You thought decluttering your home & life would solve all of your problems, but you still feel sad after decluttering. What do you do now?
However you got inspired to declutter your home & life, you jumped on that bandwagon like the rest of us. You wanted a simpler life, a manageable home, and a balance that would lift you free from negative feelings.
That sweet promise of all of those decluttering benefits was just too good to pass up. So you bought dozens of acrylic organizing containers, downloaded decluttering checklists, & worked endlessly chasing a perfect home.
Then something unexpected happened, you felt sad after decluttering. That was not the result you were hoping for.
The reasons why you may be feeling sad after decluttering vary for everybody. We will go through all of the reasons below and give you some support to help you overcome that specific sadness. But first, there is one underlying reason why we might all feel a little sad after decluttering.
Once the clutter was conquered, the fridge was organized, & the phone photos were neatly categorized, you had to re-direct that drive & passion towards something much harder to fix.
You. That’s right. You.
The clutter in your home & life is easy to use as a crutch for not dealing with the more intense problems in your personal life. Examples of this could be dealing with a bad marriage, making a real change for your health, or making a large life-altering decision you’ve been avoiding.
Clutter can become a scapegoat for all of your problems.
Do these examples remind you of anyone? I cannot get healthy because my fridge & pantry are cluttered nightmares; how can I prepare healthy meals in chaos? I cannot work on my marriage because I am too busy trying to organize this crazy house, once I feel less stressed I can schedule marriage counseling.
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You might be using the clutter in your home as a buffer between you and your real problems. This might be why you’re feeling an uneasiness, or sadness after you’ve decluttered your home as that reality of the real problems you need to face sets in.
- Dive in. Once you realize there is nothing left to declutter & organize, you have to dive into what you’ve been putting off in your life. The best way to get started sometimes is to not overthink it or over plan for it. Just get started.
- Remind yourself who you are. Have you disconnected yourself from hobbies since you were focused on getting organized? Reconnect with who you used to be. A jog down memory lane looking at past photos or partaking in a long-lost activity might revitalize you on who you are, so you can get back to that person.
- Start a new chapter. Have you always wanted to start a garden? Or how about running every morning? Replace the energy you were using on decluttering & organizing and push it towards something that will lift you emotionally and/or physically.
Maybe the above reason isn’t why you feel sad after decluttering and it has more to do with your anxiety.
Was there a lot of anxiety associated with your decluttering journey? For some of us, decluttering is fun & refreshing, and for some, it generates a lot of anxiety to deal with.
The reason why a cluttered environment triggers so much anxiety is you can physically see a to-do list you aren’t accomplishing. Every time you walk by piles of clutter in the garage or rummage through an overstuffed junk drawer, it ignites your anxiety, paralyzing you.
If you battle with anxiety and/or depression then your relationship with this process was very different. You already had anxiety to begin with and the mess triggered it into overdrive. So what happens to your pre-existing anxiety after you’ve finished decluttering?
It’s still there…
So did decluttering your environment not work in helping you alleviate your anxiety/depression?
It sure did… but only for that part of your anxiety.
It’s still a win! But, it might not be as life-changing as you envisioned, which in turn makes you feel sad after decluttering.
What can you do about feeling sad after decluttering because of your anxiety?
- Relish in your accomplishment. Your cluttered environment was triggering your anxiety, you recognized it, made a plan to declutter, & did it. That is something amazing that should not go unnoticed.
- Split up your anxiety into categories. The clutter made you anxious. Great! You now know that and you worked on it! How can you categorize your other anxieties? Is it grocery shopping? What could you do to work on it? Get your groceries delivered, shop with a friend, or pick a slow time to visit the grocery store? If you conquered your anxiety with clutter, you can conquer your other anxieties one by one.
- Declutter once a month. If you’re worried everything will become a cluttered mess again, pencil in decluttering once a month. Plus, knowing you are actively taking charge by not letting the clutter get like that again, might ease some of your anxiety.
How to Outsmart Your Anxiety
Alright, maybe you don’t have a problem with anxiety & clutter but you still feel sad after decluttering and maybe a little empty.
Emptiness after decluttering is an emotion many people feel more positively, like a weight off their shoulders, or a fresh start. But for you, it left you feeling unpleasantly empty, physically in your home and/or emotionally in your mind.
That is not at all what you thought decluttering was going to do for you! I don’t blame you for feeling sad or even duped by the life-changing claims decluttering has been making recently.
A big reason why you may be feeling empty after decluttering is that the result wasn’t the reward you thought it would be.
