Photographed by Claire Pepper.
Many people find it hard to get started on clutter-clearing, but there are others who take it too far and find it difficult to stop. It’s rare, but occasionally I come across someone who has become addicted to purging their possessions, and has gone totally overboard with it.
The main aim of clutter-clearing is to let go of the things around you that you no longer use or love, and organize what you have left so you can find things when you need them. There are other beneficial aspects of the practice too, such as creating harmonious flows of energy in your home, reducing the quantity of belongings you have so that they fit in the space you have available, completing any unfinished projects, and so on.
At first, it can feel challenging: Where to start? How to do it? What to keep? What to let go of? But, if you start small, in bite-sized manageable chunks of say, 20 minutes, and begin with an area that is easy to clear such as a small drawer or shelf, the endorphin release that you experience upon completion usually inspires you to continue and do more. And, it is this endorphin release that can become addictive to some people who have an addictive personality.
Endorphins are a type of neuropeptide that our bodies produce to calm us and help us tolerate pain. These are the same chemicals that produce the feelings of euphoria and joy that can sweep through us when we achieve success in some way, or engage in activities such as exercise, meditation, massage, sex, laughter, and more. The word “endorphin” is short for “endogenous morphine,” and is a form of opiate the body produces naturally that can be up to 250 times more powerful than actual morphine.
If someone with addictive or obsessive-compulsive tendencies takes clutter-clearing too far, they may make unbalanced decisions that they, or those they share their home with, will regret. It can leave them with too few possessions for everyday activities and a feeling of never being satisfied no matter how few items they have left.
If you are concerned you may be doing clutter-clearing too intensely, and especially if you find yourself boasting about how much you have done and your level-headed clutter-free friends seem incredulous or appalled, then it’s time to stop and seek advice. The purpose of clutter-clearing is to find the right balance – enough stuff to be able to live your life to the fullest, but not so much that it drags you down or holds you back.