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Money, Shame, Guilt, and Clutter - How to Deal

Raise your hand if you've ever bought something and then used it once. Or maybe never at all.

And you didn't return it. It just sat there, collecting dust for years. Maybe it's even still in your home somewhere.

Of course, you have. We all have at one point or another. Some more often than others. So if we all do it, then why do some people tend to feel enormous shame, guilt, and fear after buying something they don't use? Especially when they're trying to declutter.

And how do you get past those emotions? Keep reading to learn how to get unstuck while decluttering and become the savvy shopper you wish you always were.

It's Not Actually About the Money or the Stuff

I once had a client who shopped when she was having a bad day. The problem was she didn't wear the items, she just kept them in her closet until she hired me. We got rid of 5 bags and only one bag contained items that didn't have their tags still on.

What struck me most about working with her was that the activity she chose to soothe herself also left her feeling guilty and ashamed. The same as she would feel if she had gotten super wasted, or if she ate the entire contents of her refrigerator when she got triggered.

I also realized that the residual emotions after her "binge" weren't because of the clothes she bought but never wore. It wasn't even about the money she spent.

Shame Vs Guilt

Guilt and shame are different from each other. She thought she felt guilty about spending money on items she never wore. That's because guilt makes you feel as though you made a mistake. Then she felt ashamed. That's because shame makes you feel as though you ARE the mistake.

But in reality, the shame and guilt are from something else altogether. Until you decide you're worth the work of digging into the clutter of why you feel shame and guilt, the cycle will continue. With my client, the guilt and shame probably had something to do with when she was a child and money was scarce.

How to Break The Shame/Guilt Cycles

Since you obviously can't undo the moment you bought the item(s), it's time to reframe how you think of your purchase. Instead of feeling shame or guilt, focus on the feelings you felt as you were buying the item. And accept that maybe the act of finding and buying the item was the whole point. At that moment, you were investing in feeling joyful. And that's always okay.

An investment doesn't mean it needs to last forever to be worthwhile. Sometimes, something is meant to be in your life for a short while. Maybe even just for a split second. And that's okay.

Moving Forward

I believe organizing is about getting the negative junk out of your head and your home so you can live as freely, happily, and healthily as possible. But you can't do that unless you're willing to become aware of what you're surrounding yourself with.

You also need to be willing to become aware of how you feel. It helps you to realize when you're getting triggered and you can begin replacing negative activities with positive ones so you don't end up in another cycle of shame and guilt.

Ask for Help

It's not always easy to do this on your own. Don't be afraid to ask for help. A therapist or good book can help you identify the emotional triggers and deal with them. A professional organizer can help you handle your outward clutter and find new positive solutions to repeated bad habits.

Don't wait to live the life you deserve. Click here to learn more about how to get and stay organized.


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