Unclutter the home, uncover the heart

He was sitting on the edge of the couch surrounded by trash bags filled with old clothing and a sea of plastic bins caked in dust. A lifetime of memories flooded his entire being and yet he was clear the time had come to release a few of them.

Tears began to flow as I observed him holding a gently faded infant size t-shirt to his chest. I tenderly placed my hand on his shoulder and simply said, “I know.” He inhaled the soft cotton fabric and began to cry the most beautiful tears. Being witness to a grown man shedding tears as he embarks upon a new chapter of life post divorce, might be one of the greatest honors of my profession.

I’m the one who sees what many of us attempt to hide. Most of us do our best to conceal our dirty little secrets. We’re not inviting our friends over with the junk drawer on display or an open door to a basement piled high with neglected bins and boxes. Yet, the biggest secret, the thing we really don’t want anyone to see, are the deep emotional attachments we’ve acquired over the years. Although physical items do not hold emotion on their own, we are quick to assign meaning to what a particular item represents. This can mean status, wealth and confidence or the opposite for those of us who have less. If one doesn’t have the latest iPhone or handbag then we are the lower class, the worthless, the unlucky ones and so on. We’ve steadily built up a collection of items so mired in emotional attachment that if one were challenged to let them go, that punched in the gut, I was just broken up with feeling might take over our entire being.

The number one human desire, more than anything else, is connection. We need connection in order to survive. Some of us find this deep, yet false, connection with inanimate objects. We’ve begun to identify and create strong attachments to clothing, jewelry, and heirlooms to the point where we are ruled by them. We’ve become so co-dependent on our stuff that a 2008 survey conducted by the Journal of Consumer Research claimed 25 million Americans as shopping addicts. Why? We want to connect. We want to feel something. The meanings we have assigned our possessions have become stronger than our ability to really feel. The Amazon delivery has replaced the hug, the instant gratification on social media has replaced real conversations, the lack of awareness feeds the disconnection from our bodies and so on.

Whether you are conscious of the meanings you have assigned to your things or not, there is a certain level of energy that your belongings either give you or take from you. The idea that we need a lot of stuff to feel connected is false. The more you strip away, the less you need, the easier it gets. When you lighten your load, you lighten your life. 

Assess what you possess

Once a person calls on a professional for help, they are generally open to the process of letting go. I always start with an inventory assessment. One must look at all of their items with clarity and awareness before the editing begins. First we will categorize all your possessions into clear groups. For example, if we start with clothing, put all short sleeve t-shirts in a pile, then all the long sleeve t-shirts, then tank tops and so on. 

Do you love it?

Next, we begin to look at each item. Yes, each and every single thing. Are you happy with the vintage t-shirt that looks a bit yellow under the arm pits and it is generally falling apart at the seams? Does it light you up? If you still wear it and it makes you feel good, then by all means keep it! If you look at it and think, “I used to wear that all the time but now it’s a bit snug where it shouldn’t be and it doesn’t represent my current lifestyle” consider letting it go. I will share that for most people clothing and jewelry tend to hold a very high charge. And this probably won’t come as a surprise, but most of us assign much bigger meaning to things that have high price tags. A simple way to know if you still love something is to ask yourself this: “Would I walk into a store today and buy this?” If the answer is no, it’s got to go. 

Feel it and tune in

Going through each item may cause you some sadness and some pain but it may also bring you joy and freedom. Notice how your body feels when a certain thing is really hard to release. Notice how your belly feels. Do you have butterflies in your stomach? Maybe you feel a little dizzy or your palms have started sweating? Pay attention to the physical sensations you experience as you go through your things.

I help my clients get into their hearts and out their heads as we go through each piece. Sometimes our mind blocks the truth. Like an archeologist digging deep into the earth, I will ask a series of questions to unlock what is hidden in the cellular memory. When the tears begin to flow, when a smile lights up their face from ear to ear, that’s when I know that we’ve found the answer. When they feel the connection deep from within, not from a place of judgement, comparison, shame or self doubt, that’s where the truth lives. The body never lies. The body always shows us what feels good and what doesn’t. The answer is always in there but we have to be willing to go on the journey to find it. 


