02/20/2013 05:22 pm ET Updated Apr 22, 2013

Putting Yourself Before Your Things

Today we're focusing on the power of being compassionately ruthless during a clutter bust. Compassionate ruthlessness is putting ourselves first before our things.

This came up last week as I was working with a client who was feeling intimidated by her things. She initially felt wrong questioning the worth of the things in her home and life. It was as if she was worried about hurting her things' feelings.

I said that the only way clutter busting works is if you can be ruthless during the clutter bust. I said that her only concern should be whether or not something is an enjoyable part of her life or not. Sure, something might have been integral 10 years ago, but if it's sitting there unused, it's diminishing and spoiling the energy in the space, and it's hurting her. I said that compassionate ruthlessness is having no compassion for things that don't serve her. The compassion is reserved for herself.

Compassionate ruthlessness is deciding that your well-being matters more than trying to relive the past, or live a particular image, or having people admire your life and lifestyle. It's choosing yourself right now over the feelings of your niece on her hypothetical future visit when you are afraid she will notice you don't have her gift displayed.

Compassionate ruthlessness is regularly using your innate sensitivity as a guidepost to determine what stays in and what goes out of your life.

Compassionate ruthlessness is recognizing that you are sacred and your things aren't.

Our job is to take care of ourselves. When we find things that are hurting us, we remove them. It's the same protective feeling a parent has for a child.

That also means that we don't try and clutter bust our entire home in one sitting. We pick an amount of time that supports our well-being. We stop at that time, and set up an appointment with ourselves for the next clutter-busting session.

Remember, this is your life and it's valuable. Your things have to respect this, or they have to go.

Please feel free to make a comment about how being compassionately ruthless helped you! It helps to tell other people about it.

Brooks Palmer is the author of Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back (New World Library, 2009) and Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect With Yourself and Others (New World Library, 2012). To schedule an over-the-phone clutter busting session, go to