‘They grow up so fast!’ And she has. Ava, my tiny little baby who once seemed lost in an enormous cot now filled it quite happily. Clothes that once seemed baggy now stretched at the seams and her once loved toys now lay abandoned. Her first birthday brought a whole new selection of gifts and treasures, as did her Christening and then I needed more things for Nursery. As her needs increased, my one bedroom flat seems to shrink. It is almost like a sea that washed in closer and closer with every tide and threatened to overwhelm my living space completely.
Of course I knew a baby would take up a lot of space and I didn’t begrudge her this for one moment. I also knew that my quest to declutter would inevitably involve passing on the things she had outgrown. What I didn’t realise was this process would affect me so deeply. I was suffering from one of the emotional effects of decluttering and I found it rather unsettling.
When decluttering produces an emotional reaction it’s probably best to stop and examine this in detail. Try and ignore it and you are likely to put of decluttering all together and distract yourself with a more pleasurable activity – like going shopping for more clutter. Instead take a moment to write down the emotions you are feeling. Are they sad? Confused? Angry or perhaps a combination of several emotions?
When I thought about getting rid of baby items I felt very sad. Logic told me that Ava didn’t need them anymore and they could benefit another baby. The emotional side of me resisted even though I couldn’t think of a good reason to keep them.
I then delved deeper do discover exactly what I was feeling. I knew my husband didn’t want any more children and I was also over 40 which wasn’t ideal in child bearing terms. We couldn’t really afford another child and we certainly didn’t have the space. I had resigned myself to this fact but that didn’t mean I was overjoyed with the decision. Deep down I think I really wanted another child and this was why I was resisting parting with anything baby-related. There was a sense I should keep them ‘just in case one day another miracle happened’ even though this was very unlikely.
Now that I had recognised the problem I then had to find a way to work through it. I remembered how lucky I was to have a child and how grateful I was that she was happy and healthy. I also realised how impractical it would be to keep every single item she owned for the next 40 years or so and just what that would look like in terms of storage. I pictured a huge storage unit bursting full of baby things and a grown up Ava raising her eyebrows and shaking her head at the thought of such a sentimental mother. I also realised that by holding onto stuff I was not allowing new better stuff to come in. I also realised that however much I enjoyed having her as a baby it was inevitable that she would grow up and that her natural healthy growth and development was also a blessing.
The next thing I did was identify where her clothing and equipment would go. Some clothes would go to my friends who had babies, the rest would go to the charity shop. To help with this I pictured how pleased my friends and the volunteers would be when they saw the clothes and how cute the babies would look in my daughters treasured outfits. By replacing my negative feelings with positive associations I began to feel a bit better. I also remembered that I still had photographs of my daughter wearing my favourite items of clothing so I always had those to look at should the need the arise.
The final step was to bag up the items and leave them by the front door ready to go. I knew if I didn’t act immediately the momentum would be lost and those negative feelings might start to resurface. Those items had to go sooner rather than later.
Once the job was done I felt much better. I could see that there was lots more space for Ava’s dresses and toys. Ava had watched the whole sorting business without a fuss. She was just happy that mummy was less stressed and her happiness was, at the end of the day, all that really mattered.