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The Hidden Life-Changing Power of Decluttering

By Rita Wilkins February 09, 2024 Lifestyle

Who could have guessed that the cathartic process of purging and decluttering one woman’s home one drawer, one closet, one room at a time could change the direction and trajectory of life forever?

What began as an attempt to help a client gradually declutter her home, that had become so overrun with clutter that she was overwhelmed to the point of feeling paralyzed and powerless to accomplish the task on her own, turned into an adventure and great revelation.

What ended up happening was completely unexpected. After almost a year of decluttering, a powerful, confident, emboldened woman emerged from underneath all of that clutter. the physical and emotional clutter that had been standing in the way of the peace, contentment and fulfillment that her clutter-free home now provides, was gone.

And even more importantly, after fully embracing the inner work of decluttering, she is now a woman who loves and respects herself enough to confront anyone (including herself) who tells her she can’t when she knows she CAN.

But perhaps the most significant impact of decluttering, both the physical and mental clutter, is the life-changing power that she discovered within herself hidden underneath all of that stuff. 

Getting Your Life Back Through Decluttering

Several major transformations took place during the nine-month-long process.

  • She regained control of her physical environment by purging anything that she no longer wanted, needed, or used, creating space for a simpler and more abundant life with less.
  • She reclaimed her own power by discovering a new sense of control over herself and her life, ultimately making room for the life she really wanted.
  • She rediscovered her self-worth, self-love, inner peace, contentment, and happiness.

Throughout the process of purging, she also learned how to:

  • Confront and talk about the deep-seated emotions of anger, resentment, frustration that had been building up and kept hidden for many years.
  • Reject and refuse to allow the negative, non-supportive environment that prevented her from accomplishing her decluttering goals. Instead, replacing them with a supportive team that would inspire and encourage her on the journey.
  • Learn to develop new skills, routines, and habits that would contribute to sustainable changes. 

“Good Luck with That!”

A few weeks into our decluttering sessions, I was introduced to her spouse for the first time.

She said: “Rita is here to help me declutter our home.”

He responded: “Good luck with that!”

To this day, those cruel, biting, and disempowering words still ring in my ears!

In that moment, I saw a woman who had heard this message many times before and felt so beaten down by a spouse who was betting against her success.

How could she possibly win at decluttering or anything else she set out to do? No wonder she felt incapable of doing this project on her own!

Those Were “Fighting Words!”

His disrespectful words lit a fire and passion within me to not only help this woman get her house back, but also to reclaim her power, self-respect, and belief in herself.

I was committed to having her reverse the real time cost of clutter.

Getting Started, Staying Motivated, and Winning the Decluttering Game

An overview of the process of this life-changing approach to decluttering:

  1. Establish ground rules for a safe, supportive, and judgment-free space that inspires and encourages weekly progress.
  2. Teach practical tools, tips, techniques to let go of excess that is not aligned with values and current lifestyle. 
  3. Practice techniques for overcoming obstacles and breaking free of barriers that slow down the decision-making process.
  4. Take “before pictures” and “after pictures” at every decluttering session.
  5. Complete the initial intake form/questionnaire to better understand the impact of physical and emotional clutter on health, well-being, relationships, productivity, and overall happiness.
  6. Monitor the level of weekly commitment and keep a written journal.
  7. Create a written vision statement for life after decluttering.
  8. Create a blueprint/roadmap of all areas in the home to be decluttered. Prioritize them in order of importance and impact.
  9. Establish decluttering calendar with specific dates, times, goals for each session.
  10. Document weekly progress, noting whether goals were achieved. If not, why not? What might be done differently the next time: lessons learned.

Room by Room, Session by Session, We Began to See Real Transformation and Results

As she grew to trust me, she openly talked about the emotions that she had been denying and attempting to hide for many years. Those feelings of anger, resentment, frustration, and disrespectbegan to melt away and feelings of gratitude and hope started to creep into our conversation.

She came to realize that as she not only lost control of her house and the clutter within it, she has also lost her own power and self-respect.

With each bag of discarded trash, with each box of donated stuff, she was not only letting go of the physical clutter, but she was also letting go of the mental cutter that had been the real roadblock to any possibility of success that she was looking for. 