After we have uncovered the deeper emotional connection, it’s time to reframe and rename what we think our belongings mean. It is possible to have our emotional needs met from the inside out instead of from the outside in. We are so quick to assume that a purchase will soothe our soul when in reality the best soothing comes from taking care of ourselves. Retraining the brain and creating new habits might be more challenging than letting go of items that represent our past, however, there is no amount of stuff that is going to make us happy. There aren’t enough diamonds in the world to replace the feeling of connection. No amount of shoes, handbags, watches or electronic gadgets will replace laughing so hard with friends that your cheeks are still sore the next day. There is not a thing in this world that can replace the first time someone tells you that they love you. It is possible to live a very happy life with less. Living with focused intention and a lot of self care is a sure fire way to avoid filling up on retail therapy. Before you buy, ask yourself these questions:

Try your best to always make purchases from the wise part of your conscience.

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

— William Morris

Positive mind to positive life

Once you have let go and thoroughly edited your home, make sure you set yourself up for future success. I encourage my clients to write down a few like-minded, positive affirmations that summarize their new way of living. Creating a vision board is another beautiful reminder to help you stay on track. Lastly, surround yourself with like minded positive individuals. As the saying goes, “We are only as strong as our weakest link.” If you want to sustain lasting change, do your best to create a supportive environment where everyone knows your boundaries. Remember, you are in charge of your transformation. You’ve got this!

Can we be so brave, so bold as to let go of the unnecessary, the out of commission, the tired, the worn out, the reminders of a life we’re done living?

Can we look at all our belongings with a new set of eyes? Instead of giving what you possess a ton of power, try to see each thing you bring into your life as a helper. If it doesn’t feed your soul, if it doesn’t light you up from the inside out then please don’t bring it into your home. Within every pile and every mess there is a huge opportunity for growth, for reclaiming your power and for having what your heart desires. With every breath we have an opportunity to begin again. With every breath we are essentially a new person as we are constantly changing every second. In this moment, in this new place, where life is different, you can begin again. You can decide to start over, right here, right now.

I’d love to hear from you and learn about any successes or failure when it comes to your personal clutter. How have you been clearing? What works? What doesn’t work? Are there rituals or self-care practices that help you stay on-track? It’s all welcome! 

Lili Pettit
Contributor & Founding Member

Hello there. My name is Lili Pettit and I am the founder of Clutter Healing®, Inc. a professional organizing business dedicated to helping clients establish supportive environments both internally and externally. I have built my life around clearing out the negative and unnecessary, finding room for only what serves in positive and productive ways — both in the home and in the body. My positive attitude, clear logic, and focused energy gently guides individuals through a cleansing process to establish a sense of calm, clarity and consciousness in things we call home.

Share Your Thoughts

Robbie P

June 3, 2018 - 5:14am

Spot on for me, . I’ve been having thoughts about this and, coincidentally, all my recently read novels have been about women who have had to do just this process and begin new lives for various reasons.  The authors have these characters experiencing so many of these things you talk about.  My question for you is about the photo of labeled boxes. . . Labels seem to be emotions rather than the standard Donate, Garage Sale, Trash, etc.  Can you enlighten me on that labeling process.  I’m not sure how to begin that!
Thanks. . Robbie

Lili Pettit

June 3, 2018 - 7:21pm

Hello Robbie! Thanks for reading. There are two sets of labels on the boxes. The standard: buy, sell, donate, trash and the second set are being revealed from below. Humans often carry deep emotional attachments to their belongings. I thought it would be thought provoking to show both sides of the decluttering experience. You can label your bins or boxes with the traditional labels and simply notice what emotions start to come up as you let go. I’d love to know how it goes!!

Angela K 1080822692

May 11, 2018 - 9:41am

Hi, I keep hearing I have to let go of someone, but I do not know who it is?

