Ep 019: 5 Things That Are Hard to Declutter (and How to Handle It)

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You know the items you have laying around taking up space, but are too sentimental to throw away? Or the boxes full of toys your kids don’t play with anymore? What about the mountains of paperwork that are too important to get rid of? And the never ending rack of clothes that you don’t wear, or wear that often? Oh, and don’t get me started on the piles of stuff husbands leave around the house! If you find yourself glaring at any (or all!) of those things, then this episode is for you. I am talking about the 5 Things That Are hard to Declutter. We all have those areas in our life + I am here to walk you through how to declutter them. Clutter takes up time, so let’s declutter so we can have more time!

 
 

In This Episode, Allie Discusses:

  • How clutter is linked to unhappiness.

  • The impact that clutter has on your time.

  • Practical ways to declutter the areas in your home you are overwhelmed by.

  • Ways you can get creative with saving sentimental items.

  • How to get your kids involved in decluttering their toys.

  • Why purging your husband’s stuff can lead to resentment.

  • The value in appreciating your wardrobe as you let go of some items.

  • How to efficiently declutter paper documents (and make them electronic!).

Mentioned in this Episode:

IT ALL STARTS WITH HOME. 

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Get my most popular free download - The Minimalism Starter Kit now!

It'll have you decluttering, simplifying, and gutting all the things that have you wasting time, stressing out, and counting the minutes till the day is done. 'Cause that's no way for a mama to live!


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Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to.  I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days.  I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it.  Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and i know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood.  I’m Allie Casazza and this is the The Purpose Show.

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Hey friends!  Welcome to Episode 19 of The Purpose Show!  In this episode, I am going to be talking to you about a few different areas that can be really hard to take on when you are working on decluttering your house.  The top 5 areas that I get asked about a lot that I see people getting held up on a lot. Speaking to each one of those areas and helping you handle it better.

Decluttering, as most of you probably know, is my main jam.  I love talking about it. I love helping women do this in their homes because it matters so much more than most people even realize. I talk a lot about the different studies that have been done showing the effects of clutter on our brains.

Specifically, for women there are a lot of negative effects of having clutter. Even if your home looks beautiful and looks clean. Even if there are areas of hidden clutter and you know that it’s there. Even if you feel like your home is really high maintenance, and you are always picking up while your family is making messes behind you.  Because there is just so much stuff to be pulled out. That is all having an effect on your brain , emotions and on the way you feel.

One specific study even linked having too much clutter, feeling like you have a cluttered house, with being unhappy in your family in general for women.  That’s really powerful.  I feel like if we all just stopped for a second, paused this episode, and googled some of these scientific studies that have been done in the last couple of years, we would be really blown away with the fact that this matters. It is bothering us. Even if it is out-of-sight, out-of-mind – it’s not. It’s bothering us.  It’s affecting us in a big way.

Outside of that, when you have a cluttered home, what takes up your space takes up your time. Everything in your house requires some kind of maintenance or pick up from you.  Some kind of hands-on time from you.

This is repetitive for those of you who have hung out with me for a while, but I always use the example of the toaster.  Your toaster, or toaster oven, requires some amount of your time. You have to use it. You have to pick it up and wipe underneath it when you are detailing your counters. You have to wipe it down when it gets smudged with fingerprints. You have to dump out the crumb tray.  It just gets dirty and it needs something from you. Something as menial and necessary as your toaster, even that requires at least a few seconds of your time every day, a couple of minutes every week. Those seconds add up into more and more time to where even something as simple as your toaster is requiring a chunk of time from you every year.

If we think about that, think about every single thing in your house.  Every book. Every toy. Every sock. Everything.  No wonder you just feel overwhelmed and behind all of the time. Because you are maintaining your home, putting things away, and maintaining your stuff pretty much full time. And that sucks.

To most people, that’s not really worth it. When we realize that, it makes a lot of sense why you feel like you are always cleaning up. It’s all for nothing and gets undone. You keep redoing it again and again.  That’s why I like to speak to clutter so much. Why I am passionate about helping women clear the clutter and really go through their house with an intentional eye.  Remove all the excess so that what they are left with are the things that are serving them. And serving them well. Things that are contributing to a life lived really well, fully and joyfully. Where in your home you are focusing on the people who live there and not on the stuff that lives there.

If you have people in your house, you are going to have laundry to wash, dishes to clean, and things to pick up – it’s unavoidable.  That’s part of our role as parents is serving our kids and families. Picking up. And there’s joy in that. Choose joy in that. I encourage you to do that.

