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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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5 Strong Motivating Reasons to Get Rid of Your Clutter

As you might imagine, as a professional organizer, one of the things my clients hire me for is to help them edit the things they have collected and then organize what remains. They often refer to their stuff as clutterBy the time they contact me, they are highly motivated to release the excess (as in they want it gone yesterday.) I’ve noticed that certain motivators make the editing process easier and faster. In recent months, the five motivators described below are the ones I’ve encountered most frequently.

There are a few common threads, which make these motivators especially effective. Each motivator possesses a clear “why.” This clarity makes decision-making easier to determine which things they want or no longer want in their life. Secondly, these five motivators have deadlines, which add a time pressure or incentive to be more decisive and speedy in the decluttering process. Lastly, they all involve a significant change. While there might be some fear involved in change, there can also be excitement and opportunity, which serves as a great driver.


5 Strong Motivators For Releasing Your Clutter 


1. Moving When you’re preparing to move, letting go of the unessential, enables you to start with a clean slate in your next place. Whether you’re downsizing, upsizing, or right sizing, the moving incentive works beautifully for getting you to evaluate your belongings and excess clutter. For example, if you’re moving to a home with 50% less space, you can use that editing formula as a guide and reduce your current possessions by half. Moving, even if to a larger space, still provides a great opportunity to evaluate, edit and decide which things have meaning and which do not.


2. Cycling For those of you that have children leaving for college, in college, or post college, you’re in the midst of this revolving door time. I think of this phenomenon as revolving door empty nesters, where our kids cycle frequently between living home and away. These transitions can be huge motivators for letting go, editing, and decluttering. These periods of time are excellent for encouraging our children to decide what should remain or go from their childhood days. They are transitioning to adulthood and to becoming more independent. It’s also a great time for parents to imagine this new stage. While some parents like to keep their kids’ rooms in tact, others like to renovate or completely change the room’s use. Kids’ rooms might be converted to guest rooms or home offices. 


3. Surprising We’ve seen this more frequently in the last several years; Mother Nature has dealt us some not-so-great weather surprises. We’ve had floods, hurricanes, heavy snows, and high winds. Many of our homes have survived without experiencing loss of power or damage. However, due to the extreme weather, many more have experienced damage to our homes and possessions. As a result, major decluttering was necessary in order to make repairs or because our possessions were not salvageable. Having to face these damages also provided an opening to re-evaluate, which things were most meaningful and which things were not. The weather surprises forced us to declutter.


4. Ending Different than moving, clearing out a home after a loved one has died is another strong motivator to let go of clutter. In fact, it may be a time to let go of more than just clutter. It might involve releasing an entire lifetime of collected things. The pressure to clear out a home increases when you’re trying to sell it quickly. A home no one lives in can easily become a financial drain. So while clearing out a deceased loved ones home is a highly emotional process, decisions about letting go can become clearer in this situation. Giving your loved ones things safe passage is especially important. Safe passage means that you find new homes for those things you let go of that will benefit or be appreciated by the receiver of them.


5. Stabilizing We can experience unanticipated medical or mental health issues that quickly requires the need for a calmer, uncluttered space. Clutter can take on a draining, negative energy, especially if a person has a low clutter tolerance. For example, if an individual has compromised mobility due to a medical condition, combined with excess household clutter, this can potentially cause harm. The motivation to declutter increases rapidly when you consider it in the context of certain medical concerns. Stabilizing a space to create a safe, peaceful environment is a huge motivator.

Have you struggled with letting go of clutter? What motivates you to release those things that are no longer wanted? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation!





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Reader Comments (16)

This is brilliant, Linda. I love the way you separated out these motivating factors. I have personally experienced some of them - thankfully not all. It is also a great help to have an objective person by your side as you go about making decisions regarding the clutter - even when you know that you want to reduce what you have. Being given permission by someone not connected to the stuff can be another powerful motivator.