Lili Pettit

May 11, 2018 - 8:06pm

I would ask you intuition or guides. I’m sure that you know it’s just a matter of opening up to the answer.

Morgan T

April 4, 2018 - 7:29am

Alignment is real. I recently finished the life changing magic of tidying and i started to purge my items just this past weekend and then this pops up. Tells me I’m on the right track :)

Lili Pettit

April 5, 2018 - 3:26pm

Yes!!!!  I am so thrilled to hear that you are aligned!!!

Debbie B

February 16, 2018 - 10:20am

I love this article.  I am going through a divorce and trying to unload 20+ years of memories.  Its very difficult letting some things go, but I will start asking myself those questions when I come to a standstill on items.  To be truthful, some things I am just putting in a box, because I can’t deal with the pain of the memories and thoughts of them right now, I am hoping later down the road I will feel mentally stronger to face them.

Lili Pettit

February 16, 2018 - 10:38am

Debbie, it’s ok to deal with things little by little. Give yourself time to process and move through the emotions. It’s so important to honor where you are right now. Usually with time you will find the energy to move out the physical items that you are ready to release. I look forward to hearing about your journey! Sending you tons of support.


February 1, 2018 - 10:55am

most important part of this article to me was the part about CONSCIOUS BUYING. thank you. thank you for including our Mother and social concerns in this list. (but what to DO with the things we let go? everything goes somewhere!) THANK YOU.

Lili Pettit

February 16, 2018 - 10:40am

Hello Joy!
You are so very welcome. I’ve found resources that I feel really good giving to in the greater Los Angeles area. We have a donation center for just about everything in this big city. is a great resource for responsible recycle, The Goodwill now does electronics recycling, Apple takes back all devices for responsible recycle, there are loads of shelters, womens groups and child related non-profits that always need things. Find the resources that resonate with you. Best wishes!

Jacqueline A

February 1, 2018 - 7:51am

This is an excellent article. I have started clearing things from my home and need to do more. More importantly I am clearing my body and my energy.  Letting go of past shame, regret and just plain feeling like I am not worthy. I agree that the simple things I life are the most important like you stated, time with friends, laughing, sitting for extended times around the dinner table.  You have given me more incentive to continue clearing physical stuff and my attachment to it and emotional baggage as well. I am a Reiki practitioner since 1997 second degree, and am finally embarking on getting my master level. This will help me so much. Thanks again.

Lili Pettit

February 16, 2018 - 10:42am

Jacqueline, just like you clear the aura and negative energy from your clients, give yourself permission to receive the same. You are so worth it!

Katie E

February 1, 2018 - 5:22am

Thank you for this excellent article. I have been the family member silently chosen to hold all the stuff from our deceased parents ...... it’s been 11 years and 3 moves time to start asking myself these simple yet emotional questions and de clutter.  Very motivational. I love these daily articles….

Lili Pettit

February 16, 2018 - 10:41am

Katie, I am so moved by your awareness. Let me know how it goes?

Stephanie W

December 30, 2017 - 6:17pm

Thank you so much for this article.  My New Year’s resolution is to “de-clutter” in all senses.  I love the image of “uncovering the heart.”  That’s what I was hoping to do, without having the words for it… to strip away the excess and create space for what matters.

Lili Pettit

February 16, 2018 - 10:43am

Your heart will thank you! Let it shine Stephanie. xo

Janet J

July 19, 2017 - 11:15am

We moved into a ‘new to us’ home last year after living in my husband’s family home. The energy was so strong in that other house, it was suffocating me in many ways, so moving into our own place has released much tension. Now begins the task of the weeding out of those things that hold that same negative energy from the past, and just some things that have outlived their usefulness in our lives. It’s a daunting task, but sure feels good when we haul away a load of those things we have been figuratively carrying around with us for years. Thank you for this article; it gives good suggestions of a method to use to declutter and de-stuff.

