Have you ever viewed the clutter in your house as more than just a mess to be tidied? Listen in as I share my transformative journey of exploring physical clutter, and its remarkable influence on our mental well-being, and even our identity.
From my struggles with clutter as a military kid to the daunting task of cleaning out my mother's house after her passing, I delve into the emotional resonance of physical clutter. You'll get a fresh perspective on how every item in your home carries a piece of your story and how social media shapes our views on clutter.
I'll share insights into how clutter manifests in various areas of our homes — embodying our fears, successes, or the simple comfort of leaving things out. We'll discuss how understanding and addressing our clutter can fuel personal growth and act as a catalyst in reducing stress. You'll also learn about my 30 Ways to Detox from the Stress workbook, which provides effective strategies to break the stress cycle and relieve your body of stress hormones. Join me as we explore the complex labyrinth of physical clutter, memories, and personal identity.
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Welcome to the Balance Code Podcast, a place where you have permission to step outside the hamster wheel of day-to-day life and learn tools to create more balance. My name is Katie Russell. I'm a licensed therapist and burnout and hidden grief specialist. I support ambitious, goal-driven people who are ready to get off the one-way train, to burnout and start to enjoy life again to the fullest. Oh and, by the way, I'm a mom of three, an ex-pat living in Germany who is still learning the language, and an entrepreneur Living. My Balance Code is what keeps me able to work in incredible ways without burning up. So let's find your Balance Code. Hey everyone, welcome back to the podcast. This is going to be a three-part series on clutter, and today we are exploring the first part, which is physical clutter. Now, I know a lot about this topic clutter in general, and especially about physical clutter because I have a very unique relationship with it, I think. But let's see, you might be experiencing it too. So when we talk about physical clutter, we're not talking about dirtiness. We're not talking about, you know, like mold growing and stuff. We're talking about things paperwork, books, things that you don't have a home for yet, and what I mean by that but not having a home for it, yet it doesn't have its place in your home. So if you ever either read or watched the series for Marie Kondo, the Konmari Method, her book was what I first discovered back in 2014, 2015, I think it was 2015. And I remember reading and thinking, oh my gosh, this makes total sense and, wow, I have a problem with clutter. So I immediately started to Konmari our whole apartment, which was a small apartment at that time, and I laugh about that now in my mind because we have such a big home now that I think, oh my God, why couldn't I keep that other place so clean? Why, even as a family, could we not? But we went through the whole house, my husband and I both, and went through all the steps that she outlines in the book. We looked at paper and we went to books and we did our clothing, ended with the memory items and it was an amazing process and actually quite pivotal for my oldest, because she was 18 months old at the time. So she really learned the vocabulary of where is its home. So she would have a toy out and I'd be like, okay, go put it back in its home, and she knew exactly what that meant because we had been talking about it so actively as a family, as we were ourselves finding homes for everything and realizing what doesn't have a home and what we don't really need. Clutter, though, is something I have struggled with. I don't know if it's growing up as a military kid and constantly moving or something in my DNA, and it's probably a little bit of both but I have always struggled with clutter. I love to hold on to things, even if it's something simple like a piece of paper or a post-it note with a few ideas jotted down on it. I just think, like when will I need that again? And when I was younger, like grade school age, I would keep every magazine, every note from a friend, like everything, a paper in particular, that was my stuff. Or if I'd gone to an event with a friend, to a museum, a friend had given me a particular gift. Even if I wasn't like in love with it, I would keep it. And I came to realize as I got older because we moved every two to three years of our lives and with moving that often you don't want to lose memories I would hold on to things with the hope that the memory would stick around. Well, come to the end of 2018, some of you know, my mom passed away and in a matter of two weeks we needed to clean out her whole home and put it on the market to sell. And it was that short turnaround because I needed to get back to Germany to be with my family and my brother did not live nearby to where she lived. So it was really. We are here now. We need to do this. Even in the process of decluttering her home, I found believe it or not the large purple, rubber-made container full of all of the letters from middle school and elementary school In high school. By that point I had notebooks with friends, so those were there too. I found that rubber-made, and a little girl inside of me wanted to open each one and read them, but I immediately said no and then just dumped them into a trash bag. Oh, a part of me feels so sad thinking about that. But I realized I hadn't seen