But when the mundane parts of your role take over and are so high maintenance that they are pulling you away from the people, and your role as a mother, that’s where there is an imbalance.  You are giving power to your stuff and letting it take over your life. That’s pretty typical in our society today. That’s the mind shift that I help people make and that I am passionate about helping you make.

Having said that preface for clutter in general, let’s dive into the 5 things that are hard to declutter and how to handle each of these things. Again, these are things that I get asked about a lot and people seem to get hung up on pretty often. There are more. We can save those for another episode, but I want to speak to these 5 in this episode.

#1: Sentimental items.  Typically, people get on a roll and realize the role that clutter plays in their lives and they are ready to make a change.  They are going. They are doing their daughter’s bedroom. They are getting rid of extra toys and clothes and things of that nature.  Then they get to the closet and they find the bin of sentimental baby things and they just feel stumped.

How can you let go of the sweet little dress that your daughter wore when she was dedicated at church? Or the photo of the positive pregnancy test from the baby that you miscarried?  Those sentimental things that are pulling on our heartstrings that are really difficult?  Photo albums. Baby clothes. Baby items. What do you do with those things? How do you make the decision? What classifies it as clutter versus something that is just sentimental that you want to keep?  Where is the line?

This is different for every person. If you have hung out with me anywhere for more than ten minutes, you probably know that I am not really about a bunch of rules.  I am definitely not going to give you anything like that. But I do want to say that there are some things that you can do to help you make a good decision and continue to make progress.

If you are working decluttering your house and you get stuck on something sentimental, I would encourage you to just skip that area and move on.  You need to build up some positive, healthy momentum in your decluttering journey. Go do different things. Go work on your bathroom.  Work on a bookshelf in your living room. Declutter something else for now. Come back to this when you have been at it a bit longer and you have seen the positive effects of letting go of clutter.

What happens is, as you evolve in that place in your life and inside of yourself with getting rid of things, you grow. You evolve. You change. You see that this really makes a difference. You are seeing a positive difference in your life from letting go of physical possessions. Keeping what is serving you well, and is necessary, makes you happy.  It makes letting go of things less and less difficult as you go.

For example, maybe one day I am really having a hard time letting go of my daughter’s baby things.  I skip it and go do the rest of my house, other areas – my kitchen, the kid’s toys, my wardrobe. Then a couple of weeks later I notice that I have more time.  I am really finding joy in this process. Maybe I go back to my daughter’s baby things a couple of weeks later and see that I actually feel less attached to these things because I have grown and have seen a difference in my life. I am ready to let go of things. That will happen. It might seem like it will never happen for you, but it will happen. It will get a bit easier.

I will also say that when you declutter one or two sentimental things, it will get even easier to move through sentimental items. Because you have seen that you have let go of something that was really special to you and had a memory attached to it and nothing bad happened.  You didn’t lose the memory. It wasn’t offensive to the person who had the memory involved. It didn’t mean that your relationship with them ended.  If they passed away, you still have your memories and your heart connection to that person, although the item is gone.

It’s like something that is scary. You flip the light on and then you’re like, “Oh, this isn’t that scary after all. It totally worked and it’s fine.”

The other thing I want to say is maybe think about just diving in and making it happen. If you have been decluttering for a while, you’re not a newbie, and you are just avoiding this, maybe just sit in that closet and just pick up something.  Close your eyes. Feel for something. Pick it up. Open your eyes. That’s your first item.  Make a decision about that item.  Just start.  Make a decision about that and put it in the pile for keep, throw away, donate.  Make a decision about that first item and you have already started.  The hardest part of any new project, especially one that’s difficult or feels intimidating, is just getting started. Sometimes you need to just dive in and start

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When you buy something, you buy it with your time. With minutes from your life. Not just with your money.  Studies show us that less clutter equals less stress and more time.  It is really as simple as that.

This was the founding reason that I created Your Uncluttered Home.  It has become my most popular, globally-praised, decluttering course that I designed for moms who want to live their lives more than they want to clean up after it.

It is truly the A-Z of minimalism.  Every room. Every area. Every nook and cranny of your house totally uncluttered.  This super extensive, extremely detailed course is literally everything you need to become a minimalist momma who is able to be a lot more present for what matters most.

To learn more about the course, go to alliecasazza.com/allcourses.

This really is the shortcut version. The exact journey that I took as a mom, 5-6 years ago, that got me to this point of an uncluttered, minimalistic motherhood where I am spending the least amount of time on my house every day.

Motherhood is just way too sweet a time to be spent struggling so hard and living in survival mode day in and day out.  Our stuff is really the cause of that.