Lili Pettit

July 20, 2017 - 3:17pm

Janet, thank you for sharing your recent move. Things hold so much energy but often times people don’t realize it. With the huge success of the minimalist movement, I can see why people feel so free after ridding themselves of almost everything. A teacher once told me that jewelry holds the most charge which now makes so much sense. If you think about it, antiques or things that we deem valuable tend to hold the most energy. Something to consider as you continue the shedding journey. Can’t wait to hear more!

Little Duck

July 4, 2017 - 1:07pm

There are times that you go and look at the things that you possess and think, where did all of this come from? Some bring meaning and passion others just made you smile one day. It’s hard to grow and discover new things if you don’t realize how buried your soul is by things you have accumulated that really have no positive impact. The feeling you get from uncluttering and allowing yourself not only to go down memory lane and have those self-reflective moments but have the strength to push packets them and take them as gifts that has gotten you where you are and helped you grow is one of the most amazing things that anyone can realize and experience. It’s so empowering and purifying I wish you all love and strength during your journey and I’m excited who you will discover in the end.

Barbara D

July 17, 2017 - 5:08pm

Last week my 17 year old grand daughter came over.
I started a box of cherished” thingies” a while ago.
I visualized sharing these with her.
Bree accepted some of these with gratitude.
This was a special moment for us.
The rest will have a new home at the Rancho Coastal Animal thrift Store.

Lili Pettit

July 20, 2017 - 3:18pm

Barbara, I love that you are trusting and letting go with JOY!! Thank you for sharing here. And those animals feel your support.

Lili Pettit

July 4, 2017 - 3:04pm

Little Duck, I agree! It is beautiful to have things that truly inspire and uplift you. It becomes another story when we hold on for dear life, out of fear or worry that someone else may judge us. Being free and fully expressed both within the walls of your home and outside is what I hope more of the world will learn. To the path!

Yvonne v

June 28, 2017 - 8:02am

I am in the process of letting go of things that do not have a loving place in my life.  That feeling of maybe needing or wanting it later is strong. I am working through it.  I have felt that “deep breath” feeling after I give something away to someone who will use it or donating boxes and bags of stuff.  I need to do it for me.  I have realized that I feel so much lighter and happy in a room in my home when every little spot, even the walls, is not filled with something.

Lili Pettit

July 4, 2017 - 3:09pm

Yvonne, thank you for sharing your truth. One of the greatest lessons we learn in evaluating our possessions is how we FEEL around certain items and objects. It’s important that you FEEL how you want to FEEL. You home is your sanctuary, your safe place, your nest. Don’t ever let any one else’s opinion or judgement influence what you desire. Keep up the good work!

DeeDee O

June 15, 2017 - 9:51am

As One who is going through the cleansing process of decluttering I can tell you it’s difficult but the more things I get rid of and the more space I have in my beautiful home the more energy I have. I have held onto the most beautiful things and the clothes I would by today if I were making that choice. The rest I have given away to others who will find the beauty in them fresh and new!

Lili Pettit

June 15, 2017 - 11:56am

This makes my heart so happy! Keeping only the things your truly love and value makes space for so much more. Allowing your items to be released to another life cycle with another person is glorious! Great job Dee!

Marsha W

June 13, 2017 - 1:32pm

I spent the afternoon going through my “memento” box and old photo albums.  I had a number of things from high school—my graduation announcement, an album of wallet-sized photos of my classmates, photos from events throughout my senior year, my senior yearbook.  High school was a terrible time for me yet here was a whole box of stuff dedicated to remembering those years of misery!?!  Gone!
I have photo albums and scrapbooks of my nephews’ early years.  There were some photos that made me smile, so I took them out of the scrapbooks.  I realized that I’d put these books together in case there was going to be some sort of “good auntie” test—if I had these things, then I’d pass.  I realized that anyone who is going to use that kind of test to judge someone else will always find a way to judge that person a failure.  I would fail that “good auntie” test no matter how wonderful the scrapbook.  Photos I love I kept, all else—Gone!
Twenty years worth of “memories” weighed about thirty-five pounds.  But discarding that thirty-five pounds removed tons of weight from my soul.  Good riddance.

