If you’re signed up to my monthly letter or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know we’ve sold our house and we’re moving! I feel a weird guilty lucky feeling that we’ve found a dream home that ticks every single item on our priority list, but at the same time we’re in that really awful stage of not knowing if it’ll all go ahead smoothly. My natural reaction is to try not to think or talk about it as if this might actually be happening. If I think worst case scenario, anything else is a bonus.
While we’re still in denial on the surface, underneath we’re hoping and praying it’ll all work out. Consequently we’ve thrown ourselves into decluttering – it’s a great escape from anxiety. I can safely say the best time to declutter is when you’re moving and there are psychological reasons for this. There’s power in the ‘I’m moving’ mentality.
Gretchen Rubin, my favourite happiness and habits expert, has a theory that forming a new habit is easier when we pair it with another major life event – moving house is pretty major. We can harness that fresh start feeling it gives us to make positive changes.
My intention was to write a guide to decluttering when you’re moving house and then I quickly realised the rules are exactly the same. The only difference is that instead of having to motivate yourself to assess every single thing you own, you have to motivate yourself to assess every single thing you own because the weight it bares is staring you in the face. You have to physically move the thing from one place to another and you’re feeling the strain of that.
This is the way I do it, moving house or not….
Don’t be afraid to start small The thought of decluttering that junk room or the garage that’s filled with so much stuff you’re too afraid to even start – it’s overwhelm because of how big the task feels. Breaking mammoth tasks down into smaller more manageable tasks is the best way to make everything a lot less scary. Don’t feel like it all has to be done at once. Baby steps will still achieve.
How would your life be better without it? The easiest way to reframe your mindset and shift your way of thinking. If we think about the benefits of less, the letting go becomes something we want to do instead of something we’re forcing ourselves to do. Sample answers include; I wouldn’t have to clean it, I’d have more money, I’d have more space, I wouldn’t have to package it up and move it – moving day will be easier.
Have you used it in the last year? If you haven’t used something in over a year the chances of you doing so are highly unlikely. Let it go.
Duplicates. It makes no sense to have more than one thing that does the same thing. Take it from me, you do not need 20 lighters in your kitchen drawer. One will do just fine.
Boundaries. Without boundaries we’re nothing but hoarding maniacs who have no idea what to keep and what to let go (raises hand). Think about your favourite thing that even the thought of getting rid of makes you wince inside. That feeling right there, how that thing makes you feel is your bench mark. Measure everything else against that. Imagine you only want to unpack useful stuff or beautiful stuff – nothing meh.
Does it add real value to your life? Does it have a use, a purpose or give you a feeling of utter joy for all the right reasons. Visualising how you’d feel unpacking it in your new home and how it would fit into your life there is a good barometer to feel it out.
Pack it away in the just in case box. There have been so many things I’ve been nervous about letting go of. What if I need them again? What if I regret my decision and I can’t get them back? In these cases give yourself a chance to get it back if you change your mind. Put it in a box, set a deadline and try going without. If it gets to the deadline and you haven’t used it you know what to do.
Does it have a place in your real life? We need to put our fantasy life aside and bring that ego back down to earth. You might believe you’re an avid listener to vinyl records, but are you? Are you really? It’s ok to just be you.
Scan it. Unless you absolutely have to have to keep a paper copy (I’m talking driving license and passport) scan the papers. You can scan photos too. A memory stick or external hard drive takes up much less space and you’ve still got everything should you need it.
Photograph it. This is a great way to give yourself the nudge you need to let go of sentimental things. Photos are easier to store and can be kept in digital format. You could even create a photo book so you have something to hold and look through if you wanted.
Does it serve you now? Those old clothes might have fit you once upon a time but if they don’t fit you now, they aren’t serving you. That isn’t to say this won’t change in the future but that fantasy life is nothing more than a stick to beat yourself with. Let it go and focus on the here and now.
You don’t need all that paper. Instruction manuals are downloadable should you ever need to read them (but seriously who reads the manual?), guarantees expire and the latest bill trumps its predecessor. Only keep what is in date and genuinely required. If you can manage without it, let it go.
Once you’ve built some momentum, ride that wave and keep going. Even if you’re not moving, imagining you are is a great way to get started and build some momentum. J is wishing he hadn’t waited until we were moving to get on with it.
Happy decluttering movers (and imaginary movers too) Keep your fingers crossed I’ll be booking the removal van soon x
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