Setting boundaries is an important part of an emotionally healthy life. We set boundaries for all kinds of things, on how much we eat, how much money we spend, the people we let into our life, what we will tolerate from the people in our lives, and many more things. When we don’t set boundaries, our lives can get chaotic and out of control. Part of loving and valuing ourselves is setting limits with us and others.
Often, we think of setting boundaries with what behaviors we will tolerate from others. When someone is a people pleaser and struggles with codependency, they are often not good at setting boundaries. However, setting boundaries is not limited to our relationships. We can think about boundaries with our home and our clutter.
When we’re working on decluttering, we need to set boundaries for ourselves and how we manage our stuff. This is a strategy I learned from one of my decluttering heroes, Cass Aassan on her YouTube channel, Clutterbug. She talks about setting boundaries with our stuff so it doesn’t get chaotic and out of control.
She uses containers as a boundary. An example is to have one tub or container of craft supplies. You can decide what size that container is and how many you have. The idea is that when the container is full you don’t get another container, but you limit your craft supplies by limiting your containers.
I love this idea. To help contain your stuff you make a promise to yourself that when the tub or box is full you either get rid of some of the supplies in the box to fit in new things or don’t get new things until the old ones are used. What you don’t do, which has always been my strategy, is to simply get another container, shelf or dresser to put more craft supplies in. Sound familiar?
In a previous blog I talked about the different types of boundaries. These are porous, rigid, and healthy. Typically, it’s good to have healthy boundaries. These can be flexible, but they don’t let everything in. Healthy boundaries are good when we are dealing with other people. But when we are dealing with things and trying to keep ourselves accountable, it’s better to have rigid boundaries. Rigid boundaries can be defined as inflexible, strict, and fixed. If you have a problem with too much stuff then it’s not good to be flexible. We need to set a boundary and stick with it. What we are really doing is making a promise to ourselves that we won’t buy more items and clutter up our home.
When you’re tempted to break the promise, we’ve made with ourselves, aka our boundary, here are some questions that help:
What do I value in my home and life?
How will my decision in this situation reflect my values?
Do I value having this item over having a calm living space?
Do I value myself enough the keep the promise I’ve made to myself?
Is this item really important to me or am I feeling a high from having something new or am I feeling a creative high from what I can make with this item?
If I live with other people how will my decision to keep or get rid of this item affect them and how they are able to move in our shared space?
If I keep this item how will I feel about it in one month, six months, or a year from now?
Will my future self be happy I kept this item?
What are examples of when I kept something and never used it?
How am I honoring my goals and respecting myself if I keep this item or if I don’t?
What is something I can do in this moment to care for myself as I make the decision that will be best for me?
What can I tell myself, or what’s a mantra I can use, to help me make the decision that is right for me? Example: I deserve a clean, peaceful, and decluttered home. A more declarative mantra can be, “I have decided to keep only what will fit in the craft supplies tub.” Be assertive with yourself.
Another strategy is to think about someone you admire that is tidy and has an organized home. Pause and breath. Now imagine you are stepping into their shoes and behaving like they would. Would they keep the item or let it go? Modeling the behavior of people we admire can be a good technique to motivate us.
Setting boundaries, while it may not feel good in the moment, is a way to love and value ourselves. And remember to be gentle with yourself. You won’t always do it perfectly and that’s ok as long as you keep moving in the right direction. I hope these strategies help you in making your decluttering and organizing decisions.