Lili Pettit

June 14, 2017 - 10:25am

Marsha, I loved reading your post! The emotional energy we tie up in our things is astounding, right? I’m happy that you have seen the connection between the human experience, the feeling that you want to feel and the desire to vibrate HIGHER. Carry on sweet sister.

Lynn D

June 9, 2017 - 1:06pm

“The meanings we have assigned our possessions have become stronger than our ability to really feel. The Amazon delivery has replaced the hug, the instant gratification on social media has replaced real conversations, the lack of awareness feeds the disconnection from our bodies and so on.” These are very powerful thoughts that resonate to my core. Reading them has brought perspective and today I begin with my plan to give more hugs, plan more face-to-face time with friends = REAL conversations, and begin the mindful practice of living in the moment and reconnecting with my inner yearnings & feelings. Wish me luck!

Lili Pettit

June 12, 2017 - 5:32pm

That sounds so wonderful, Lynn!

Lili Pettit

May 23, 2017 - 10:48am

Jill, it sounds like you have been on the path for quite a long time! That makes me so happy. Consider your mind as you would your your home. Piece by piece, little by little, you will quiet it down and clear it out. It just takes discipline and a ton of self-love. I hope that you are being kind to your mind? Be aware of how and what messages you are telling yourself when you get stressed. Are you gentle and sweet or are you a harsh critic? Always do your best to meet negative thoughts with compassion and love. You’re worth it!

Jill S

May 22, 2017 - 4:28pm

I have been into Minimalism and Decluttering for about 15 years and my house is pretty clutter free.  But, I still have not cleared out the “clutter” in my head and it causes me the most stress.  Retired recently and spending more time just being without worries.

Lili Pettit

July 4, 2017 - 3:02pm

Hello Jill! I’m always looking for ways to get out of my head. The simple “mind dump” journaling exercise I describe in my latest post may be helpful. I also spoke with a client recently who has been struggling with this and finds a lot of joy in volunteering. Is there a charity or group that speaks to you? Best of luck!

Diane 13224

May 3, 2017 - 11:11am

Oh, I cannot tell you how pleased that I am to see this today.  I am 58, no kids, a collector of various things. Mostly photos! I have not organized them and purchased over the years tons of scrapebook stuff.  I doubts that I ever will seriously put these pics in books because I have no one to pass them on to.  I have an 8k square foot house. Trust me, when you have space, you will fill it up, even if you do not want to… I am slowly letting things go. I am pretty motivated as I have seen the burial of many peeps around me in their stuff.  I am overwhelmed and feel depressed by so much stuff in my life.  May we all be set free of these “things that bind us”
Diane Nevins


June 2, 2017 - 6:15pm

I’m in the same position.  Interesting.  Lets really try to motivate one another to look at our “things” enjoy them one last time, maybe give things to our friends to remember us.

Lili Pettit

June 4, 2017 - 12:54pm

Letting things go helps us open up to possibility, new perspectives and new beginnings Trust me, whether you are conscious of it or not, holding on to a lot of stuff weighs you down energetically. Let go and see what happens. I’m with you all the way!!

Lili Pettit

May 5, 2017 - 5:13pm

Thanks for sharing, Diane. I hope through cleaning you are able to set yourself free - you deserve it!

Jonlyn 13049

April 30, 2017 - 6:06pm

Thank you, Lili, this is exactly what I needed to read today!

Lili Pettit

May 5, 2017 - 5:08pm

Thank you, Jonlyn! I’m so happy to hear that :)

Deb 12923

April 28, 2017 - 9:41pm

Lili, what an amazingly insightful article. I’d already set aside tomorrow to go through several boxes in my spare room, and I will keep your thoughts close at hand as I work through all those papers I collected, and of which I now need only about 10%. Happy Cleaning from your grateful friend Deb

Lili Pettit

May 5, 2017 - 5:08pm

Thank you, Deb! I hope my words served you well during your recent declutter session!

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