If you want to start this lifestyle, if you want to simplify your life… I believe that it all starts at home.

Simplify your life.  alliecasazza.com/allcourses.

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The other piece of advice I want to give you is to consider using the item.  Maybe there is a vintage lamp from your great grandmother that just needs a new shade and would look amazing in your formal living room and totally go with your eclectic vibe out there.

Maybe there is a really neat military jacket from your great grandfather and you could frame it and display it in your husband’s office.  Can you remove all of the buttons from your mom’s jackets and sweaters, put them in a mason jar that acts as a bookend on your bookshelf.

Get creative.  Go to Pinterest for inspiration. Is there a way that you could use the thing without completely letting go of it.

A lot of the time when women get married and the don’t want to keep their wedding dress, they will remove a piece from it and keep it to make a garter for their daughter to wear at her wedding.  Just a piece instead of keeping the entire dress.  It’s like that.  Can you keep a piece of it, repurpose it, and get rid of the entire thing?

If there is a person who handed down a lot of stuff to you and you miss them and want to keep that memory, find something like that that will work. Let go of the rest of the stuff. You don’t have to keep everything.

Also, please remember that letting go of physical possessions, doesn’t mean that you are letting go of memories. I think that is really important, and maybe seems obvious. But if you are struggling with sentimental items, and the loss of someone, that is actually really profound and comforting in that time.

I also say it is okay to keep some things.  I have a couple of items from each of my kids. Actually, that’s a lie. I do not have anything for Emmett because he is the last one. I guess you just kind of forget when you have a billion kids. But for the other kids, especially Bela and Leland, because they were my first two, and they were my first of each gender, I guess I was a bit more sentimental when they were babies.

I kept a few baby things of theirs. I have a little classic red peacoat that Bella wore when she was a baby that just has the sweetest memories attached to it. It is such a sweet little piece. It is totally timeless and could be used down the road for one of my grandkids.  It is just so cute and I love having it.  Then I have her little dress that she was dedicated in.  I have a bunch of pictures of her in cute, little outfits that were special to me.

It is okay to keep some things. I think the line is when you have a bunch of bins that you are storing away of memories because you are avoiding making decisions.  That’s the problem.

If you had to move, is it really worth moving a bunch of bins of stuff you never look at?  You are not even serving the memories of those sentimental items by keeping them in bins in the closet, attic, garage.  They are not serving you at all. They are just there. It is literally just clutter.

Pick a couple of things and let go of the rest.

The other point I was going to make is take a picture of it.  It can help you let go of the actual thing. When my youngest Emmett grows out of  something that all of the boys wore (like a handed down jacket or something) it’s really especially hard for me to get rid of it.  What I will do is put it on him one last time.  If it is too small and doesn’t fit, I will take a picture of him next to his brothers or something.

I will upload it to Google drive, save it forever, and get rid of the jacket. I have even taken pictures of the actual item sitting on the ground.  It doesn’t really have to be perfect. Sometimes capturing it forever can help you let go of it.

#2  Kids toys.  Let me first say that you should not be decluttering your kids toys without them unless they are super young, under age 3, in my opinion.  Once they reach age 4, have them join you, even if it makes it more difficult and you move a lot slower through the toys. Because they can feel really violated and mistrust you. That’s not really what we want.

Whether you have little kids and you’re decluttering for them or you have older kids and you are decluttering with them, toys can be a tough area to tackle.  An area that is full of guilt and insecurity when you are making decisions. We have this belief that our toys are what keeps our kids entertained. If we take them away, what will they do all day? Aren’t they going to drive me crazy? Trust me, give it a week or so.  They won’t.

Kids are naturals at play, imagination, exploring and creating. Once you get rid of all of the distracting junk that was in their way, their imaginations “wake up” and thrive. Every single one of my students and past clients have seen this amazing change in their kids when they finally jump in an purge their toys. It is so worth it.

You have to let go of the thought that “toys are expensive”.  The “I (or somebody) spent money on this” thought.   You have to let go of that. You are not wasting money when you let go of things.  Money was wasted when it was spent on something that isn’t a good fit. It’s not really serving your kids or your family.

Start by going into their toy room, with your kids if they are old enough.  Have them pick out 10 things that they don’t play with anymore. Explain that there are so many kids that don’t have any money or any toys and they would love it if they shared with them. Make it a really happy, exciting thing so they don’t feel like they are getting punished.

This can teach them empathy and give them some solid reasoning behind letting go of their stuff. Bag up the donations together and go to the donation center together with your kids. You can do this as regularly as you like.  I will probably do another episode about kids and minimalism because there is just so much more to say, but make it as happy and involved as you can.  It’s okay to go slow here if it is because of your kids.

