How clutter keeps you stuck in the past

Everyone who has clutter is stuck in the past in some way, which makes it very difficult to move forward. Decluttering frees you to live your life to the full.

Ckutter keeps you stuck in the past

One of the main effects of clutter is that it can keep you stuck in the past.

In my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I explain that if a large percentage of the items in your home are associated with a time in your life you want to move on from, then a corresponding percentage of your energy is tied to the past rather than available in present time. Try as you might, any attempt to move forward will be slow.

Stuck in the past

A poignant example of this is an 82-year old man who my husband Richard worked with. He had been an antique dealer until declining health persuaded him to close his business and retire. At that point, he had a huge storeroom filled with valuable antique furniture and ornaments.

His main motivation for seeking clutter clearing help was that he didn’t want his wife to be left with the problem if he died before her, which was looking increasingly likely. But he still found it difficult to let go of items for less money than he knew they were worth.

Similarly, a woman who once contacted me had owned a music store until she retired, and instead of disposing of the remaining vinyl albums at that time, she moved them all to her home.

‘The inventory is worth a GREAT deal’, she told me. ‘I CANNOT bring myself to donate, as I can use the money. I have called stores and as an example of unfairness, I have been offered 50 cents on a vinyl album worth $35. These are NEVER PLAYED and yet I am stuck with housing them. I could supplement my meager income if I could just sell them.’

How to move forward

I have worked with many people who have closed their business and feel stuck in their life because they have not let the inventory go. It takes up space in their property and space in their psyche because they have not moved on.

In this type of situation, the truth that needs to be faced is that the value of the items reduces dramatically the moment you close your business because the infrastructure to sell them is no longer in place. If you’re willing to go through the laborious process of selling online, you can use the setup provided by companies such as eBay or Gumtree to do this, but you’re still unlikely to get much for them, and it can be very time-consuming and possibly futile (selling online is very different to physical retailing). You may also incur a tax liability because you’ve started trading again.

In most cases, my best advice is not to take this slow and potentially painful route but to let your old life go and embrace the future unencumbered by bygone times. There was a reason why you closed the business. Accept this, and move on. Live in the now, not in the past.

This is not what most people want to hear. However, it is the only route that I have consistently found works. When you free up the stuck energy in your home, you dramatically change the feeling of stuckness in your life, and new opportunities can come your way.

The man who Richard worked with turned out to also have two houses that he and his wife had filled to the brim with personal clutter. He was so motivated after clearing out his storeroom that he booked more sessions to clear these out too. He particularly enjoyed the trips to the local charity shop, to see his things being donated to people who could use them. Best of all, he looked forward to enjoying his final years with the peace of knowing it would be so much easier for his wife to cope after his death.

The music store lady didn’t have the advantage of hands-on help, but has let me know she’s made some progress selling lesser value items but not her “prized ones”. Her words reveal there is some emotional attachment she’ll need to work through before she’s fully ready to let go. In the end, it will come down to a choice of whether she wants to stay stuck in the past or open to the future. I hope she’ll come to see how freeing it is to release the past, and how essential this is to creating a better tomorrow.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2021

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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14 Responses to How clutter keeps you stuck in the past

  1. Hi!
    How do you define “being stuck” in the past? Isn’t it ok to save some childhood, highschool etc. stuff? That I’m grateful, sometimes feel nostalgia, remember with love those times? That can’t be bad, can it? We all have our past, our history, it won’t go away pretending it doesn’t exist or didn’t happen. Even with the bad stuff that has happened, even if it sounds a cliche, I think it has made me the good and stronger person I’m today! And why we should always aim to “move forward”, can’t we just BE here and now in this moment? 😀 That’s the moment where we actually can only ever be.

  2. You are spot on concerning clutter! There’s another aspect I’ve observed as well.
    Excessive clutter, aka hoarding, can be a cause of divorce.
    The “hoarder” who tries hard to not let anything go, may end up losing what should be treasured most, their spouse! I’ve seen it happen! So sad!
    Thank you for your posts!

  3. Hi, Ayla

    My mother-in-law has kept some of her son’s old toys for our children. My children refused to play with them! So, don’t worry about keeping your old toys.

  4. Dear Karen,

    I’ve read many artikels and your books. And now reading this artikel, everytime i read one with a subject like this, it makes me think of my toys from when i was 10 that are still at my parents place. I have still some little emotional attachment to it. But mostly i’m quite scared to go their and tell them that i’m throwing it out. (They have a lot of clutter and they have been quite angry with me clearing almost all my clutter in my own home for the last 2 years.) So my question is: How much do these toys affect my life and moving forward since they are at their house? I’d also would love it if you would write an artikel about it.

    Thank you so much for all the artikels you write! Kind regars, Ayla

      1. Dear Karen,

        I have read those artikels and they help me letting go. But would you have aby suggestion on how to make my parents allow me to tos it out. They want to keep it for their grand children (im not even sure of me or my brother will have kids) and they even wanted my old desk and other stuff that i wanted to get rid of because they think its a waste (their house is full of clutter and they probably will never use it)

        Kind regards,

        1. Hi Ayla – A book I can highly recommend is ‘The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff’ by Julie Hall. You’ll find it includes some great insights and tips about how to tackle this problem while your parents are still alive rather than being left to deal with it after they die. Good luck! Karen

          1. Thank you very much!
            I will check it out:)
            One more question. Does them keeping my old stuff affect me and my life in any way?

            Kund regards, ayla

          2. The answer to your final question is yes, it certainly will affect you if you still feel that you own those items. The only way to change this is to give the items to your parents and make it very clear to them that you no longer want any of them, and they can keep them or dispose of them in any way they choose.

  5. Hi Karen, you do make some very valid points here. Nothing to do with a closed business, but, although I like giving things to charity ‘for someone else to get the benefit’, I do have a tendency to think ‘this cost me £such and such, can I really just give it away?’ You make it sound sensible to do this. I am on holiday at present, and when I get home I am going to find some more things, whatever their intrinsic value, to pass on to someone else to enjoy. Thank you for years of help with ‘letting go’. And the very best of luck in Australia. Jill

  6. Excellent. I know some people who like keeping “stuff” so I will mention your blog.
    Regards, John

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