Jan 132016

Cluttered office

Once upon a time, I was a single mother. I worked in human services (not the biggest ticket salary out there) and received almost none of the child support that had been ordered by the court. (Yes,  I could have taken all sort of steps to collect but, at the time, he wasn’t around  and that made life much safer and more peaceful.)

The downside?

I got really good at worrying about money. I developed a highly trained scarcity mentality. PhD-level.  Despite changed circumstances, sometimes it’s still hard to get rid of “stuff” without thinking “maybe someone will need this someday.” Those thoughts were particularly loud and obnoxious when got married and merged two complete households. They cropped up again when we sold our home and prepared to  move to the other end of the country.

At the risk of sounding like a hoarder, I’ve learned to turn down the volume of those thoughts.  The simplest, least stressful strategy I’ve found is a multi-step process. First, I put “stuff” into a big storage box. Then I close it up and notice whether or not I go looking for any of its contents. Most of the time the answer is “no” and I am grateful to drop it off at the thrift store that supports our local domestic violence shelter.

Not long ago, I was on the phone with a friend, talking a little about this process. He’s much better at it than I am and had an observation about why it can be so difficult for people to start the process of off-loading excess.

“Our lizard brain hates loss.”

[Tweet “Our lizard brain hates loss.“]

Duh.  I know this.  Hanging on to excess stuff is about survival… about having “enough” to live. And it doesn’t matter that the “need” is only a perception.  An important part of clearing clutter is to make sure we’re not seeing it as a loss.

[Tweet “It doesn’t matter that the need is only a perception.”]

Living better with less is a mindset… and sometimes we need to remind that little lizard between our ears that our survival is not at stake. Take small steps. There is no end.  Gratitude for the abundance in our lives. There’s no hurry… It’s a way of lifeIMG_7528


I’m still working on completing the office “before and after” pictured in the blog post… but I did manage to publish The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in You Head. You can get a copy here.


Have you already read The Inner Critic Advantage? Love it? Click here to go to a page of E-Z click-to-tweets. Help share the love? Thanks. Mwuah.

  13 Responses to “Your Lizard Brain Loves STUFF”

  1. Spring is my time to de-lcutter and I enjoy it thoroughly 🙂
    Love this article and agree with you a 100%.

  2. Andrea, it’s so true that our lizard brains just want to hold on to stuff, feeling safer. Thanks for sharing your mindset shift around letting go. “Living better with less.” I like the sounds of that.

  3. Other than a few sentimental things, i find I’m rather the opposite. When life feels out of control, i feel the need to purge, control, minimize chaos, and organize. My goal – freedom! That being said, i know many who run unconscious and unsuccessful strategies and who have filled their lives and homes with meaningless “stuff” in an attempt to fill another void. I’ll definitely be passing this post along to them! Letting go is empowering!

  4. Love this post, Andrea! I think in some ways I’m still a recovering post-divorce “scarcity” single mom. It reassuring to know that I’m not the only one! Thank you for sharing your story. xo

  5. Really like this line, Andrea: “An important part of clearing clutter is to make sure we’re not seeing it as a loss.”

    I love decluttering and getting rid of things…and the biggest reason for this is that I experience doing so as creating spaciousness and ease. I also experience it as allowing space for something desired and needed to come in.

    Your post and that line above help me understand why someone else might experience decluttering totally differently. And this will allow me to witness them in a whole new way. Thank you!

  6. Excellent article Andrea. It is true that lack and scarcity consciousness can cause us to hold onto things, slowing down the flow of abundance. I really like the term – lizard brain! De-cluttering brings such a sense of freedom into our lives and makes room for more good to flow in.

  7. What a timely blog post, Andrea! ~ I was down in my basement this weekend – looking at boxes that have been sealed up since our move to Cape Cod three years ago. And my thought was, “If I haven’t opened these by now, do I really need what’s inside?” ~ It’s amazing what we hang on to!

  8. Oh my gosh…I purge my closets 2-3 times a year. Right now, though, it’s my library/office that needs a major de-effing-cluttering. You know, I have this ginormous binder of cross-stitch patterns. I used xstitch all the time. I haven’t xstitched in….20 years. I think I can get rid/donate/find a new home for the binder!

  9. It’s harder to make a comfortable nest with less stuff 🙂
    Each January, I make decluttering my focus. Interesting points.

  10. I use a variety of methods, all of which show me just how clear or unclear I’m being about “stuff.” Most lately I found myself breaking my one-in, one-out rule when I bought a bunch of deeply discounted long-sleeved shirts for winter. I saw myself adding seven shirts and only removing two. That’s not the balance I like and all I need to do to restore that balance is to donate five more pieces. Think I’ll do that tonight. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Funny how we can use so many different avenues to fuzzy-up our thinking. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Coming back to add that I now share a house with a honest-to-goddess hoarder and it often drives me nuts. When I found a stash of single paper towels and napkins tucked into a corner of the shared kitchen counter the other night I think steam started coming out of my ears. I am driven to minimize my own stuff even more in order to achieve some balance in this house that my housemate is cramming full of never-used ancient stuff. Deep breath. Rant over. Thanks for listening.

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