those notes in so long and, as much as it would have been nostalgic to look through, it really wouldn't have served a purpose. But it was going through all of my mom's things that I recognized that my mom's clutter problem was also my clutter problem. And when I went through some of the boxes and the things that she had kept, I realized she just never wanted to go through them because she didn't want to have to face getting rid of them or making a decision. Part of letting go of clutter is the decision fatigue, right Like where's its home? Do I keep it, do I not? Is this important, is it not? Does it belong to somebody? You have to go through all these different things and ask yourself all these questions, and so it's exhausting. But on top of that, if you have the fact that you've moved a lot and these are memories from places that you'll probably never go again, people you'll probably never see again. Now, with social media, that's changed a lot. During the time when I was younger, that was not an option, so we all kept so much, but we needed to get rid of it in a fast amount of time. And when I came back to my home in Germany, I found myself starting to clean out a lot too, because I realized the impact of my clutter on everyone else in my life. By cleaning up my mom's home, I was like, oh my gosh, if something was to ever happen to me I'm way too young for it, but my mom was way too young for it too. All of my stuff, I mean. People would. Just my poor husband and my children would have to figure out what to do with it all, and that's not fair to them. So I started to face my relationship with clutter. So you know, I've had Marie condoed our home in our apartment in the US and then we moved to Germany and it like reclutter naturally happens. You've got two kids and you've moved from one country to another and you're still trying to figure out what can be used, what cannot be used, what do we need anymore, what do we not need, what do we need now? And the clutter started to pile up again and we had a home that had the space for the clutter to pile up. You know, here in Germany you tend to have a basement and so there's space for a lot of things. Well, it really started to pile up pretty bad and I remember, after mom died, coming back and going like I can't live like this, it's not fair to me and it's not fair to anyone else. So I got really good at decluttering other people's things right my children, my husbands, which, if you've ever conmarried your space, marie Kondo tells you not to do your partners or really your family members, but obviously with the young kids you're doing it. I got really good at decluttering the things that really I had no emotional attachment to. Maybe some of the newer stuff that I was like, oh, whatever, we don't need this. But there was one room that I kept everything in that I wasn't sure about, and that room was also the room I used as an office space. Now, some of you have been following me on social media for many years now and you may remember the picture of what that office space looked like when I finally sat down on the ground and piled okay, here are memory items. They have to be last. Here are pieces of paper that have ideas on them or paperwork I need. You know, I just pile things in different sections of the room because I was like I must get through this. But as I was doing that, I felt this fight within me, something that was keeping me from wanting to get rid of this clutter, even though it was going to make my life simpler, it's going to make my office way easier to get into and just feel good. Right, feel good. My mind could be clear. Something was constantly fighting it, and I remember working with a coach at the time and she mentioned that clutter for me is almost like a barrier. It's like the walls of a castle protecting me, and having that clutter makes me feel safe. And I thought about that for a while and I thought, you know, it's kind of funny because I am totally the type who will go throughout my day leaving out everything that I've done. So if I'm making food, I'll leave out the knife that I've chopped the vegetables with the pan that I cooked them in. You know, everything's just laid out. I'm not the type to clean up as I go and they'll still be the breakfast items out and I really will come to the end of the day and be like, oh my gosh, what did I do to myself? Like I should have cleaned up as I go. Right, we always see it later on, but in the moment I don't see it. There's a reason for this and it's not just because I'm Katie, but truly there's a psychological reason. When you, some of us, when we have a end project we want to get to, we won't see any of the projects in between. It's like making the sandwich right, like I'm just going to go eat the sandwich, I'm going to leave everything out because that's not the end goal. So I have that problem and I'm getting better at it. I'm recovering from this issue. But, as I thought about the fact that I sometimes do that not only because I don't see the projects, but also because it's comforting to have things around, it's a really tough place to come to when you realize that clutter provides you safety and it can also provide you a sense of ease when it's gone right, like I love walking into our home when everything's in its place, I breathe easier, I feel the tension go, I feel less mental clutter of what needs to get done. But I also can walk into a cluttered home, not see the projects and feel safe. Now I didn't say yet ease and relaxed, which I know safe usually means relaxed as