Home Forums Unclutter Your Life in One Week Your story De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

This topic contains 35 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  DeclutterMe 6 years ago.

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  • #160171

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    I need help. I have tons of clothes that I’ve accumulated over the years that have taken over my life! I get emotional anxiety every time I go through them. I got so frustrated a few months ago, that I had to have a few drinks just to get rid of 4 bags of clothing. At that point, I was so mad that I just started throwing things into bags just to create extra space in my home. I must admit I felt less pressure to hang onto old clothes because I had had a drink or two. But generally, when I’m sorting through each piece, I think to myself that I might need to wear it soon. This is where I get stuck and end up throwing things back into the closet. It makes me sad and slightly depressed when I think about how cluttered all of my closets are. Any suggestions?

  • #224815

    bandicoot
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    i think the best place to start is calmly.
    first, be kind to yourself. the idea here is to create space and air and light and a workable wardrobe.
    the goal isn’t to beat yourself up.
    it is ok to start by simply thinking about where you are and where you’d like to be.
    calmly and quietly, with no judgement.
    it isn’t a race or a competition….you are just thinking about how you’d like things to be.
    you can take days, hours, weeks. it’s ok.

    now, everyone’s methods will vary, but my next step would be to tip absolutely everything out of my closet and then identify the items that i like, that i wear, that flatter me, and that i have worn recently….in the last year.
    wash them, mend them, arrange them in your closet.
    enjoy how orderly and nice everything looks. really enjoy it.

    now, the next step is to get rid of everything else.
    you could dump the whole lot.
    or you could filter out the reusables and donate them (someone will be grateful) and dump/recycle anything that is too far gone for service.

    it sounds as though some of your anxiety stems from what i call the poverty place.
    it is a place in most of us where we freak out and think that if we get rid of something, we will never ever be able to get another one ever again.
    we need to consciously relax into the idea that the universe is limitless in it’s abundance and pretty much everything can be had pretty much right away.
    take a look at some garage sales and ebay and craigslist to see just how much stuff can be had for next to nothing.
    and take a deep breath and let your stuff go to be somewhere else, secure in the knowledge that if you ever should have a burning need for any one of those items, you will be able to get something almost exactly the same.

    also check out project 33.
    hundreds of people getting by very stylishly and stress-free with just 33 closet items per season.
    it may inspire you.

  • #224824

    Alice11
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    If it is too overwhelming to go through multiple things at once, even with bandicoot’s wonderful advice, it is totally OK to do one item at a time. If one item every week is the right pace for you, that’s fine.

  • #224825

    arthelemis
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Maybe a good thing for you would be to empty out your wardrobe, and only put back your most favorite items, those that you absolutely love and flatter you the most, and put everything else in boxes. Then sealed those boxes and put a date on them, maybe 6 month from now. But those boxes in storage, in a place where you don’t see them everyday, but that still somewhat accessible if you absolutely need a particular item. Write this date on your calendar, set up a remainder on your cellphone or whatever work for you. Then, on this date, take those boxes, don’t open them and get them out of your house. Don’t peek inside! If you didn’t need anything in 6 month, there is a good chance you won’t even remember what is stored inside. If this is the case, then you don’t really need them. I guess this could help you deal with your anxiety about keeping clothes just in case you maybe will need them one day.

    And don’t forget to take into account any seasonal change that may occur in your part of the world ! So maybe put all out-of-season items in another box that is clearly identified as summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you live), and redo the process during your seasonal clothes change (if you live in a place that require such a thing)

  • #224826

    luxcat
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    excellent advice above.

    I would add one tip that I tried with success. I had many things in my closet which I never wore, but always held onto for “someday” or “just in case”. About two months ago I took all that out and put it in a box in another area, with the date written on it. I figured if I went back to that box to take something out to wear, I should keep that item, and whatever I didn’t go back for in six months I should donate. So far I have not taken a single item out of that box. I suspect it will all go to donation soon. I love the way my closet looks now. I can get to everything I need and it looks great and is easy to wash and care for.

    Keep only what you really like, what fits *right now* (unless you are pregnant or just had a baby) and what flatters you and makes you feel good. Mend what needs mending if needed or get it dry cleaned or whatever.

