Using Emotional Intelligence to Declutter | Baptist Housing

Using Emotional Intelligence to Declutter

The prospect of moving into smaller spaces is often daunting simply because of an excess of stuff collected over many years.

You may have shelves of momentos and knickknacks from ages past - and to be honest, while there is some value in being the guardian of antiques and treasure, there comes a time when owning too many things become stifling. You may not realize it, but holding on to too many items may actually be undoing their memory-holding value - causing you to feel harassed and guilty as you try to find places to store that vintage camera that you picked up at a garage sale when you were 20, your jazz record collection or the school assignments from your kids.

Have you ever thought of using emotional intelligence to solve this problem?

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Leading researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have defined it as "the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions." Basically, being emotionally intelligent means being able to maturely handle your emotions. Instead of worrying that you need to keep excessive amounts of physical items around in order to guard memories and emotions, you may find that you can own less and still maintain a healthy sense of nostalgia.

Here is a small walkthrough of how you can use emotional intelligence to help you declutter:

1. Choose a small area to start - one storage box of keepsakes, a shelf of knick-knacks, a cupboard of old toys - and then grab a garbage bag and a donation box.

2. Pick up an item and ask: "What emotion does this item bring out?" (It is joy? longing? love? peace?) A helpful "feelings inventory" can be found here. 

3. Study this emotion for a moment. What is it, and why do you feel that?

4. Ask yourself: "Would I still feel this emotion without the physical item?" 

If yes, your decision has been made - donate the item or throw it away.

If no, keep it for now, but consider this: do you have multiple items that rouse the same emotion? Could you make the decision to keep just one or two?

Let go of the guilt of removing these items from your home and be emotionally free of the weight of excess clutter.


Downsizing and getting rid of clutter are practical ways to prepare as you consider senior housing opportunities. If you are looking for Independent Living or Assisted Living options in BC, we would love to welcome you home to Baptist Housing. Learn more about our Independent Living and Assisted Living options by following the links.