Clutter is gaslighting you and here’s how to prevent it

When I think back to before minimalism and how hard it was to get rid of stuff and how hard it was to manage the stuff, I think about why I was keeping it.

  • I was keeping it because I was looking for security in my stuff – 
  • I felt prepared if we were broke because I had extra food. 
  • I felt prepared to care for my kids because I had clothes for them to grow into.
  • I felt prepared to do craft projects with my kids because I had all the supplies.
  • I felt prepared to craft for myself because I had all the supplies.

But I wasn’t prepared for having people over at a moment’s notice.

When I think about all those reasons, I was holding onto stuff – so I could feel secure and ready for anything- the truth is, it made it more challenging to DO those things.

Because the house was such a mess, I didn’t want to do crafts with the kids.

Because there was so much stuff, I never remembered the hand-me-down clothes I had ready for kids to grow into, and I spent money on buying them new clothes.

I thought I was prepared to do all my crafts, but I spent more money on craft supplies then and used them less.

Instead of helping me feel secure and at ease, I always felt like I needed more as if I didn’t have enough.

Things clutter “said” to me:

“You need me.”

“You would miss me.”

“You can’t live without me.”

“It would be wasting money to declutter me.”

“You will always live with lack if you get rid of me.”

“I am helpful to you.”

“It will hurt my feelings if you declutter me.”

“I have only ever wanted what was best for you.”

How do we overcome that?

Well, just like when gaslighting comes in a relationship, we have to determine what is TRUE.

And then, we must decide what is best for us regardless of how we FEEL.

We have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Let’s work through these statements together:

“You need me.”

Is this true? Do I really need the clothes that are size 4 and have been sitting in my closet for the last 15 years? Do I really need an extra can opener? Do I really need the curtains that were hanging in the house when we bought it? Is that true?

“You would miss me.”

Is that true? Would I miss it? Would I think about the cake pan or the extra crockpot? If I got rid of the typewriter, would I mourn the loss?

“You can’t live without me.”

Is that true? If I found myself in need of a pie pan, what would happen? Could I use a differently shaped pan? Could I borrow one? How much would it cost to pick one up at the thrift store? What is the worst thing I could think of happening if I no longer had this item?

“It would be wasting money to declutter me.”

Is that true? Does keeping it actually put money back into my bank account? 

“You will always be in want if you get rid of me.”

Is that true? If I got rid of everything I owned and decided to travel full-time, would I be in “want?”

“I am helpful to you.”

Is that true? Does that extra coffee cup assist you in some way? Does the George Forman grill make your life easier? Do you use and need all 20 pairs of dress shoes in your closet? Do the skis in the garage make your life easier? (If you ski every winter, I can see that they would, but YOU have to ask yourself if they truly do help, or if they get in the way or make you feel bad for not using them.

“It will hurt my feelings if you declutter me.”

Is that true? Do inanimate objects feel? Do they get to tell me what I do with my time or how I live my life? Are they in control of me?

“I have only ever wanted what was best for you.”

Is that true? Does our stuff care about us? And what is best for us anyway? Is it best to have so many things that we are overwhelmed with? Or is it best to reduce our things so we can breathe easier and feel good about our home?

It helps us put things in perspective if we ask if things are true.

But, as I said, it doesn’t mean the doubt disappears.

After we work through it, we may still feel afraid to get rid of things.

And that’s when we have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

We may know what is best for ourselves, and we know what we need to do. But it is still hard to take that step, to put the item in the donation bin and walk away from it.

But, take courage! The more you do it, the easier it will be and the lighter you will feel.

Just like removing ourselves from a relationship with a manipulative person, the longer we are away from it, the more we relax and feel free.

Other articles that will help you:

Just like when gaslighting comes in a relationship, we have to determine what is TRUE.
And then, we must decide what is best for us regardless of how we FEEL.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube

2 Comments

  1. KB on 05/04/2023 at 5:26 pm

    Majority of my clutter is from my parents/brothers momentous after they passed. I need help in being objective of clearing out most of it.

    No doubt other issues. I believe my attachment is unrealistic overall.

    Precious memories are heart felt, yet …

    Sure appreciate your help.

  2. SLY on 01/18/2024 at 12:56 pm

    I kind of love how I think you meant to type momentos (things that bring up memories), but something made your finger slip and made you type momentous (huge)… I bet it does feel really huge, and I also bet you can do it.

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