    You may even find, as I did, that once you get rid of all the stuff you never wear and don’t really like anymore or doesn’t fit you or you regret buying but are keeping “because it was expensive” that you will be left with very few favorite clothes and-gasp- may even need to purchase a few basic items. I had to replace one pair of worn out black work pants and add three long sleeve cotton t-shirts for winter. I also bought four pairs of very cheap but fun earrings to help dress stuff up. Using the amazing amount of info online, I can dress up 1/4 the amount of clothes that I had before to look like 50 different new outfits. Playing with existing accessories and making up outfits out of the clothes I have now is actually quite fun.

    inspiration: http://smallnotebook.org/2011/10/17/the-shopping-guide-comfortably-dressy-style/ and http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.com/ and http://smallnotebook.org/2011/04/05/how-to-manage-your-wardrobe-with-common-sense/

    also if you go to the main page here you can do a search by topic, closets and wardrobes seem to be a very popular topic here on the forums.

  • #224827

    luxcat
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    hysterical… hybrik and I must share a brain.

  • #224842

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @ bandicoot, excellent advice! I have been beating myself up and that was just added pressure. I am going to focus on taking my time as I sort through each item in my closet. I guess a lot of my frustration is what I think in my head. I should probably think more positively. I’m a work in progress :). I made up my mind that tomorrow I will pull out items that are hanging in my closet. Then I will lay them out and put things back I know that I wear frequently. Everything else can be donated. I never thought about the fact that almost any item I get rid of can be purchased again. That gives me lots of peace and seems to decrease anxiety as I think about the next time I’m sorting through items in my closets.

    @klutzgrrl, placing items in groups sounds like a good way to stay organized while sorting through clothing items. I would love to be able to choose my favorites from each pile. For years, my problem had been that everything had become my favorite…lol! I am going to try and classify clothing items and then getting rid of the things that I’ve never worn, or the things that I haven’t worn in years. But, organizing the items in groups is also a very great tip!!!

    @Alice11, I was sitting here the other day thinking “how did I allow my closets to get to this point?” It’s because I was bringing in more items than I could take out. I read somewhere that for each piece of clothing you bring in, you should also get rid of something. Somehow I didn’t get that memo until it was too late ^_^ I will start small & try to do one closet at a time…piece by piece. This too, should also help to decrease my anxiety.

    @hybrik, the one thing that I can do with no problem is store away all of my clothing items by season. I realize now that I’ve been storing away too many unnecessary items and they just keep coming back every season! When I look in my closets, I see that at least half of the things there haven’t been worn in OVER six months. So I may be able to skip the 6 month storage box altogether, although it’s a wonderful idea. If there are a few items I just absolutely cannot let go, I will place those items in the storage box & apply the six month rule. I am going to start on this closet-cleaning project this weekend.

    @luxcat, your suggestions kind of remind me of the minimalist lifestyle. I was reading over this blog by the Minimalist Beauty and was inspired by that way of life. So when you mentioned that mixing & matching to create 50 different outfits helps you, I was also inspired. I think this will ease my mind as I get rid of unworn outfits. I really need to just keep the essentials and then mix and match them with accessories. Thanks for the link!

    Thanks to everyone who shared something to try and help me get out of this dark place in my mind (in regards to hoarding my clothes). I will try and combine everything I’ve learned here to get started on my closets this weekend!

  • #224843

    ninakk
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Nice comments so far!

    Hmmm. This is very interesting and I’m curious. I would actually like to know a bit more about what goes through your mind when the anxiety begins to build. Would you be comfortable sharing what the thought process is; what do you do first (in what type of mood are you and what time of day/week do you open your closet), what do you tell yourself (what tasks are you asking from yourself once the closet door is open) and what do you feel that makes anxiety grow?

    I think it would be a better place to begin your journey from understanding exactly what you are up against, because that way you will be able to talk yourself through decluttering rationally, work on the emotional part of it slowly enough for you to have no regrets once you set free whatever you think rationally should go.

  • #224846

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @ninakk, I am a recovering shopaholic. I don’t buy things anymore as punishment to myself for letting my closets get so out of hand. Plus, I don’t have room to house any additional clothes. I bought a lot of sale and clearance items over the years.

    Every time I’ve attempted to purge, I usually throw everything in the middle of the floor in a big pile. I will make 3 piles. One pile for items to keep, another for donating, and the other for undecided. Mostly everything goes back into the “undecided” pile and then I get teary eyed that I cannot part with these items. It’s almost like an emotional addiction to these items, as crazy as it seems. I get that ghost feeling that haunts me that I will need these items and won’t have them…yet I never wear them. I know it sounds ridiculous but it makes sense in my head. So then I get frustrated with myself for being so attached and end up throwing everything back in the closet, often in tears. This is why I have closet clutter. It has stressed me out for years and I often get anxiety just at the thought of tackling them, so I don’t. So that’s my whole thought process in a nutshell.

