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Sometimes I’m scared of my drawers.” -MN, Joumor student

Lots of people have the intention to declutter each new year. So what keeps them from succeeding?


(We’re going to focus here on emotions and brain function, and we’ll return to your body in the upcoming weeks. 😉

It’s well known that we have a lot of emotions wrapped up in/with our stuff, like nostalgia or shame or even confusion- “What IS this thing??” and many de-cluttering philosophies encourage or insist you simply discard or donate most of your stuff.

The thing is, even when people want to do that, they usually don’t. The other emotion we have with our stuff is fear, and that stops us in our tracks.

There are two kinds of Clutter Fear:

Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the Known

In my now 16 years of working with the Overwhelmed, I find that we sort of ping pong back and forth once we are in a fear state. We are scared because we know how complicated that tax project is but we want to do something…so we say,

“OK, I’ll attack that pile of papers..”

(Note the aggression when we’re in a fear state- “attack”) but then we don’t know what’s in that pile and we take care of one or none of the papers and then we’re


Why? Because as humans we get a surge of adrenaline to FLEE DANGER. What happens when you get a surge of adrenaline and don’t run? You can get really tired!

7 Minute Treasure Hunt:

Instead of trying to force yourself to attack anything, when you have plenty of time on your hands, set your timer for 7 minutes and wander around the office or the house relaxed and pleasant, and casually and confidently put things where they go, or put them on your to-do list.

We call it a Treasure Hunt in Joumor because the Flotsam and Jetsam you find “floating around” is telling you where your infrastructure could use some help. Like, you don’t have anywhere to put pens, so they are scattered all around. And we try to appreciate the treasure of information that these things are sharing with us.

How a Treasure Hunt Minimizes Fear

When you deal with the most surface of things out of place, you usually know where they go, and it’s fairly easy to put them away.

In Joumor we always Start with the Easiest Thing First. This series of small wins ups our dopamine and makes it easier to continue. The more confident and clear we feel, the better able we can address projects we might have been scared of.

Also, in a more clear area, it’s easier to focus, we lower the activity of our amygdala, (fear center) which increases our likelihood of better decisions and future success.

Address Fear with Action

You might have heard of Fight or Flight, but there’s a third one: FREEZE. That’s what happens to most of us when we’re scared of our clutter. We do nothing. So the best part? The more action you take, the less likely you are to freeze in fear. And by the time you get to that scary drawer or dark closet, you will be in a clearer, confident place, knowing you can trust yourself to take care of things- whether you know what it is or you don’t, you will be able to handle it.

This year, how about committing to not stressing yourself out about your clutter? And instead, playing the game of Easy Easy Easy.

Try it, it’s fun! And report back…I’d love to hear your feedback.

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