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Diane- Thank you so much for your enthusiasm. I love the addition you made here about the value of having an "objective person by your side" during the decision-making process. It helps to be able to discuss the reasoning or sticking points out loud about letting go...and having permission to rethink the reasons for holding on. It's one of the aspects with helping others that I really enjoy. It sounds like you do too.

May 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

We downsized from a bungalow to an apartment 14 years ago. Although the apartment is large, losing the basement and no longer needing yard items meant getting rid of a LOT of stuff before the move. Despite that, when we arrived, we identified much more that we really didn't need and that didn't fit well into our new space.

Even though we are now buying less and constantly passing on items we no longer need, I suspect that our next move will reveal a lot more stuff that can be let go.

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Oh, I am loving the way of looking at these motivators. I am working with a client now where the "stabilizing" has been the motivator. A younger client with many health issues. Her Mom is (understandably) at her wit's end trying to keep things afloat, and I have the privilege of coming alongside and moving patiently through the accumulated possessions. I feel the load lightening each day. It is such a gift to be able to be that person who isn't underneath the stress of the situation, and can instead inject some positivity and hope!

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

I love that you included 'surprising' events like the weather. People who have to go through this process are forced to deal with their stuff whether they like it or not. It's a stressful time. They are mourning the loss of their belongings while having to get rid of treasured items. The feeling through this process is complicated and can leave a person with a sense of gratitude or feel the sense of being a victim. The more support they get, the more likely it will be a positive outcome.

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

Loved seeing this very interesting article that Allison sent to me, Linda! I remember you well! Even though I have de-cluttered many times over the years, it never ends! My very best to you and your family!

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDelle Muller

@Janet- Isn't it amazing how much stuff we have? I saw a stat recently shared by Joshua Becker on that according to the LA Times, the average household has 300,000 items. That's A LOT of stuff! In reading your comment, it sounds like you got rid of tons before your move 14 years ago. Yet even so, you still feel like there's more that could go. I know the feeling.

May 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Seana- How very lucky your client is to have you by her side as she's in the "stabilizing" mode...and that you're bringing lightness, positivity, and hope. It takes a team and that family is fortunate to have you on theirs.

May 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sabrina- Unfortunately, we've had more and more "surprising" weather-related events in these past years. And you're right that it can be very stressful with tremendous feelings of loss. But as you pointed out, it can also go the other way. I agree with you that having the right support during stressful times is key to having a more positive outcome.

May 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Mrs. Muller (Delle)- I absolutely remember you! I have such fond memories of spending time at your home when you lived in White Plains. You and the rest of your family were always so kind and welcoming to me. I loved coming over. Allison "found" me recently, and I was so happy to hear from her after all these years.

I understand what you mean about decluttering "many times." That's the funny thing about clutter. It's kind of like laundry. It requires maintenance. There are certain times when we're more likely to do a deep dive and release more of the excess. And then other times we just live life and edit less.

It's great to hear from you. Please send my best to the family.

May 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I was at a professional training today and we talked about the surprise factor re:natural disasters as a prompt to declutter. I love that you thought to include it in your post!

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Soboleski

@Sarah- It sounds like a very interesting training you attended today. And how cool that they discussed the "surprise" factor (as in natural disasters) as a decluttering prompt.

May 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Surprising is the motivator in Houston. Flooding has been the cause of most decluttering here. Those not flooded are declutteribg in the spirit of prevention.

May 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Ellen- Houston has been through a lot. I know that while you weren't personally affected, you were there to support and help many that were. How lucky they are/were to have your expertise, warmth, and help during these especially challenging times.

May 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

A very interesting article, I´m moving next month so this may be a great opportunity
Thanks a lot for your help, advice, and motivation.
Love your blog!

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNatalia

@Natalia- Wishing you all the best with your move. I know that moving can be an especially stressful time. I'm so glad to know that you're finding some helpful articles on the blog. Thank you for your kind words of support and for joining the conversation.

May 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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