Sarah: In Clutters Last Stand you talk about a unique category for sorting items, called Emotional Withdrawal. With the traditional sorting categories like keep, give away, throw away, how does this category of items help make the clutter sorting process easier?
Don: Well Emotional Withdrawal things are items you bought with high expectations that didnt turn out. Items from your junior prom or your first date. A pencil from when you were a kid. You end up keeping this emotional attachment to an item. The experiences are over, but you keep the trappings of those times of your life. For example I had one family who had an old package. They couldnt figure out what was in it. Finally they identified it as a piece of birthday cake from a sweet sixteen party. This lady was 56 now, but they hadnt thrown out the cake. They went down to Wal-Mart and bought a can of paint and painted it, wrapped it back up, and had forgotten about it. Those are the items I call Emotional Withdrawal.
The hard thing is that people dont realize the time and effort it takes to tend these items. They think that all they have to do is pick it up and keep it and theyll find and use it later. The biggest excuse I get is, Well, I might need it someday.
Another one is that Itll be valuable someday. I think thats a myth that we are feeding ourselves and being fed. Shows like Antiques Roadshow tell us that someday all this stuff might be valuable. Ive done over 6,000 media interviews, and talk shows including Oprah and national CNN, and weve put feelers out and requested people to call in and respond about things theyve kept that turned out to be valuable later on. Out of 8,000 responses that we could track, not one single person came through with anything. People live in this hope that they will get rich off of these items that they have in their attic. Thats just a myth.
Sarah: Getting rid of clutter and junk, especially if youve accumulated for years can be real work and take some effort. What would you say to people who want to know what they can gain in their lives by following the advice in Clutters Last Stand and dejunking their homes?
Don: Unbelievable things. Let me tell you, the bottom line of gain from dejunking and removing clutter. Everyone in this world wants to be better and better. We want to get rid of our bad habits. Whether it is eating habits, swearing habits, or clutter habits. Changing some of these habits is more difficult because theyre intangible. But junk is tangible, and when you throw out a piece of junk, you start developing a pattern that becomes a great carryover in your life. By throwing out these tangible things we hang on to, a quiet spirit will creep into your being and testify to you, You dont need stuff to be happy. And when that happens, people are going to find that they can get rid of other habits theyve been holding on to.
There are three types of junk in you, on you, and around you. Emotional junk is inside of you. Feelings and emotions that clutter your mind. We have clutter on us and we have clutter around us, like the piles of stuff in the garage. Its all the same thing. The biggest reason to get rid of clutter is that when you rid yourself of it, the mental and emotional stuff leaves you at the same time. That is worth it. You cant ask for anything that is more life restoring than that.