well. But for me there's something a little bit different. I feel safe with the clutter and as I sit here in my office with piles of books and notepads and sticky notes all around me, I know I'm back in that space again. I know I'm in that space of. I'm afraid I'm going to forget something, lose something. There's going to be a piece of me that's gone if I get rid of the stuff that's around me. My identity has gotten wrapped up a bit in the clutter. So physical clutter often when we explore what it means to us, can come up with some really weird reasons. Maybe for you it's safety and it just feels like oh, I'm safe, all of my things are here around me, in front of me. Maybe for some of you it's just the easiness of not having to clean up constantly. It's less work, just leave it all out. It's just less work for me. Maybe for some of you it's that sense of having things. You didn't have things growing up, so seeing all the stuff you have around you is like look at all the stuff I have, I've earned it, I've been able to get these things. But no matter what, I think we can all agree when our homes are cleaned up and the clutter is in its space, it has a home. We do breathe easier, we do feel a sense of ease, we do feel relaxed. Now I know I have worked with clients that when things are put away they don't feel relaxed. They get really upset when things are actually put away, because then they can't find the thing that they were. You know, the third page below that second pile and they're like no, I knew where it was, but they couldn't find the other stuff right, but that one page they knew where that was. So it can create anxiety, yes, but I think for the majority of us, when things are put away, we do feel a sense of less work, less things on our to-do list and again that sense of ease. So what is your relationship with clutter like? How is it showing up in your life? Is it only in certain rooms and places? Is it only with certain types of things? Like maybe you're a collector of a certain type of item, you know turtles or cats or something, and then not real cats, I mean some of you maybe no judgment, but you know what I mean. Like maybe you collect things and that kind of clutters your home because it's a part of who you are. Like I remember growing up I always collected dolphins. It was my thing. All my friends, family, they always knew they could get me something with dolphin on it for Christmas or my birthday, and like you could never go wrong. But there was a point where I was going off to college where I was like I can't bring all these dolphins with me. I mean first of all, maybe that dolphin girl in the dorm, which is fine, but also probably not exactly what I wanted to start the school year at college off like. But also, what do you do with all of that? And I realized there was a part of me that was like, well, this has been so much of my identity for so long, like, if I get rid of it? That's weird, you know, it's kind of empty feeling. So sometimes our clutter serves part of our identity and the things that we have. But explore your role with clutter. What is your relationship like? Is it time to break up with it? And if you break up with it, what codependent traits do you need to work through? What are the things you need to realize that safety, katie, isn't linked to physical clutter. That's not safety. But I know I have to work on me feeling safe and understanding where safety comes from, so that when I get rid of the clutter I can cling to the truth of where safety comes from and not to clutter where it doesn't come from. And that is my personal growth journey. That is about me finding my own. Component of my balance code is that I've got to let go of physical clutter and really be honest with myself about the relationship I have. So I encourage you to be honest with yourself as well. Now as we wrap up. You know this is just the part one on physical clutter. Any clutter emotional, mental, physical creates stress in our lives, and I want to make sure that you get a chance to grab my 30 ways to detox from the stress eGuide and workbook. It's a combination of two. You've got areas where you can write down your thoughts while also learning 30 different ways to detox from the stress hormones that we release when we're stressed out. And, let's be honest, how many times a day does that happen? Well, I know, for me it's a lot. So the more that we learn how to complete the stress cycle and to release and get those hormones out of our system faster, the better off we are, because it takes about three hours for it to release from our system. But if you've got chronic stress and continual impacting you stressors which I believe is most of us in the world nowadays it can take up to six months and that is where we start to have serious health issues. So I am on a mission to help people start learning how to detox from this so things like burnout can be avoided, and the health issues that come with stress can also be avoided. So make sure you check out that in the show notes. I'll have the link for you. It is free and it is for you. So here's to finding our balance code. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you have a moment, please leave a rating or review so that others can find this podcast who are looking for support, just like you. Let's connect on Instagram at katierussler or at balance code podcast, or check down in the show notes to find ways that we can work together and see other offerings that I have for you at this time. And, as always, here's to finding our balance code.