The Four Types of Emotional Clutter

When you begin pursuing minimalism, your focus is typically on getting rid of physical possessions.

You focus on what you can see.

But minimalism isn't just about owning less. It's about living an intentional life. Minimalism is about ridding your life of clutter. Pursuing a minimalist lifestyle is about getting rid of whatever is holding you down, and giving yourself the freedom to create the life you want.

Decluttering is a big part of starting your minimalist journey. And it's an awesome confidence booster when you see a room transform before your eyes.

But it's not just about stuff. Clutter can be anything, physical or emotional, that keeps you from living the life you want.

While getting rid of physical clutter can be somewhat easy--just throw it in a box or take it somewhere else and it's gone--emotional clutter is harder to deal with, because it's often difficult to identify.

But it is so essential to deal with.

You can declutter, have the cleanest house on the block, get down to just a handful of posessions, have an abundance of free time, and still be completely miserable with your life.

It's not until we deal with our emotional clutter and start changing our perspective that we'll start to see a true and lasting change.

This is just an overview of 4 types of emotional clutter. We'll get more in depth with some of them later, but for right now I just want you to be able to identify them, because that's half the battle, and start making baby steps toward dealing with the clutter.


A common source of emotional clutter is guilt or regret.

Thoughts of things we've done wrong or things we should have done that haunt our future decisions. It can weigh on you.

The feelings of guilt will hold you back. They will fill you with negative thoughts and feelings, preventing you from moving forward and enjoying your life.

And that's the ultimate goal here, to enjoy your life.

Now, I know it's easier said than done to just not feel your feelings anymore. I'm not suggesting that you bury them deep down inside and ignore them. That's not healthy. But I am encouraging you to deal with them.

If it's guilt or regret that you're struggling with, forgive yourself.

You may have already gotten whatever forgiveness you might need from a friend or family member (if they were involved in why you feel guilty), but the important part is to forgive yourself.

Until you do that, you're not going to be able to let go of the guilt you feel.

Look yourself in the mirror, every day if you have to, and say out loud to yourself "I forgive you."

Toxic Relationships

We've all experienced some form or another of a toxic relationship.

The boyfriend/girlfriend who makes you feel terrible about yourself, the friend that completely drains yous of your energy, the coworker who has nothing nice to say about anything and puts you in a bad mood. We've all had a toxic relationship in our life.

If you're not sure if a relationship is toxic, here's 6 ways to identify a toxic relationship.

Let's all remind ourselves: It's OK to let go of toxic people.

I even have a hard time remembering that one. I always want to give chance after chance and think to myself "eventually it will get better." But sometimes you need to just do what is good for yourself. It's OK to let go.

Letting go doesn't mean you don't care about that person. It doesn't mean you've given up on them.

But it means you're not going to allow yourself to be close enough for them to hurt you anymore. You can still be friendly and chat and care about a friend, but you don't need to go out of your way to spend time with them when they won't do the same for you.

You don't need to let yourself be emotionally vulnerable.

Give yourself a little distance from your toxic person. Whether that means emotionally or physically is up to you.

If the relationship is something you believe is worth holding on to (and let's be honest, sometimes it's not), then I would encourage you to sit down and talk to them about the situation.

Tell them why you're being hurt. Explain to them what you want your relationship to look like. If they care about you, they'll be on board.


This is a big one that holds people back from living the life they want.

It's held me back plenty of times.

Doing the things we love, taking risks to follow our dreams, it's all scary. You wouldn't think it, but following your heart and chasing dreams is a terrifying adventure.

What if it doesn't work out? What if I fail? What if I end up worse off because of this? What if I regret this later? What if my family doesn't support me?

There are always "what ifs."

And it's ok to consider them when you're making a big decision, but when you allow the "what ifs" to take over your thoughts and dwell on them, you'll find yourself stuck. Your fear will paralyze you.

The worst case scenario is not the most likely scenario.

Grab a piece of paper or a notebook. Write down all of your "what ifs." Every single one. Once you have them all written down (you can grab your spouse or best friend or someone for this part if you want), go through your list and actually answer the questions.

Be realistic. List best and worst case scenarios if you need to, but know realistic answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

What if it doesn't work out? Well, I'd be no better or worse off now than I was. What if I fail? Things stay the same. I can try again later. What if I regret this later? I've learned a lesson and can make better choices for the future.

The answers aren't as bad as our worry makes us believe. That's why I suggest having a friend or partner help you with the answers. They will help keep you grounded.

Insecurities/Negative self-talk

It shouldn't be any surprise that this is on the list of emotional clutter. We all know we're our own worst critic.

There's so many times we beat ourselves up over nothing.

I do it too! I find myself saying "I can't do that" or "I'm not good at anything" or any number of other awful down putting things to myself.

The worst part about this one is that we believe the things we hear the most. Shouldn't we want to be saying uplifting, positive things to ourselves? So we can genuinely believe we're fantastic? Why don't we?

We walk around saying awful things in our heads. We put ourselves down. Sometimes we let ourselves be the butt of other peoples jokes. And then we laugh like we think it's funny.

We believe the things we hear the most.

A good, simple rule of thumb is, if you wouldn't say it to your best friend (or your mom), don't say it to yourself.  

Try leaving yourself positive and encouraging notes around the house for a few weeks. Look in the mirror and say good things. You don't need to believe them yet. But say them anyway.

Say them more often then the bad things.

Remember, you're going through a lot. You're doing the best you can. Be kind to yourself.

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