For example, imagine going through 4+ years of hard work getting your Master’s degree and you have no celebration after. You just went home to your empty & bare apartment feeling lost.
That emptiness can be the lack of celebration and the letdown from it. It could be the emptiness from not knowing what to do anymore since you’ve finished. Or the emptiness could be the actual apartment that feels physically empty.
The same concept could be applied to your decluttering efforts. You may feel a little lost or even a little let down from the process. Possibly it was just too much change.
What do you do when you feel empty & sad after decluttering.
- If it’s low satisfaction. Treat yourself with a reward for your efforts. Maybe the clutter-free home wasn’t enough reward for your hard work, and that’s OK. Get yourself a massage, take a 3-day weekend getaway, or host an impromptu party with friends showing off your new decluttered home.
- If it’s a physical emptiness. Maybe you realize a minimalist home isn’t for you. Re-decorate! Paint an accent wall, add a few thoughtfully chosen home décor pieces. Or move something back to replace a space you once thought you wanted empty to warm it up.
- If it’s an emotionally empty feeling. Replace the energy you had towards your decluttering journey and put it towards something new, different, & exciting. Start journaling, find a new show to guilt-free binge-watch, do something familiar to you that always brings you joy.
Maybe it’s not the emptiness you feel, but rather a guilt that is making you feel sad after decluttering.
Guilt plays a huge factor in why decluttering can be so hard for people.
Think of it this way, if decluttering were easy there wouldn’t be organizing shows, hoarding shows, books, blogs, or podcasts all about the subject.
The reason why decluttering is not super easy is usually due to the guilt you feel.
Not all decluttering guilt is the same. Check out some of these common challenges you may have faced yourself.
- Guilt from getting rid of gifts from friends or family.
- Guilt about weight gain or loss as you declutter clothing.
- Guilt from letting go of hobbies and the idea of who you wanted to be.
- Guilt from the amount of money you’ve lost on items you don’t use.
- Guilt about the amount of waste you’re adding to your carbon footprint.
That’s just to name a few! So yes, decluttering your home is emotional and can often fuel feelings of guilt. So it makes perfect sense why guilt is making you feel this way.
What do you do when you feel guilty & sad after decluttering?
- Learn the lesson. What did you find out about yourself through this process? Do you shop too much? Do you let food go to waste? Do you quit hobbies? Guilt can be a gift that teaches us a lesson of past behavior we don’t have to keep doing. So learn your lesson, let the guilt go, and try to do better next time around.
- Sentiment can outweigh a physical item. It was hard and you felt guilty letting go of gifts from your loved ones. But, if you walk yourself through this logically, remember that not all gifts you received were carefully thought out. For all you know, your aunt bought that scarf on the way to your birthday party with not a lot of sentiment behind the physical item; the scarf itself. It was the fact she stopped and wanted to bring you a beautiful gift. The thought & the sentiment is what’s valuable, not necessarily the item itself.
- Slow down the shopping. If you are constantly buying home décor, clothes, or extra food without much thought, the same clutter might happen again. Make grocery lists before you head out, create a home list of items you want or need, and stop yourself from impulsive purchases. Not on the list? Then it won’t be in the cart!
With all of these different possible sad reactions after you’ve decluttered you have to wonder, is decluttering really good for you?
Making a change can be uncomfortable. Decluttering your home, your life, and even your social calendar can be a lot of change to undertaking. To top it off the result might not be exactly what you envisioned.
So why declutter? Is it even really good for you if it could potentially cause so much sadness after?
The answer is still yes!
- Your physical health will improve. Homes that get too cluttered can trap more dirt & dust, cause difficulties in getting to exits in emergencies, and can start fires.
- Your mental health will improve. Cluttered environments can be a direct link to anxiety, depression, and can be used as an excuse for ignoring important self-care.
- Your finances can improve. Decluttering your home can be the wake-up call you need to stop spending money on unnecessary things. You might even unveil back stock of items you purchase all the time, saving you money.
Decluttering is not always easy, but facing the problem head-on is the only way we can survive from drowning in the mess. We not only face our physical possessions, but we also face ourselves.
In that process, we grow, and hopefully, within that growth, we can learn how to overcome feeling sad after decluttering.
Someone once asked me how can you declutter without the feelings? The truth is you can’t. It’s a transformative experience that will change you one way or another, and that will always be emotional.
But I can tell you that this feeling of sadness will pass, and you’ll be a much stronger person for persevering through it.