5 Ways To Declutter Your Love Life This Spring

If you’re giving your home a seasonal scrubbing, why not toss your emotional baggage out with the rest of the clutter? Here are five simple steps for re-organizing your love life this spring.

By Dave Singleton

knew I needed a spring-cleaning makeover, but what I didn’t realize how much it would affect both my home and my attitude toward romance. Let me explain: Recently, a professional organizer came over to my place and gave my crazy, challenging, overwhelming and dysfunctional closets the once-over before telling me, “You need to declutter, as in, right now. I have five simple steps for you.”

“Five simple steps… you’re kidding, right?” I replied. “Simple” was not a word I’d expected to hear regarding something so massive and preoccupying that I couldn’t even begin to tackle it on my own before summer. But
Are you ready to throw out those emotionally draining attachments…
I followed her instructions, and next thing I knew, I was a much happier (and more together) camper. Cleaning my closets also cleared my mind of excess worry, baggage, and stress. This transformation got me thinking: If there are ways to declutter crazy, challenging, overwhelming and dysfunctional closets, then sure there’s got to be hope for doing the same thing for people’s equally messy love lives.

Are you ready to throw out those emotionally draining attachments, toss worthless complications in the trash, and replace your stale dating mentality with a fresh, new outlook on love? I spoke with a few people who felt the same way about this subject, and — based on what I learned from shaking up my own dysfunctional home-storage systems and these daters’ thoughts — I’ve developed five tips for decluttering your own love life below… just in time for spring!

1. Evaluate your current crop of dating prospects, whether they’re online or in-person. Then, throw them into three piles: “keep,” “offer to someone else,” or “trash.”
“I was feeling so confused about the romantic possibilities in my life,” says Chicago native Jane, 31. “I’d met men from all over in the last couple of months. I had people’s cards in my purse, emails stored on my computer, and different names in my mind. The clutter was holding me back from assessing how I felt about any of these men. So, I made a list with a ‘disposition’ column. When I really looked at who I considered to be ‘keepers,’ there was only one person who felt right for me. We’ve gone out twice now, and I let the others go. Now, I feel so much clearer!”

2. Be ruthless about ridding yourself of whatever’s not working for you anymore. The only way to make room for something that’s new and good is to get rid of all the old and bad stuff hogging all that much-needed space in your life.
Don’t limit yourself to material goods, as this includes memories of a lost love, past romances that went wrong, or someone you’re currently dating who makes you feel miserable. “When I think of past loves too much, I ask myself, ‘Does thinking about so-and-so move me forward — or hold me back?’” says Virginia resident Marcie, 39. “I have an easier time letting go if I fully consider how my thoughts about that person are impeding my progress.”

3. If there’s a potentially successful romance that doesn’t feel like a perfect fit, don’t toss it out — fix it.
Did you start dating someone who seemed promising at first, but now, your connection is hanging on by a thread? Maybe it’s missing something that you easily could fix by having a simple talk or clarification with your date. If so, make it a priority to hash things over and address what could
There’s nothing worse than buying something on impulse that you really don’t want or need after all.
be better between the two of you. This is the best way to fix whatever’s standing in the way of you both being really in love. “I’d been dating a woman on and off for a few months, and I cared about her a lot… but there was no sense of urgency on either side,” says New Yorker Chris, 34. “It sounded good to just go with the flow, but that wasn’t what was actually happening. We were just being sloppy and careless with our feelings, as if the tail was wagging the dog. One day I had a wake-up call, looked at my life and said, ‘That’s it; I need to stop sleep-walking through this relationship and make a choice.’ So, I chose her — and I was lucky that she chose me, too. We put real effort into our relationship now.”

4. Be choosier with dates so you don’t end up with an unsatisfying partner that’s clogging up your space. In other words, become your own quality-control expert to avoid getting entangled in relationships that don’t make you happy.
There’s nothing worse than buying something on impulse that you really don’t want or need after all. (Actually, maybe there’s one thing that’s worse: dating someone out of fear or loneliness when you know it’s not right.) “My approach to both spring cleaning and romance is to be more cautious upfront so I don’t end up with a mess just because I’m a bored shopper or in search of a quick fix,” says Boston resident Jean, 37. “I am pickier now about what I buy and then stuff in a drawer or closet, and the same thing applies to who I choose to bring into my life. I’m tougher about honestly answering the question, ‘Do I really want this?’ when I make my choices.”

5. Only start an organizational project if you have time to do it well, and the same rule applies to dating. Don’t put yourself out there and start seeing new romantic prospects if you have no intention of putting any real effort into it.
“I’ve made the mistake of dating when my life was far too messy to really consider a new relationship,” says North Carolina native Trisha, 29. “I had exes on my mind, or was just being distracted in other ways. It wasn’t fair to the men I was seeing — or to me, either.” When you’re dating, you have to show up, present your best self, and be both curious about and responsive to the other person if you expect to get anything out of it. Do the organization work that’s required upfront before you date anyone else.

That said, it’s springtime — which is nature’s way of summoning up a fresh start. Isn’t it worth decluttering the mess in your emotional closet just in case there’s a new romance out there that’s ready and waiting to enter your life? You might be surprised at how much energy you’ll have to put towards something new and wonderful that develops after you clean up the old mess that’s been holding you back!

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or email him.
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