    I have made up my mind that I am fed up and will conquer the items in my closet this weekend!

  • #224849

    irishbell
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    dm- could you go into your closet just once a day and pick only ONE thing to be rid of?
    Or one time every other day? Don’t force yourself to do it all at once, as has been said- that is a
    recipe for disaster. Pick one thing, really think about it- wh you bought it, how it made you feel
    when you bought it, have you worn it, how does it make you feel when you look at it now???
    Maybe doing just one thing a day will be the way you could start. Just give it a try.

  • #224850

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Hi, welcome!

    There is MUCH wonderful advice already posted and many good questions already asked.

    I recognize the desire to get rid of what you perceive to be the problem as fast as you can. The above advice is to help you figure out the root of the problem so it doesn’t happen again. This way, you can gain control over the situation rather than continue with the anxiety.

    How do you feel about the 4 bags of clothing that you got rid of in the original post? Do you miss those pieces of clothing? Do you still go to clothing sales? Do you have other plans for what to put into the closets that you empty of clothing?

    What is it that you enjoy about having such a lot of clothes to choose from? Do they all fit you? (I have an annoying habit of only going clothes shopping when I’m slightly underweight.) Do all the colors suit you? Do you enjoy getting dressed up?

    I’m also assessing my wardrobe at the moment. I’m reading two library books at the moment to help me figure out what my best choices are regarding colors, styles, cuts of clothing, how to do that whole mix and match thingie…

    I hope that you are able to make progress today. I know the feeling of just wanting it all GONE.

  • #224852

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    So good to hear that someone else struggles with anxiety related to uncluttering. It is also good to “see” some old familiar names from when I was here a year ago. I feel like an alcoholic who has been in relapse all year and today is my first meeting. My name is Wendy and I am a chronic disorganized person, borderline hoarder.
    I am struggling with anxiety also about the enormity of the problem, and also the things themselves bring up strong emotions and memories.
    What I am finding helps me the most (this is day 3) is self-soothing before during and after with things that make me happy and calm. A good meal before, a cup of tea or coffee during with my favorite relaxing music, and a reward for completing a pile or making it until the timer goes off. Setting a timer helps me by giving me “permission” to take breaks.
    Thanks for sharing and hope you keep coming back.

  • #224853

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Hi Wendy 🙂 Yes, music, timer, nutritious food – it all helps. I have relied on checking in at the forum to update my progress as a big motivator too as there is so much support here.

    Decluttering the triggery stuff is definitely a challenging journey.

  • #224856

    bandicoot
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    hi wendy….i wondered where you had gone.
    it is good to see you here.

    declutterme, you mention punishment.
    this is exactly the sort of pressure and non-kindness-to-self that i am talking about.
    deciding not to buy any new clothes while you have stuffed closets, isn’t really a punishment….it is actually you doing yourself a favour. today-you is looking out for tomorrow-you. today-you is saving tomorrow-you some money and space and having to make hard decisions.
    there is no gain to be had in beating yourself up.

  • #224885

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Hello everyone, so far I’ve pulled out 20 items from my closet and posted them on Ebay for sale. I went ahead and folded them and placed them in storage boxes which are tucked away until they are purchased by someone else. At least I don’t have to look at them now…out of sight, out of mind (in this case).

    I do have somewhat of a feeling of relief deciding to let go of those items. I feel like I just lost 10 lbs of stress. I’m going to go back in the same closet tomorrow and re-assess the remaining items. I love this blog that I found called “Zen Habits.” I was reading a paragraph in the blog post titled “Love Life, Not Stuff.” Here is what he says…

    Disconnect your attachment to stuff. Sometimes I find myself reluctant to give something up, even if I don’t really use it. And that’s when I ask myself, “Why?” What is holding me back from getting rid of this possession? Sometimes, the item has an emotional connection, but then I realize that it’s just an object, it’s not the emotion or the actual source of the emotion. Then I’ll take a picture of the item, upload it to my computer, and get rid of the object. I feel liberated, because I’ve broken an attachment to a physical object (but saved the memory). If you are attached to an object, figure out why — it’s not healthy in the long run.

    I have been reading the above paragraph over and over again throughout the day.
    Also, everyone here has been very helpful and has given me some great tips & support.

