to listen without judging.  You don't have to do it alone.

2.  You continue to shop, even as you declutter.  

If clear countertops, tables, and bookshelves have sent you running to the store to fill up the empty spaces, slow down.  Live with the empty space.  Give yourself time to think about what you really want and need.  Maybe you'll decide you like a more spacious home, or realize there are rooms you don't even need.  Regardless, take a break before adding or removing anything else. 

3.  You're in conflict with your family because you gave away their stuff.  

If you've been anxious or driven in your decluttering, and haven't taken your family's feelings into consideration, you may need to stop and focus on your own stuff.  As Courtney Carver says, "Choose love over stuff."  Talk with your loved ones about why a simpler life is important to you, and ask them what's important to them.  Keep communicating as you deal with your own possessions.                

Meanwhile, reduce clutter in shared spaces by throwing out trash and putting things where they belong, and ask your family to do the same.  Do this daily, and enjoy less clutter, even if the room is not exactly as you wish it to be.  Perhaps someone will notice that it's hard to put away the game they're finished with when the game cupboard is packed and overflowing.  Maybe they'll be more agreeable to decluttering games no one plays with any more.  A small step in the right direction!

Minimalism creates more time and space for what you love.

If you've spent the last month or two decluttering, maybe you need to take some time to celebrate what you've accomplished.  Look how far you've come!  Maybe before you give more away, you should enjoy the results you've achieved.

Remind yourself of what inspired you to declutter in the first place, and shift your focus to what will bring you more joy, contentment, and purpose.  You've got the "less" part of minimalism figured out (at least partly, or at least for now), so concentrate on the "more."

Updated March 2023


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