Facing the Feelings


In 2021 a Clutter Clearing Survey discovered that the fear of regret was the number 1 reason why people felt resistance to letting go of things in their clutter.

What specifically is ‘regret’?

“Regret is feeling bad because things could have been better if we had done something differently in the past.”

Regret is an emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been, or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.

Regret can be a factor in important decision making – hence it’s important to learn how to deal with it when we are clearing our clutter. 

Regret requires us to use what are called ‘Counterfactual Thoughts’. For example, you imagine how your life MIGHT be different IF you had made a DIFFERENT decision, and how your life would be different NOW if you’d made those different choices back THEN. Constantly thinking about all the possible scenarios and outcomes if you had made different decisions can trap you because the imagined outcomes are almost always better than the reality.

Researcher Neal Roese of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is a leader in the field of regret research. He says regret can help with motivation and ‘corrective action’.

5 Advantages

  1. Survival. It’s our brains way of telling us to learn from our past choices that certain decisions we made may have had negative consequences
  2. Helps us avoid repeating negative behaviors in the future
  3. Is a sign to stop and reflect to get the learning
  4. Helps us achieve social harmony by acknowledging our behaviour may have negative consequences for other people
  5. Improves our ability to recognize and take advantage  of future opportunities when we learn from our regret

5 Disadvantages

  1. Can keep us stuck in the past by leading to fruitless rumination and self blame
  2. Can lead to chronic stress
  3. Stresses our hormonal and immune system
  4. Reduces our resilience – our ability to bounce back quickly from difficulties and move o contributes to depression which makes decision making harder.


1. Accept that making mistakes is part of life – we are not perfect!

Lots of things in the world are the result of mistakes. Post-it-Notes were invented in 1968 when the creator wanted a strong adhesive. Instead, it was light enough to easily remove and peal apart. So remember – not all ‘mistakes’ have negative consequences.

2. Be aware of confirmation bias

This is where we interpret information in a way that confirms what we already believe and ignore information that challenges our belief. If we’ve regretted letting go of things in our clutter, we’ll use those regrets as ‘evidence’ that we’ll regret letting go now so we can justify keeping things ‘just in case’.

3. Replace ‘should have’ with ‘next time’

Changing your language from negative to positive will ensure you help your brain make an informed decision next time, based on your past experience.

4. Figure out what the ideal self wants or needs

Focus on your Clutter Free Goal and what you’ll regret if you don’t achieve it.

5. Use your Not Sure

When you clear your clutter the Clutter Clearing way, you never make fast decisions that you might regret because you have your Not Sure. Make sure you use it so you make the right decision for YOU.

6. LIFE Timeline

Use your LIFE Timeline to learn from your past and see what positives can – and have – come after a decision you regretted at the time.

7. Learning and Feedback

Use regret as a learning and feedback mechanism that can inform your future decisions.  List the things you didn’t like or regretted, and what you would need to do or accept if it happened again.

What I didn’t like / regrettedWhat I need to do / accept

8. Success / Gratitude Journal

Capturing your good decisions and positive ‘letting go‘ experiences as successes in your Success / Gratitude Journal will help you realise that although you may occasionally regret some decisions to let go, you make just as many – or more – good decisions that you don’t regret, especially if letting go helps other people.

9. De-stress

If thoughts of regret tend to take over, find an activity you can do regularly to de-stress your mind and your body, so your brain doesn’t ruminate on constant repeat. e.g. Mindfulness, yoga, talking, T.R.E.

10. Forgive yourself, let go

Accept that you WILL make mistakes in life that you’ll regret, and that’s OK. Those mistakes and regrets have made you the perfectly imperfect person you are today – and we wouldn’t have you any other way 😊

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