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How to Overcome Barriers When Simplifying: Part 3

After preparing to Simplify in Part 1 of the Simplify blog series, and actually walking through how to Simplify in Part 2 with my kitchen drawer as an example, I feel it is important to finish this blog series discussing barriers that you may encounter along the way.

By now, it’s not news to you that simplified environments are more calming than cluttered ones.

So, if we know we feel better when our spaces are clear, why isn’t everything organized and simplified already? Why do we still have spaces that are cluttered? What are the barriers to getting our spaces in order?

This is a before and after of a client’s closet after Simplifying!

This is a before and after of a client’s closet after Simplifying!

Bins @Target

Let’s start by getting the emotions out in the open…


Cluttered spaces overwhelm us!

That overwhelmed feeling ignites the sympathetic nervous system (ie. stress response) to respond with “freeze” or “flight.” Overwhelm leads to procrastination. We feel stressed. We feel defeated and make excuses. We feel like crying just thinking about it! And most people don’t know where to start.

The competing demands of each day and the overwhelm of just getting started, keeps you feeling discouraged about organizing your home. The number one reason people call me is that they need someone to help them move through the overwhelm stage.


When I go through items with my clients to suggest parting with them, they often say, “I’m afraid…” The sentence ends with, “I may need it someday,” or, “I might hurt so‐and‐so’s feelings.”

Fear holds people back.

I guide them through these hurdles, helping them see that if the day comes they actually need three garlic presses (note you only have 2 hands) or fourteen legal notepads (that is a lot of note taking), they likely won’t be able to find them.


If you’re worried your friend may find out that you got rid of the gift she gave you, she’ll never know. “I feel bad, Aunt Milly gave me this china set.” She gave it to you thirty‐five years ago. You’ve never taken it out of the box. Several pieces are probably missing. You’ll probably never use it, and Aunt Milly will never know!

I don’t want to sound heartless, but your sanity is worth more than worrying about something that may never happen.

When we receive gifts from family or friends that we have no use for and, quite frankly, don’t even like, we feel bad when we get rid of them. This is why I’ve stopped gifting people “things” and started giving gift certificates or experiences that they’ll enjoy instead. I don’t want to be creating guilt for anyone.

Perhaps you have spent your own money on something that doesn’t actually bring value to your life and you feel bad getting rid of it. We can have this type of guilt as well. But, let me remind you that the you don’t get the money back by holding onto it in your closet.

We have ALL felt these emotions at one time or another. Don’t worry, there’s still hope!

I have compiled the 3 most common barriers that I have encountered during Simplification projects and how to work through them. I hope this helps you to work past them and continue moving forward in your projects!

How to overcome the 3 most common barriers of simplifying:

  1. “I’m not sure where to start…”

There are a few ways you can approach this. 

You can

1- Pick a small space for an “easy win” and gain some momentum to move on to another, larger space. 

2- Start in the space that you are most motivated to tackle or seems “easy” to you. What space do you think “I can totally tackle that!”?


3- Pick the space that drives you nuts and you would feel the most relief from.


Start with a small space like this pan drawer.

Start with a small space like this pan drawer.

Once you pick where you want to start, remember the Life Made Simple 3 steps:

simplify, systematize and sustain

  • Pull EVERYTHING out

  • Sort it into categories of “keep” or “let go”

  • Then think about where you want to put it back… What kind of system do you want to build?

Regardless of how you approach this, remember, it didn’t get disorganized in a day and you won’t solve all of your organization challenges that quick either, any step you take is making a difference! 

2. “I’m not sure if I should keep it or let it go…”

Ask yourself:

  • Have I used it in the past 6 months?

  • Will I use it in the next few months?

  • Do I love wearing or using it? 

  • Are you holding onto it because of guilt or fear?

If you are not currently using it, do not plan to, or you don’t even enjoy using it or wearing it…let it go! 

Hold onto the items that make you happy and want to display!

Hold onto the items that make you happy and want to display!

Do you hear yourself saying “just in case” when you hold the item?

When this “just in case” situation arises, you will likely not be able to even find it, so let it go. For most things, you can spend the $5 or 10 dollars to get a new one in the rare chance you need that extra gravy boat. 

I know there are a few items that may need to hold onto but that should not be the case for most of our belongings that are just taking up space. 

I always ask myself and my clients, “Is this cluttering up my space more important than how good it would feel to have a clear space?” Or, “How calm would I feel if there wasn’t stuff all over the counters and floors?”

Your happiness and sanity is worth more than these things that keep creating stress in our life.

3. “I feel like I want to give up…”

This work can be overwhelming. It is emotional to go through your things, and our brains get tired. If you are feeling like you just want to quit…

-take a break –

Set a timer and walk away for a few minutes. Take a breath. 

Get some fresh air or some water, but commit to going back. This is so important. You can do this!

Now that you have gotten some fresh air and walked away for a few minutes, are you feeling reenergized?

I hope so! Just think about how good it will feel to get this space cleared up and put back together even better than before. 

If you have pulled everything out and are struggling with where to put things back, I like to think of a space as puzzle when I am organizing it. 

I start with what I know to be true, just like the pieces of a puzzle, I know the pieces with the flat edges go on the outside… I do the same when organizing a space: What do I know to be true? Or, what do I know only fits in this space? For example, I know the big cooking pots will only fit in the big drawer by the stove.

I then move to the inside pieces of the puzzle, and I often have to move them around a few times to see what fits where. 90% of the time I don’t even get it right on the first try, it is all trial and error!  I always move things around to see what fits and what works best for the space.


The end product is worth it, you can do it!

The end product is worth it, you can do it!

Don’t get discouraged! Nothing is set in stone – you can always adjust as time goes on. I am always moving stuff around as I get new ideas and inspiration. 

What I want you to avoid is pulling your space apart and then giving up leaving it all over the floor or just throwing it back in a closet in a pile.

You have come this far, let’s not just throw it back in the closet or set it in a pile!

And take a step back to think about where the puzzle pieces should go.

Regardless of what’s holding someone back from letting go of stuff, deep down, they know they want to get rid of it. They just need someone to help them make that final decision. I had a client recently who said that the greatest benefit of working with me was the “psychological aspect”. It’s as though I gave her “permission” to let things go.

I always tell my clients I’ll meet them where they’re at. I don’t come with a one‐ size‐fits‐all approach. I help them set their goals, determine their starting point, and keep them on track. Just like working with heart patients in the past, they all start from a different place with different limitations. I’m not going to make everyone run a five kilometer race. That’s not realistic! But you can get started.


Creating a Simplified kid’s at home learning space. It is just as important for our kiddos to keep their space Simplified!

Creating a Simplified kid’s at home learning space. It is just as important for our kiddos to keep their space Simplified!

If it doesn’t add value to your life and you wouldn’t put it on display in your house… Let. It. Go.

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