If your kids need more time, if they are having a hard time letting go of things, go through the rest of your house. Show them an example of what letting go and minimalism looks like and let them follow in their own time.

I had to do this with my daughter. We began decluttering when she was just 3. She was our oldest so it was way easier. As things evolved and she grew (5 or 6) she started to get more attached to things.

She had a lot of stuffed animals that were given to her. Her room was pretty cluttered and that was okay.  She was in charge of keeping it picked up. That was her chore.  It wasn’t like it was taking up all of my time.  But we were minimalists. She eventually grew out of that stage. It is a normal thing when kids are 5 or 6, to get attached to inanimate objects.  It’s a part of normal development.

She grew out of that stage. Our house was just full of this idea of less. It wasn’t cluttered. We didn’t keep things. She saw us going to the donation center to get rid of things on a regular basis. Just keeping things cleared out.  She saw me clearing out the hallway closet downstairs on a regular basis, getting rid of things in my closet. If you raise your kids in that, they will follow that.

#3. Your wardrobe.  I think letting go of your clothes is really hard when you are a mom. Your body has changed so much. You have bought clothes throughout your different seasons of motherhood and body shapes.  You can really easily, and understandably, not want to get rid of something that you might end up needing.

What looks fantastic on you right now?  Keep it.  Everything else should probably go in the donation pile. Why?  Because you are you right now, and you are trying to let go of excess.  Walking into your closet and having a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fit, used to fit, or that you want to fit you someday, is not serving you at all.  It is actually subconsciously making you really unhappy every time you go to get dressed. This, in turn, is making you unhappy with yourself.

What doesn’t look fantastic on you right now?  Get rid of it. Just do it. It’s not a waste of money. Those clothes served you at one point in time and now they are not. If you bought it, it didn’t fit, and didn’t serve you, that was the wasted money. Not letting go of it and accepting who you are. How you are right now, the shape you are in, the way you look, that is you right now.

And your body has done some amazing things for you. I would really encourage you to listen to episode 2 of this podcast.  Go and listen to that.  I would really would encourage you to do that. Just accept and be grateful for your body.

There is nothing wrong with making improvements and changes. Trust me. Last year I did that. I lost a lot of weight because I was unhappy.  I didn’t feel good.  No matter what shape you are or how over/underweight you are, there are things that can look fantastic on you right now. You need to keep those things and get rid of everything else. Right now.

If you are doing that, and you are thinking that you’re not going to have anything left, that’s not okay.  You don’t deserve that. You deserve so much more than that.  Keep what looks amazing on you right now.  Put it in the donation pile. Slowly but surely build up a wardrobe that makes you feel great. Because that’s what you deserve.

If it is stained or damaged , put it in the trash pile. Even the donation center won’t take that.  Places like Madewell or H&M will take your old clothing, I believe even if it is stained or damaged, because they use the fabric. They recycle it.  That’s another great thing to do with stained or damaged clothing.

What looks great on you but isn’t in season?  Keep it but only if you are truly going to wear it when that season comes again.

A quick note about if you are planning to get pregnant again and maternity clothes. Hold onto them.  If you loved it, it looked great on you the first time, you are looking forward to wearing it again, and you are confident that you are going to get pregnant again, go ahead and keep it. We are not looking to purposely throw things out and waste money deliberately if you know you will use it again.

#4 Your husband’s stuff.  This is going to take about two seconds to address this because I am going to give you some harsh truth.  Super easy short cut regarding decluttering your husband’s stuff. Leave it alone. Leave him alone.

If you start purging his stuff while he is at work, he is going to resent you for it and hate minimalism forever. Let him be himself. Leave his stuff alone if he hasn’t given you permission to declutter for him.  Stick to your stuff.

Maybe he will come around later. That’s probably the top question I get is, “How do I get my husband on board with this?”  You don’t. He is his own separate person.  With your husband, your in-laws, your parents, your friends, the people who come to your kid’s birthday parties, the same rules applies. You can’t be so self-centered and narcissistic that you would expect everyone in your life to jump on the same page as you. Or get excited about something that you are excited about right now.

If you are on the minimalism train, I think that’s great. That’s so amazing. All it takes is one person in the house to be like that for there to be some really significant changes made.  But you can’t expect everyone in your life to get on the same page as you and be all amped up about the same things as you.  That includes the man that you share your house with.

