To get organized, embrace the power of NO

To get organized, embrace the power of NO

Do you feel disorganized and overwhelmed by the state of your home and belongings? Do you feel guilt over your possessions - too many, too messy, too scattered? Have you tried all the things and all the systems but still feel burdened by the C-word? (clutt*r)

We have a solution and it’s simple: embrace the power of NO. 

NO doesn’t mean yelling “no!” at your belongings in the hopes they will start dancing, a la Beauty and the Beast, and arrange themselves into a pleasing arrangement, thus solving your problems.

NO means Neutralize Objects.  

Let me explain…

The image above is of what? It’s a simple glass, just an object made to contain a beverage.

The glass has no inherent value until we start attaching thoughts to it. Thoughts like:

“That’s pretty, etched glassware looks elegant on a table” or

“Ew, that’s giving me PTSD of all the dusty antique stores my mom used to drag me into”

Those are kind of low impact thoughts, right?

Now, let’s assume the glass belongs to you and is part of a set of 24 that you inherited from your grandma.

In that case, you could have a variety of more intense thoughts associated with the glass, such as:

“Holy cow, where am I going to store these? I’m living van life now!”

“I can’t believe Grandma didn’t give me the silver instead when she knew that’s what I wanted”

“Now I can set a beautiful Thanksgiving table! I’m finally a grown up!”

And so on.

Different thoughts create different feelings in us such as guilt, anger, sadness, delight, pride, etc.

How can one item, a simple glass, evoke such different emotions? The glass doesn’t have magical abilities, it’s not the Goblet of Fire or the Holy Grail.  Objects themselves are powerless and can’t make us feel anything.

Here is the key (which is simple but also kind of magic): 

It’s our THOUGHTS about the objects that cause our feelings.

So if you’re having issues with your possessions, we suggest using the NO tool: neutralize the object. 

I’ll share a personal example to illustrate. Years ago, I inherited a full length mink coat from a beloved aunt who passed away. I wasn’t expecting to receive this coat the weekend that I went to New York City to assist in cleaning out her apartment so I had to wear it home on the plane back to Chicago. I was also given an elegant tweed suitcase (old school, no wheels) that I filled with various candlesticks and knick knacks that I had taken as mementos. It was raining the day I left and there were no taxis available so wearing the now dripping fur coat I dragged the suitcase blocks to the bus stop. (I looked like deposed royalty fleeing the country with my remaining valuables.) Back home, I stored the coat but never wore it as I am not a fan of the fur trade but dear lord, I couldn’t get rid of it, MY AUNT GAVE IT TO ME. So there it sat, in my closet, for years. I tried it on every once in a while, and eventually noticed that it had a huge rip in the shoulder. I researched costs to repair, how to alter/restyle furs into pillows, etc. because no matter how much I didn’t want the coat, I had to keep it because MY AUNT GAVE IT TO ME.

Then one day, in a moment of clarity, I just looked at the coat through a new lens and realized that it is simply a piece of clothing and one that doesn’t align with my values or style. Hanging onto this coat wasn’t going to bring my aunt back to life or the poor animals that gave their lives for the dang thing. Even if I kept it out of guilt (did I mention that MY AUNT GAVE IT TO ME?) it would eventually fall apart because that’s what happens to old furs. Once I neutralized the object in my mind, my emotions around it immediately dissipated.

I donated the fur to the local thrift shop and have imagined that it was either snatched up by a vintage-loving shopper or someone looking for an amazing Halloween costume. Either way, by releasing the coat - and my feelings attached to it - it got to provide some more use in the world  which it wouldn’t have done if it stayed locked in the emotional vault I had created for it.

If you are in a similar situation with some possessions of yours that are causing emotional conflict (guilt, anger, resentment) try neutralizing the object with these simple steps:

  • Write down on paper exactly what the object is - a glass, a coat, a ring  - without any sentimental language attached. Imagine how it would be described in an auction catalog, for example, it wouldn’t be listed as “Grandma’s pretty glassware.” 
  • Now that you’ve described the object in neutral terms, come up with a simple thought that reinforces that neutrality such as “that is a glass” or “that is a ring.” Sit with the object and really look at it while you repeat the thought to yourself. It seems overly obvious or simplistic but it will make you realize how much non factual layering you’ve unconsciously added to it.
  • Now consider a thought that aligns with 1) what you truly want to do with these things and 2) the feeling you want to have about your decision such as, “It was nice of Grandma to leave these to me but I don’t have room and they aren’t my style” or “Someone can really use these and will be thrilled to find them.”

That’s NO in a nutshell but we understand that getting from point A to point B might be more complicated in which case we invite you to check out our “Starter Guide to Overcoming Organizational Challenges” for more in-depth information.

To wrap up, it helps to remember that while you might get attached to your objects, you do have the power to detach and it’s easier than you think!


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