The Poison of Resentment & How It Relates to Clutter

Let’s be real — this topic is uncomfortable. But it might be something that you need to hear.

If you currently have, or you’ve ever had feelings of resentment, it’s incredibly important to recognize it and understand how it impacts your relationships and the clutter in your life.

Resentment is such a poison in our relationships that I actually hate the word! I hate talking about it, but I realize how necessary it is to talk about this and even more importantly, how to tackle this. Because resentment is actually pretty commonly related to clutter.

I’ve had many clients that feel resentful about the clutter in their homes, about cleaning their homes, about the stress that clutter creates in their lives — especially when they’re living with other people who should be equally responsible for the mess in their house.

With my personal clutter journey, I spent years living in the poisonous negative feedback loop of resentment toward my husband. It was only once I figured out that I had a responsibility for this resentment, and that I was making a choice to stay resentful — once I recognized that, I was able to move forward. Things have gotten so much better over the years. But only after I finally recognized that my own resentment was not helping the situation.

There’s a line that I wrote in my journal years ago that was such an “Aha!” moment for me. I don’t know where this line came from. I quickly wrote it down from something I was reading at the time so I can’t credit the author, but here it is:

Living with resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.

Read it again!

This is exactly what I had been doing for so long. Not only was this detrimental to my relationships, but it was detrimental to me achieving a goal of having a peaceful home. I couldn’t find peace in my home while I was taking bitter resentment pills and waiting for someone else to fall.

Let me start by saying that your feelings are always valid. And sometimes, your resentment is even justifiable. But it doesn’t matter how justified you are in your resentment; if you’re holding on to these feelings and staying bitter, this choice will not help you get to your end goal no matter how justified your resentment.

So how do we tackle resentment in relationships and in relation to clutter?

It’s a combination of changing your mindset, effectively communicating, and taking some actionable steps.

Let’s start with the mindset of resentment.

Ask yourself: Who am I doing this for?

(Hint: Do it for YOU!)

When I was dealing with my own clutter, one of the most important things I had to recognize in order to move past the resentment phase was understanding who I’m doing this for.

So much of my resentment was about having the burden of household responsibilities on my shoulders. When my children were younger, I felt that I was carrying this burden of doing the majority of the household chores, the majority of the child-rearing, the majority of the family scheduling and taxiing, the majority of the mental load of running a household for a young family.

This felt extremely burdensome and unfair to me.

Once I started learning how to overcome this resentment, I realized that a lot of the things I was feeling resentful about were simply more important to me than to anyone else.

Why did I feel resentful about the floors being dirty and my husband not bothering to clean them? Guess what — it doesn’t matter to him. It doesn’t matter to the kids. They can all deal with dirty floors, but I can’t. It was ME who wanted the floors to be clean more frequently. It mattered to my mental well-being, but not to anyone else’s.

Once I understood that most of my resentments really only impacted ME before anyone else, I was able to start taking more responsibility for what needed to be done. Because at the end of the day, I was doing this for me and my mental well-being. I took these steps because it made ME feel better.

It also goes back to expectations. I expected my husband and my kids would WANT to help maintain MY happy level of cleanliness. But I am responsible for my own expectations. When other people don’t care as much about what you care about, then do it for YOU. It’s a gift to yourself.

When I shifted my thinking around this, I began to feel really grateful. Grateful for having the physical ability to get things done. Grateful for having the time to take care of these things, even if I had to squeeze it in or come to terms with how I was using my time. I finally understood that I could approach these tasks feeling grateful because I was doing them for me. Of course, my family was benefiting, but my family also does things that benefit me.

The next step in this process is recognizing what other people are doing that is benefiting you. This is called gratitude. Replace resentment with gratitude.

Replacing resentment with gratitude is one of the best things you can do to move forward. When you’re thinking about something and starting to feel that bitter poison pill of resentment percolating in your heart… stop. Take a breath. And think about something you are genuinely grateful for. Replace resentment with gratitude. I guarantee it’ll make a huge difference in your life.

There are some actionable things you can do to tear down that resentment and replace it with happiness, positivity, love, and gratitude. Three actionable steps I recommend:

1. Recognize what you can control.

If you’re feeling resentful because there’s a lot of clutter in your house, what is the clutter that you can control? Tackle that first. We always, in all of my programs, deal with our own clutter first. Everyone else’s clutter will get figured out by moving forward. We’ll teach you how to have good conversations about it, and how to communicate better. But for right now — your immediate focus is on what you can control.

Once you start getting your own clutter under control, you will feel 1,000 times better and that resentment will start chipping away. So figure out what you can control and deal with that first and foremost.

2. Focus on what is going to make the biggest impact.

What’s the one single area in your life, in your home, in your relationships, in your finances — that if it were cleared up, if it were clutter-free, it would make a huge difference? Identify that area and start there. Tackle this resentment by making the most impactful change, first.

3. Add self-care time into your schedule.

This is extremely important. Oftentimes the resentment we feel is connected to our time. “I don’t have time to do what I want to do because XYZ needs to get done.” This is when you decide that XYZ are going to wait because YOU need your self-care time.

You need to do what you want to do. Build it into your schedule, prioritize it, and let other things fall away.

Instead of feeling resentful that you don’t have the time, MAKE the time. Maybe you need to reframe your thinking about this. For example, I used to think that if I didn’t have 45 minutes for a run, then I couldn’t go for a run at all.

But I can run for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 30 minutes — I don’t NEED a full 45 minutes every single time I want to go for a run! Shifting your thinking just a little bit can make a big difference. Creating time just for you is one significant want to chip away at that resentment.

I challenge you right now: how can you prioritize self-care this week? If you don’t have an hour to do something, what can you do in 30 minutes? 20 minutes? How can you chip away at the resentment you’re feeling?

And now it’s time to tie mindset and actionable steps together with communication.

The most effective strategy I’ve found in talking about resentful feelings is to replace “you” with “I.”

When you’re having a difficult conversation, instead of talking about the other person and what THEY are doing wrong, talk about yourself and how you’re feeling. So instead of saying “You didn’t do this/you’re not taking care of things/you’re not helping out/you’re not doing xyz” say “I am feeling stressed/I am feeling sad/I am feeling overwhelmed/I am feeling like I am carrying the majority of the burden.”

Own your feelings.

This is a little switch that makes a big difference in your communication. When someone comes at you and tells you what you’re doing wrong, your immediate reaction is to become defensive. When somebody becomes defensive in a conversation, they’re not going to say nice things. And then you’re going to become defensive, and then you’re not going to say nice things.

Instead of creating an offensive/defensive structure to your conversation, which we know won’t yield positive results, focus instead on clearly communicating your feelings and be open to what the other person has to say without becoming defensive yourself.

Remember, continuing to feel resentful is a choice. And as hard as it can be to deal with, moving past these feelings is ultimately a gift for YOU. Use these tactics in your favor instead of allowing resentment to continue to poison you.

If you have tactics that have worked for you in overcoming resentment, please share your thoughts and let us know in the comments.

If you need support during the 2020 holiday season, I encourage you to join Clutter Bootcamp. There is a whole community in the Prioritize Your Sanity group who are just beautiful and giving people, and they’re ready to support you!

I’m ready for Bootcamp!

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