  • #224886

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    BRB…I will address the others who posted when I return ^_^

  • #224889

    Ella
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    DeclutterMe: I agree, Zen Habits is a great blog for guiding us through releasing old attachments. Another favorite blogger who deals more with the emotional aspects is Brooks Palmer. I did a search of his blog for entries specifically about the anxiety and other emotions of decluttering clothes.

    Here’s the best of the best:
    http://brooks-palmer.blogspot.com/search?q=clothes

    ETA/ I am a fully recovered shopaholic, but nowadays I follow Brooks’ compassionate advice to help declutter the lingering residue (both clothes and emotions) from my former years of insane shopping sprees. I used to binge-shop in a trance, coming home with bags of clothes and shoes that I would drop inside the front door or shove in the closet, and wouldn’t look at again for days or even weeks. And meanwhile more new shopping bags would pile up. Whew, scary!

    Anyway… read Brooks Palmer for some powerfully healing words.

  • #224890

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @irishbell, I could try to remove one clothing item a day. However, it depends on my state of mind that day. Sometimes when I’m frustrated, I just want it all gone. Then I think to myself that I would be wearing the same outfit everyday, until one member advised me to mix and match. On days when feel I can’t let go, I will just give myself permission that it’s okay to remove 1 item. Very good suggestion.

    @lifekeepshappening, I feel great about getting rid of those 4 bags of clothing. In fact, I don’t even remember what I gave away but whatever they were…they r not missed! I do NOT shop for clothes anymore, as I have way too many to deal with as it is. I wouldn’t have any room to house any new clothing items. This has also helped me to deal with impulsive shopping because now if I see an article of clothing I really want, I will NOT buy it because I don’t have room for it. Therefore, I feel like I don’t need it. Clutter is changing the way I think about things. Once I completely break this fear of letting go my clothes, I never want to get back to that place again. Maybe that whole thought will keep me in line and clutter-free. I plan to add storage shelves in my closets once I de-clutter so I can truly feel peace when I walk in and see an organized closet with only items I need.

    @WendyTheWindbag, I did open my iTunes library today and decided to play some music as I went through the items in my closet. It seemed to make things go by quicker and easier. I never thought to try a timer, but now that you mentioned it, I will add it to my list of great ideas that I’ve learned here. I just need to go out and get one.

    @bandicoot, I guess I am actually doing myself a favor by not purchasing anymore clothes. It’s actually a blessing in disguise…even though I’m in the process of de-cluttering.

  • #224891

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @Ella, hello and thank you for sharing the link. I am going to check it out right now!!!!!!

  • #224892

    xhan
    Participant

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @DeclutterMe When I first started going through my wardrobe I was the same. I kept thinking ooo I’lll wear this next week, then I did and as soon as I put it on and looked in the mirror I was like ew no wonder I haven’t worn this in ages!

    my general rules

    If it doesn’t fit – or it makes you look fat (no matter how much you love it on the hanger get rid of it)

    If you buy something new something has to go. (atm I’m doing 1 in 2 out) I’m also only buying clothes in a select few colours. Less clothes less colours more styles. 🙂

    Last but not least if I’m undecided I always think of all the success stories and how well people have done clearing out their wardrobes and the wardrobe I’d love to have and I just yell “be ruthless” and chuck it in the pile! It really works.

    Also it seems to me that the actual hard part is getting rid of the clothes. Have you tried asking your partner/family/friends to help by getting them to come round on the saturday evening and then take the clothes to their house ready to take into the charity shop etc for you the next day? I’m guilty of sneaking things back into my wardrobe from the pile after a big tidy, so having my mum take the stuff away for me is really helping.

  • #224906

    Rosa
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    DeclutterMe, I just wanted to say how great it is you’re working through the anxiety. Usually, doing that – making at least some progress every day – will make the anxiety better over time.

    Read the Brooks Palmer links, they’re really wonderful. And know we’re rooting for you!

  • #224907

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @xhan, I think a big part of my problem is that I have strong emotional attachments to my clothing…even on hangers. There is this one beautiful dress that I wore to my grandma’s funeral and every time I look at it…it reminds me of that day. The thought of giving it away brought me to tears. I finally found the strength to donate it a month ago. It was better that way. Looking at it always made me sad because I experienced tremendous loss wearing it.

    Other items are what I call my “procrastination attire.” I would get indecisive just looking at them and then tell myself I will need the outfit soon.

