Episode 89: Declutter Your Life, Make Way for Happiness

What’s missing in your life?

Deep level stuff like love, connection, self-worth?

Tracy McCubbin believes that we over shop, over save, and over anti-age ourselves because something is missing and we try to fill it.

For the sandwich generation — that’s us, right — we have places galore to find clutter. The obvious, our parents homes as they downsize or even pass away.

Not so obvious is empty nest syndrome where a woman who identified for so many years as mom, and all that entails, finds herself with huge swaths of time to fill. Nothing wrong with finding things to fill that time, but shopping isn’t the answer.

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We talked about the gut-wrenching task of handling the collected stuff of our parents’ lives. Figurines, old cards, books, even pictures may have great meaning to them but not to you. Tracy has suggestions about going through things with them and what to do with stuff you feel bad getting rid of once they move into assisted living or eventually when they die.

When thinking about giving things to the “right place” Tracy said, “What I’m saying is trust. When you let go of it, it’ll end up where it’s supposed to be.”

One of the ways that Tracy’s decluttering process is different is that she approaches the work she does with clients from a psychological and emotional place.

One really important point: if you are holding on to something because you think it’s worth enough to fund your retirement, rather than hoping Antiques Roadshow is going to crown you one of the lucky ones, get things appraised. Most things we think are worth a bundle aren’t. Tracy did not mention this company but I have used them and they are terrific—and affordable and online. It’s called Value My Stuff. For $35 (at the time of this episode) you can get all manner of things appraised by experts. Simply upload pictures, tell them as much as you can, and in 2 days you’ll have your answer.

Live with a cluttery kind of person but you’re not one?

Tracy has a solution. “I joke all the time. I’m like, marriage counseling is included with my services. You know, the important thing to remember is that someone is very cluttery, they probably heard it their whole life. So how do you have a conversation without shaming them? Right? Like going into it with my way is right and your way is wrong.

= So the conversation I always start with is, our home is a tool and is it working for us? Can we find what we need?”

We even talked about holding on to feelings that don’t serve us but do serve to clutter up our self-confidence. This can result in analysis paralysis rather than taking a risk, trying something new.

I asked her how we know if we are crossing over into too much clutter land?

“A couple things to pay attention to. Can you neaten up a room like. your office or the kitchen in 20 minutes or less, can you kind of put everything back in its homes? If it takes you more than 20 minutes to sort of put a room back together. That’s a really good litmus test for the stuff is getting at the upper hand also, 

Are you finding yourself not going into rooms? Like is there a guest room that you just don’t even go into? Is there a garage you don’t park your car in? How do you use your house? What’s working? Ultimately our homes are a tool.”

Tracy grew up with family members who hoarded and knows firsthand that the effects of living amongst an accumulation of possessions goes far beyond the home’s walls. Because of this she shared that as people age this disease can hide health concerns so get help if you know someone who has hoarder disorder.

I read Tracy’s wonderful bookMake Space for Happiness: How to Stop Attracting Clutter and Start Magnetizing the Life You Want, and loved it even though I’m not an uber collector not am I a particularly messy person. Sure, things pile up in the office but they distract me, so I dismantle them every couple of weeks. Her resources section is full of help with all things moving, decluttering, and her company works all over the US.

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