Why Decluttering Life Gets Harder

empty bottles“I’m just so overwhelmed,” she said, and we could see clearly that what she said was true. She hadn’t been smiling as much as usual, and even coming up with the words to describe what was going on in her life seemed to be a chore.

I can’t tell you who she is, because this conversation took place within the sacred boundaries of a private conversation, but I bet you don’t need to know her name to know exactly how she felt.

“There’s just so much going on right now,” she explained.

“Are you taking care of yourself?” one of the other women at the table asked.

“I’m trying,” she said. “I got my nails done, I have an appointment to get a massage, and I’m eating well.”

“Do you practice any sort of daily self care?” I asked.

She was quiet for a moment before shaking her head. “Not really. I probably should.” Her shoulders sagged a little more under the weight of something else that needed to be done.

“Maybe you don’t need to do more,” someone else suggested. “Maybe there’s something you can stop doing. Sometimes feeling better is about what you can take away from your life instead of what else you can do.”

For the first time since she’d started talking, she exhaled completely.

I scribbled a note on the paper in front of me: ***TAKE AWAY***

I spend a lot of time encouraging people to say yes. I tell other women to say yes to new opportunities, to say yes to their secret ambitions. I remind myself that being brave means saying yes to the things that scare me.

As I promote my book and build my speaking resume, I am saying yes to practically every invitation that comes my way – and I’m starting to feel the wear and tear of being busy.

Perhaps that’s why it resonated so much to hear that saying no could make my friend happier.

I know that saying yes tends to mean saying no, too. Saying yes is a choice, and when you choose one thing you simultaneously don’t choose something else. You say yes to dinner with a friend and no to a quiet night home alone. Saying yes to a new job is saying no to the familiarity of the old one.

I don’t want to say no to movie nights with my family or mini-adventures with Jared. But in all my saying yes recently, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

So, I’ve been thinking about what I can take away from my life.

I don’t want to take away writing or speaking, because that lights me up as much as a date night does. I don’t want to take away meeting new people or hanging out with friends. I want to continue to say yes to all of those connections that make my life meaningful.

I have to look more closely to see what can be taken away.

Fortunately, I’ve already spent a lot of time and energy in the past taking stuff away from my life. I’ve taken away bills, obligations, and most of the tangible items I once owned. I’ve taken away the bulk of my wardrobe, and I’ve even let go of a few relationships that weren’t making me happy anymore.

What I’m left with is a life that is mostly full of what I cherish. That’s fantastic, but it also means that it is getting harder and harder to prune in the name of progress. Letting go now almost always means saying goodbye to something I love.  I keep thinking I’ll get to a point where I won’t have anything left to take away, but that’s not how a life of forward motion works.

If I’m going to make room for even more good, I have to get rid of something. For the first time in a while, I’m finding that pretty dang difficult.

What could you take away from your life to be happier?

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  1. jb says:

    that is one brilliant woman. yes, what can I take away? I breathed a sigh of relief when she said it too. having recently moved more than 3,000 miles (coast to coast) there is So Much To Do and I am often reminded to Take Care of Yourself. I get sort of sick of hearing that. a close friend reminded me of one of the (few, in my opinion) blessings of moving – reinventing yourself a bit and choosing intentionally how you are and what you do in your new community and kids school. I am going to work more on being intentional – in both saying yes and no. great post. thank you!

    • Miss Britt says:

      Your friend is talking about one of the biggest reasons we moved from Iowa; I was finding it really difficult to be intentional while living in my home town!

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. gg says:

    This whole post resonates with me. In the last few years I have moved across the country, and as you stated it quickly became crystal clear to me that by making that choice I said no to ALL the choices that made up the very fibers of my life – my friends, a beloved pet (who has since come back to me), my whole extended family, my house, my beloved gardens, a work family I’d been a part of for over 20 years – you name it. Now the very things I felt so bored with are the very things I miss the most. I believe that Source or the Universe or God or whatever you call it will go to great effort to bring home a lesson to us all. I am moving “home” again soon, and I have learned to appreciate very deeply what that means. I took away everything, and I’m going to put back what really matters, and I can see it all very clearly now. Britt – would love to see a post on what “home” means to you now after all you have done and to see others’ comments. I have been making a list myself and find it to be very revealing and healing.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Oh boy, my feelings on home are complicated – and I STILL ask regularly if we’re sure we’re doing the right thing by not raising our kids back in Iowa.

      For me, home is:
      *where Jared and the kids are
      *where I can be myself

      For a long time, I couldn’t be myself back in Iowa. I still can’t fully be myself there because of the limited opportunities available, but it’s a lot easier for me than it used to be, especially at my mom’s house and my best friend’s house.

      • gg says:

        Here’s how granular my list on “home” has become:
        -Every tool of every description that I’ve collected over the course of a lifetime is in the place it has always been. Strange how comforting that is, when suddenly it isn’t.
        -You know the guy’s name at the paint store and he knows how many times you’ve repainted different rooms till you got it right and reminds you what you didn’t like before you buy it again. I’m pretty sure that’s the color on walls here now and I still don’t like it.
        -There’s no question about what you’ll do on holidays. You’ll be with the same people, eating the same food, playing the same games you always have. Once it was boring now you sob for it on the holidays spent without those people.
        -You know the weather patterns. Weather is a lot of “home” to me.

        You get the idea. I add to this list mentally almost daily. Home IS very complicated and is made of many facets. I never realized that before either. This has certainly been an eye-opening experience.

  3. Tim Brownson says:

    My rule of thumb with de-cluttering (except suits as I rarely wear those, but they don’t date and I aint throwing $1,000 suits away when I know I’ll wear them occasionally for speaking gigs) is that if I haven’t worn it, used it, watched it, eaten it or fondled it in 2 years it either goes to Charity or on Craigslist.

    We have a 2 car garage and can actually fit both cars in because it’s almost entirely junk free.

    Every so often I regret this approach, but it’s rare and I always console myself with the fact that somebody else is benefiting.

    If we offer a $50 donation to a charity we don’t broad over it afterward, so why do so for an item that was probably worth less than that?
    Tim Brownson’s most recent post: 10 Ways Modern Technology Can Make You Thoroughly Miserable

  4. Megan says:

    What about choosing quality over quantity? Maybe not saying goodbye to something entirely, but saying no to the sheer volume of something (or some things) to find a better balance?

    I’m trying to allow things to settle right now so I can take stock. It’s been hard, because it’s been one unexpected event after another around here.
    Megan’s most recent post: Life On Hold

    • Miss Britt says:

      At this point it really is about choosing quality over quantity. I have to purge when I’m ready to step up the quality – which is a pretty great point to be at!

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