    I ask myself sometimes, why is de-cluttering so hard for me? What some people find to be so simple has been profoundly difficult for me. I also analyzed my childhood and I remember my mom was a packrat. She would keep lots of items and store them throughout the house in bins and closets. Now I’m not saying my problem is her fault but I think that it has something to do with it. So I’m not sure my mom would be the best person to ask to help me de-clutter my closets *smiles*

    The rest of my family lives out of state. I could ask a friend or two to help me but I am so embarrassed. I think I’m going to have to tackle this on my own…well with the support of you lovely people in this forum. And yes, my frustration is leading to me becoming “ruthless” as I let go and conquer these addictions I have to the items in my closets.

  • #224909

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @ Rosa, thank you for your words of encouragement! I read some of the Brooks Palmer posts and I could identify with a lot of his clients. I made progress this weekend in clearing out many things in my closet that I don’t need and just cannot use anymore. I still have 2 more closets to go through and I will try and apply the same principles/suggestions that I’ve learned from this forum. Your support makes me feel like I have another great cheerleader in my corner!!!

  • #224926

    ninakk
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Hi Wendy!

  • #224939

    sleepykitten
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    So much good advice here that I don’t have too much to add!

    The “procrastination attire” you describe is the perfect sort of stuff to use the “six month box” idea with. Or sometimes what I do when I am having a hard time deciding about items that I know in my heart aren’t that important is I play a little “playoff bracket” game. Basically, I grab the first to items that are tough to decide about and I pick my favorite of the two to keep and donate the other. Then I take the next two and pick my favorite of those. I find it easier to get rid of something when I can safely say I have something else I like better. Every time you play that game, you will reduce your “procrastination attire” by half.

    I would generally recommend @bandicoot‘s suggestion on how to approach the project – that’s almost exactly what I did when I joined Project 333. But I am also a fan of games to keep uncluttering fun and stay motivated over the long haul.

  • #225040

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @sleepykitten, you wouldn’t believe how much stuff I got rid of this morning! The “procrastination attire” that I previously mentioned is gone…well most of it! I packed 5 large trash bags of clothing and placed them in my car so I can drop them off at a local thrift shop. I decided it’s time to let go of things that I refuse to wear. Someone else could make better use. Most of the things I got rid of were either too small, too large, or too ugly for me to wear. Most of the things I donated came from clearance racks or sales. A lot of my courage came from the support of the people in this forum. I was really motivated to de-clutter after reading so many helpful tips & ideas. Closet #1 now looks so clean and organized. Now I have 2 more closets to tackle and I’m done. I’m going to try & remain proactive in purging on a regular basis. By the way, thank you for sharing your tip on the playoff bracket game. Very interesting!

  • #225046

    chacha1
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    well done. 🙂

  • #225052

    Alice11
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Great job!

  • #225054

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @chacha1 & Alice11, Thanks!!! 🙂

  • #225056

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Random thought…

    I was just thinking that I wish I was one of those OCD un-cluttering people.

  • #225065

    bandicoot
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    doesn’t it feel great to successfully get rid of a bunch of dead stuff?
    enjoy!

  • #225067

    Ella
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    LOL, DeclutterMe! I’m watching all the old episodes of Monk (free on DVDs from the library), and his OCD is very inspiring. I love his closet!

  • #225074

    luxcat
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    Reading a couple of your posts I had a thought (smell something burning?)…. since you have an emotional/sentimental connection to some of your clothes maybe you could treat it like a sentimental item such as we have discussed elsewhere in this forum and has been blogged about on the main site…. one of the suggestions is to photograph the sentimental item before you get rid of it, thus preserving the idea of it in a smaller space than what the physical object would take

    I have been unable to put this into practice myself, but it’s a thought

  • #225077

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @ bandicoot, yes it feels like a ton of stress has been lifted off of me! I’m about to tackle the next couple closets but the closet I just cleaned out has nothing but clothes that I wear regularly. Also, it’s no longer overcrowded.

    @Ella, I love Monk! I haven’t watched it in a while but he’s sooo funny!

    @luxcat, I was able to take a few snapshots of items for the purpose of selling “some” of them on Ebay. So the images are on my computer for me. The rest of the clothes were bagged and given to a thrift shop 🙂

  • #225105

    luxcat
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    fantastic work!

  • #225163

    DeclutterMe
    Member

    De-cluttering causes tremendous anxiety

    @ataylor, I understand what you mean. “One” of the reasons I have difficulty with de-cluttering is because I’m afraid I will give away too much. I think to myself that I would be repeating the same outfits and to some people that’s not attractive. However, I’m learing more about mixing and matching various pieces of my wardrobe, and also accessorizing <—hope this is spelled right.

    @luxcat, thanks!!!

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