How to Tell if You're Having a Toxic Relationship with Your Stuff

Have you ever been dumped and then kept something that your ex gave you? Like the mixed tape they made for you that now makes you cry every time you hear it and feel like you'll be alone forever? Keeping items that make you cry miserably mean you aren't currently having a healthy relationship with your stuff. In fact, it's probably a part of the reason you're still're literally holding on to your last relationship and until you let go, there's no room for anyone else.


Most of us don't realize the role our belongings have in our mental health and many of us are too busy to notice. However, if you knew that getting rid of items that invoke negative emotions could have positive affects on your overall life, health and attitude, wouldn't you want to know how? I've chosen the most common negative emotions our clutter can cause us to feel, along with common scenarios that most of us have experienced at least once in our lives. I then followed up with a series of questions designed to get you to start noticing how you actually feel when any of these scenarios play themselves out in real life. The more you realize the affect these emotions have on you, the more likely it is you'll want to experience positive changes in your life and will take the steps to implement them.


Cluttered Closet


Scenario: You walk through your door at the end of a long work day and you'd really like to relax except the coat closet is so crammed with stuff that you spend 5 minutes looking for an available hanger and then another 2 minutes trying to find enough space to cram that coat into the closet. Half the time it falls and ends up on the floor forcing you to spend another 5 minutes on the way out in the morning trying to relocate that same now dusty coat. You also tend to fall over the myriad shoes lying haphazardly on the floor and the piles of mail now make you feel like you life at the post office rather than your own home.


Feelings: Do you feel immediate pressure on your chest or somewhere else in your body when you envision this? Can you take a deep breath? Can you imagine just wanting to come home and relax and does this feel possible in this environment? Does this feel chaotic to you? As if you can't ever catch up to whatever or wherever you'd like to be in life? Do you feel happy? Does this process/system seem simple? Does it feel quick or easy to you to grab a hanger and hang up a coat in an overstuffed closet? Do you feel empowered or in control? Does this make you feel energized?




    Scenario: You have an important meeting starting in less than an hour and it takes at least 40 minutes in good traffic to get there. You're all ready to leave when you realize you can't find your keys. You put them down just a few moments ago and now you can't find them. You spend another 20 minutes searching for your keys and finally find them under a pile of papers and rush out the door hoping to get to your meeting in time.


    Feelings: Do you feel angry at the situation? Kind of stupid that you can't find your keys? Annoyed with yourself for being disorganized? A little frightened that you're running late for something important for such a silly reason? Do you feel like you can take deep breaths while you're panicking? What about clear thoughts, are those happening when you're panicking? Perhaps you're feeling out of control of your own life? Do you feel that even though you've got a good job, you're somehow lacking because you can't do something as simple as find your keys in a short amount of time?


      Shame over Clutter


      Scenario: A new friend decides to stop by unannounced to drop off a gift to you. Your home is filled with clutter and it's been awhile since you've been able to do a deep cleaning...mostly due to the clutter and feeling you're lacking in time. They insist upon coming in to watch you open the gift.


      Feelings: Do you feel embarrassed by the mess? Are you excited to have the friend show up or are you wishing they would leave so they don't see any more of the mess? Do you think your friend will judge you? Somehow think less of you? Do you feel less worthy letting others see how you are currently living? Do you think keeping your home this way makes you less valuable? Do you feel like you should be doing more but you don't? Do you feel lazy because you're not taking action? Do you feel proud of how you're keeping your home?


        Often guilt makes us feel a whole range of emotions - especially if we haven't resolved our issues yet.

        Often guilt makes us feel a whole range of emotions - especially if we haven't resolved our issues yet.


        Scenario: Your father's old golf clubs sit in the corner attracting both dust and random items that are now hanging from and covering said golf clubs. In fact, it's now so covered with stuff that you can barely even see it's there anymore. You don't golf and you had a difficult relationship with your father but loved him so while you will never use the clubs you feel as though you should keep them as a memorial to him.


        Feelings: Does covering up the golf clubs make you feel better than seeing them outright would? Do you feel stuck feeling as though you “should” keep them even though deep down inside you'd love to be free of them? Do they feel more like shackles than a memorial to him? Does looking at them make you think of the good times you had with him? Or do more unpleasant memories come up when you think of him?


          Fear often gets us stuck and unable to move. The more we keep decluttering simple, the easier it is to move through the fear and into the good.

          Fear often gets us stuck and unable to move. The more we keep decluttering simple, the easier it is to move through the fear and into the good.


          Scenario: You'd like to sort through your closet and get it organized but you seem to sway back and forth between starting the process but never finishing or just not doing it at all. The closet is disorganized and filled with too many clothes, most of which you don't wear and you struggle to locate the items you really do enjoy wearing.


          Feelings: What is wrong with me? Why can't I get organized? What if I end up with no clothes? What if I need something right after I donate it? What if I can't find the same type of outfit again? What if it comes back in style again? What if it ends up being worth something someday? What if I lose the weight? What if I gain the weight? What if even though it doesn't fit right, I'll somehow be able to have it look right someday? What if the person who gave it to me gets mad that I got rid of it? What if I can find a way to finally get that stain out but I won't know because I donated it?


            The reason I want everyone to be in touch with their feelings is because this is how you create the change you desire. If even one of those above “feelings scenarios” rang true for you, wouldn't you want to find a way to prevent yourself from feeling that way again? What if something as simple as creating a new system could be that solution for you? How would that make you feel? Envision yourself coming home and having 1 spot for your keys. You drop the keys off and go about your home life. Now imagine yourself getting ready to leave the next day and everything is the same as it always is, except this time you know you can go back to that designated key spot and find your keys immediately. Imagine grabbing those keys and walking out the door...on time and without feeling frustrated and distracted.


            Now think about how you not leaving your house frustrated would affect your entire day. Change doesn't have to happen all at once. Organizing is a process, it's about making small, self love changes in your life for the rest of your life. You will always have new choices, new clothing and new distractions but when you make small, self love decisions, they begin to become manageable and even enjoyable.


            Whether you choose to make the decision to declutter on your own, ask a friend to help or hire a decluttering expert, make sure to surround yourself with those who can truly support your efforts with love, guidance and the freedom to make your own choices.