Decluttering the Emotional Non-Essentials

Some decisions are big. One direction or the other. And the result will make an impact on your future. Take a new job? Move to a different city or country? Where to go to university? To get pregnant and have a baby?

These decisions have lifelong consequences. They often mark a turning point in your life.

Not all important decision are as obvious when you make them. Some decisions that change your life forever start small. But that one small decision might send you in an entirely new direction.

The Big Small Decisions

The decision that changed my life forever was one of these small decisions. At the time, it seemed insignificant. I had started down the path of decluttering. I was swept up in the phenomenon of becoming more minimal. It started with my stuff, and having fewer things. But the further I read into the topic, the more I was captivated. Decluttering is not just about having cleaner spaces and more room in the closet. It is about removing the non essentials from my life.

I remember clearly when I was introduced to the idea that clutter did not just exist as physical things. It was the unopened emails in my inbox. It was the overcrowding of my calendar. It was the over-committing that had become habitual. It opened a new world to me, of how decluttering could really change my life, give me more time, and reduce my stress.

The Big Decision for My Well-Being

But this was not where the real change occurred. The big decision I made to protect my mental well-being.  I decided to apply these same principles of removing the non-essentials. To the emotional clutter in my life. The moment I realized that so much of my stress was being unable to maintain boundaries with people. Specifically with people who were not supporting my well-being. People who were not helping me to live the life I wanted for myself, and for my family. People I allowed to drag me down and destroy my self belief.

I realized that the people and situations that were talking up most of my time and energy were not the ones that mattered. But I was allowing them to take away from what I had to give to the people that did matter. How did this look? Like stress. Like not being present. Like poor self-care.

This decision was difficult to commit to initially because of entrenched behaviours I possessed. As a coach I’m drawn to helping people. I like to fix things. And I have a lot of empathy. But what I was doing was continuing to engage with the wrong people who didn’t want to change. They were not ready to move on, and instead chose to engage in cycles of negativity and conflict. People who thrive off the drama of an argument with no desire to find common ground.

I was not setting and maintaining boundaries. It had me focused on the things that did not support my well-being. Or my sense of purpose. It was emotional clutter. And it was definitely not essential to leading the life I wanted. It was getting in the way.

I knew I was moving forward in my commitment to my decision when I was able to develop a process. A process for deciding what emotionally belonged in my life, and what was clutter.

My process involves asking myself the following questions. They help me decide what adds value to my life, and what is non-essential clutter.

Decluttering the Emotional Non-Essentials

  • When I engage with this person or situation, does it build me up or knock me down?
  • Do I look forward to this person or situation, or do I dread it?
  • Does the situation or interaction feel connected to my greater sense of purpose? Does it move me towards the life I want to lead?
  • Am I adding value with my involvement, or am I contributing to the cycle or problem?
  • Does this person or situation challenge me to be a better person? Or does it cause me to revert to old habits and undesirable actions?
  • Does this situation or person connect me to ‘my people’ or does it drive me further from them?

When I ask myself these six questions, and answer honestly, my decision is clear. It helps me to remove the non-essentials and declutter my life. Although simple, it’s not always easy. But it is usually the right decision for me and for my well-being. The lower stress and greater sense of happiness and well-being has changed my life. It makes me a better person for the people in my life that really do matter.


  • Kristine Peter

    Integrative Health Coach

    Healthy On The Go

    Kristine is an Integrative Health Coach and Blogger at Healthy On The Go. She works with busy women who want less stress and overwhelm, more sleep and energy, for better mental and physical health. Her approach is holistic, using  nutrition and lifestyle habits. She's passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and well-being; advocating for a change in the conversation to include a mentally healthy lifestyle as one of daily intentional practices, food, exercise, and habits. To create a wider understanding that physical, mental, and social health are intrinsically interwoven. Just like physical health, she believes we do not need to wait until we are unwell to focus on our mental health. Before opening her own coaching practice, Kristine travelled the world as an Outward Bound instructor, community development trainer, and social inclusion expert. When she's not coaching and blogging, she can be found camping, hiking, paddling, biking, or chasing her tiny humans. She had also been known to cook up a healthy experiment for her family and friends enjoy!   Connect with Kristine here, she loves to share health and well-being gold!