In the beginning when I started figuring out that letting go of my stuff was really helping me and giving me my motherhood back, I was so excited. But Brian was really petrified.  He definitely had some hoarding tendencies and he did not want to get rid of anything. It started to drive a wedge in our marriage.  I realized that’s not worth it.

We compromised. You can have the entire garage. It can be a freaking mess. You do you. And you can also have our master bedroom closet. You can put all of your stuff in those two places. I don’t care what they look like. I won’t touch your stuff.  But the areas of the home that are affecting me, my day, and my role as a stay-at-home-mom, I need to find freedom there. He was cool with that.

That’s what we did for about two years. Honestly, I could have gone the rest of my life being my minimalist self, running my house this way, and having that compromise with my husband and have been completely happy. He happened to end up coming around and realizing how much freedom I was experiencing a couple of years in. That’s great. But if he hadn’t, it would have been fine.

Find that sweet spot for yourself and let your husband be. Leave his stuff alone. I am never going to tell you to get rid of your husband’s stuff when he isn’t there. Even if you think it is trash, or the t-shirts are ripped, and you think they are stupid and he should throw them away.  

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Has this episode has been really speaking to you and gotten you all inspired?  Do you realize that you need to declutter and make this happen in your own home? I would encourage you to download The Minimalism Starter Kit. It is free.  It’s basically a workbook that will help you work through your “why” behind decluttering and help you get started in the biggest time-sucking areas of your house like the laundry and the dishes.

It will help you take a deep-dive and get underneath of what the problem is.  Why do you have clutter?  Why are you not decluttering? How is this holding you back?  And then tactically and practically speaking, what can you do about it?

Visit alliecasazza.com/shownotes/19 and get that for free.  It is an awesome free download. It’s really helpful. It is my most popular download. People love it and it is super helpful. Get your hands on that.

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#5  Paperwork.  Your mail collector box by the front door is overflowing.  Your junk drawer is full of paper.  Your office is just littered with paperwork.  Maybe it’s not too bad but you definitely need to work through some stuff.  Whatever the situation is, go through your house with an empty box or laundry hamper, and collect all the stray paperwork that you can find.  All of it.

From the office, the junk drawer, your room, every room in the house, all of the paperwork in one big, empty bin.  Set aside some time. Pour a cup of coffee or glass of wine.  Turn on Netflix. Just sit and sort through it all.  Make decisions right now about every piece of paper that you pick up. Don’t allow yourself to start a “not sure” pile, or a “I’ll deal with this later” pile.

If it’s something that your husband needs to take a look at and he is not there, put it aside for him.  But I would encourage you to drag him into this process right now and don’t find a reason or excuse to put it aside for later.  Keep only what you need to keep.  What’s detrimental and cannot be thrown out.

There are very few documents that you actually need the original copy of.  Your social security card. Your marriage certificate. Birth certificates.  Keep those things and have a file for those somewhere.

If there are papers that you need to deal with, make a pile for that.  Then take it a step further and block some time on your calendar where you are going to go and deal with all of those papers.  When are going to sit down and contact the insurance company?  When are you going to pay the bill?  Sign yourself up for paperless billing and then set a reminder in your phone to pay that bill.  Get yourself organized. Set aside time. Sit down. Push through it. It’s one night of your life. you’ll be fine.  Make it happen. Make decisions.

It’s okay to make piles, but don’t just make a bunch of random piles that could have been eliminated if you had just made decisions.  Make decisions and intentional piles. Shred anything with private information.  Take a picture of what you feel better having a copy of but don’t really need to keep the original.

There’s an app called ScanIt and it stores the document in a file size.  If you needed it printed out again, it would print it out like a regular size paper.  Sync it to Google Drive.  Find an encrypted online storage service and organize your stuff in folders on the cloud instead of keeping actual folders unless you absolutely have to keep it.

We did it!  5 Essential Areas to Declutter!

I hope this was inspiring and helpful to you.  I hope I have simplified the overwhelm that we put on ourselves in this area of our lives. I encourage you to go to the show notes for this episode.  There is a lot of good stuff over there including a blog post that goes deeper into sentimental items., and a podcast episode that I did earlier about not having a capsule wardrobe.

There’s another episode about loving your body and coming at it from a grateful place and treating it that way.  If you were struggling with the “your wardrobe” section, I really encourage you to go listen to that episode.

That’s it for today!  Thank you for listening!

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This was an episode of The Purpose Show.  Thank you so much for tuning in.  If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, head to alliecasazza.com for free downloads, courses, classes and to learn more about what the next step might look like for you.  I am always rooting for you. See ya next time!

Allie Casazza

Allie Casazza , Murrieta, CA