You've made a decision to start decluttering. You've set your goal, identified a timeframe in which you'd like it completed, even bought a bunch of fancy storage containers and a labelling machine to make it look great when you're done. Perfect.
But- you've been here before haven't you? You have started the decluttering process on other occasions but always seem to get off track, distracted by that trip down memory lane. You've run out of time or ended the day in a worse mess than when you started and hastily decided to throw it all back in the cupboards and deal with it later. So why will this time be any different?
Because this time you will find yourself someone to help you declutter. Maybe a friend, maybe a family member, maybe a professional- here are my top 5 reasons why you need someone to help you to declutter successfully.
1. They don't have the same personal attachment, ties & sentimentality
Your decluttering companion will remind you that you should let go of things which fall outside the key categories of need, use or love. They don't have the same attachment to the scarf you were wearing when you had your first kiss or the egg beaters that once belonged to your Nan. Having another person that can look at your items objectively, free of any attachment can really help to provide clarity about what should be kept and what is needlessly cluttering your home under the guise of sentimentality.
2. They won’t accept your flimsy justifications for keeping things
If your companion is worth her weight then she won't buy into your rubbish excuses for why you need to keep all those things. She'll talk sense into you when you say, "But I might need it one day..." and remind you that you haven't used or worn it in ages. When you suggest that you might lose enough weight to fit into those tiny jeans again or hint that you can't let it go because it was a gift (even though you've never really liked it), she'll remind you of the importance of not weighing yourself down with objects that don't serve you. She'll tell you that you need to stop causing yourself feelings of guilt and disappointment by continuing to hold onto clothes that don't fit. She can ask you the questions that your'e not willing to ask yourself like, "Could someone else get more value from this than you?" and "Would you buy it again if you saw it in a store today?" Sometimes even just hearing yourself offer your excuses out loud makes you realise how absurd they are.
3. Their feelings of guilt, waste, worry and regret aren’t as prominent
Often what can stop us from letting go of our items is the feeling of guilt about the lack of use, the waste of energy in acquisition and storage, the worry about their suitable disposal or the regret at money, space and time spent on something which we no longer need and use. The truth is that holding onto an item will not recoup the money spent and you continue to waste more energy, space, time and guilt on it. Because your decluttering partner doesn't have the same investment in the item they are more likely to have clarity of judgement about what should be let go. They can encourage you to put your feelings of perceived value or guilt aside to make more rational decisions.
4. They will help you commit to starting and keep you focused
Decluttering is one of that activities which is nice to have done but rarely has a time pressure associated with it. Unless you are moving home, decluttering is a job that is easy to put off for when you have more time, which (lets, face it) rarely ever comes. Starting the process is often the greatest barrier and it is far easier to put off starting when it doesn't inconvenience anyone else. Once you have committed another person to assist you, you are more likely to honour that arrangement and get the job done.
Once started it can be really easy to get off track when decluttering on your own. Stumbling upon some old photos, letters from a relative or a school yearbook can send you wandering down memory lane for hours at a time. When you finally come back to the task at hand you have lost interest or motivation, or have just plain run out of time. Having a companion to help you declutter can be like having a personal trainer. They're on your side and want you to succeed at meeting your goal. They will keep you accountable to the job at hand, they'll help you stay focused on the process and usually won't have the same desire to reminisce. After all, these are your memories- not theirs.
5. They make the process more enjoyable and efficient
Often people are more effective at decluttering together. Having someone to talk through the hard decisions with, generate ideas on suitable storage and disposal, or to chat and laugh with throughout the monotony can reduce the burden and bring some joy to the task. In addition, having an extra pair of hands to help sort, reorganise or bag up items all makes the process much quicker.
But BEWARE! Not all people are the right people to help you with your decluttering project. Avoid people that might have a vested interest in having you keep things (like family members wanting you to hold onto Grandma's best china, even though you don't want it) or people that would gain from your letting go (like friends who want all your hand-me-down designer clothes). If someone would like you to conform to their ideals and encourages you to let go of your favourite things or only hold onto the things of yours that they like, that is a red flag. If someone's motivation for assisting you might serve any purpose other than just helping you reduce your burden: steer clear. If in doubt, hire a professional.
Decluttering should be an exercise in freedom not pain - find the right person to help and just like Mary Poppins wisely said:
"In ev'ry job that must be done There is an element of fun You find the fun and snap! The job's a game
And ev'ry task you undertake Becomes a piece of cake A lark! A spree! It's very clear to see that
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down..."