As her house started to feel lighter, brighter, and more organized, she, too, started to exude a newfound power, self-confidence, and self-respect.

During the nine-month-long journey of decluttering and of getting her house and her life back, she miraculously discovered the real cost of clutter. The woman who had been hiding beneath all of it began to emerge.

A Good Ending

We all like good endings and this one will warm your heart. 

About six months into the process, her spouse began to compliment her on her commitment and progress. He even offered to help. 

A month before we finished the large project, her husband happily announced that they had decided to have a big party at their house… something they both were too ashamed to do in the past. 

At last, and together… they could proudly invite people into their new home. 


Let’s Have a Conversation:

What was your initial roadblock to successfully declutter your home and life? Is your story one of success?

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I love watching programmers like extreme hoarders. It really motivates me to just go around the house with fresh eyes and do a tidyup or declutter. I think it’s something I try and keep on top of before things get out of control. For me, the hardest part is driving to the op shop to drop things off as I just feel like maybe I could “repurpose” those things and that I should just “wait” a bit longer. So, for example, I have quite a few bags of books now cluttering the garage that I am keeping “in case” I need them. (For example, for an art project). I have actually been going thru them for a collage project so maybe I should just relabel them as “resources”, not clutter!

rita wilkins

Ingrid, this is often a problem with decluttering… allowing the boxes and bags to hang around, allowing you to s.econd guess yourself. At least you are aware of the fact that they are there

Congratulations for keeping up with your clutter so it doesn’t get out of hand.

Rita, The Downsizing Designer

Cynthia LHH

Having grown up the child of a hoarder (not a collector, I know the difference), I have never had a use for things. I know there are memories attached for many people, but never for me. When we downsized a few years ago, I was still surprised at the amount of things that we had accumulated. I am glad for the move.
If you are looking for another reason to declutter, consider that leaving all your things for a loved one to go through after you are gone may not be a gift to them.

rita wilkins

Cynthia, thanks for your comment and suggestions. We can all learn from each other and best wishes of your continued decluttering journey!

Rita, The Downsizing Designer


I love this story. You are doing important work! So glad the husband came around; I was a bit afraid the client’s empowerment would mean divorce.

rita wilkins

Sharie, thanks for your compliment. I agree, this is important work and it’s more than just about physical clutter. The emotional clutter is the harder part to uncover and it is sure nice when there is a happy ending.

Rita, The Downsizing Designer

DebraLynn WA

We were downsizing from a large home to a small condo, so decluttering had to happen. I had the moving truck deliver large furniture and appliances to a single mom friend close by, and it felt good that they went to someone who needed them. The rest of the furniture we were donating was picked up by Habitat for Humanity. It was rewarding to know that our belongings would go to people who would appreciate and benefit from them. We also invited friends over to “shop” our extras. Watching our things find homes with people we cared about felt good. Went from a traditional home to a place on the water with a beach vibe. Over the 13 years in our new home, I have ended up rebuying some of the small appliances I gave away. We have a clothesline charity connected to our local food bank that accepts gently worn clothes. It makes it easier to declutter when I think I’m helping others.

There are always surprises when decluttering. I opened a drawer to find several bathing suits, and I’ve only worn one in the last several years!

We still have a storage unit to go through. We are a success in the making.


I LOVE donating my charities I know are doing good work. It’s so much easier to let go of things when I think that something I don’t want/need is going to someone that can use it.

rita wilkins

Debra, your comments are very inspiring and motivational. There are so many people in need of things we no longer want, need or use. I am glad you’ve found the reward in knowing that your things will benefit others.

Warm regards,
Rita, The Downsizing Designer

Renee Lovitz

I decluttered before it was discovered by the masses. It makes life easier for sure! My house has very little in it and I live a simple happy life!!

rita wilkins

Renee, thanks for your comment and best wishes on your continued journey.

Rita, The Downsizing Designer

The Author

Rita Wilkins, known as The Downsizing Designer, is a nationally recognized interior design and lifestyle design expert, Tedx speaker and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom. She challenges baby boomer audiences to reimagine, reinvent, redesign their lives to live abundantly with less. Learn more at

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