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How Decluttering Transforms Trauma to Tranquility with Valerie Huard

If you have ever felt overwhelmed at the prospect of decluttering your home, you’re not alone. As Valerie Huard discovered, the inability to clean and organize your space may stem from past trauma. This realization led Valerie to create a four-step process to declutter that combines physical and emotional healing.

Show Notes | Transcript

“If you touch everything, you have all the memories that arrive, all the emotion. When people that had trauma, when they stop and they procrastinate and they push on the decluttering, that’s because they’re not able to manage that wave of emotion.” – Valerie Huard

From trauma to triumph, Valerie Huard has seen it all. She is a published author, speaker and expert who works with people all over the world. Having experienced childhood trauma herself, Valerie understands the impact it can have on one’s life, including the accumulation of clutter. Through her own journey of healing, she discovered that decluttering not only cleared physical space but also helped clear emotional baggage.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Discover how trauma and clutter are connected, and learn why decluttering can be a powerful tool for healing and growth.
  • Find out how to let go of sentimental belongings in a way that honors your emotions and memories, helping you make space for new experiences.
  • Learn a gentle approach to decluttering that focuses on self-care and self-compassion, allowing you to release the clutter without feeling overwhelmed or guilty.
  • Explore the calming and grounding effects of nature and discover how spending time outdoors can bring peace and clarity to your decluttering journey.
  • Create a positive decluttering atmosphere by incorporating mindfulness and gratitude practices, promoting a sense of calmness and empowerment throughout the process.

Related Live. Love. Engage. episodes you may enjoy:

Lessons from Trauma Work with Sarah Brassard

Clutter, Trauma and Beliefs with Krystal Holm

Benefits of Healing Unresolved Trauma with Betsy Rosam

Turning Traumas into Treasures with Mary Huang

Resources:

Connect with Valerie here

Get Valerie’s books here

Join the Soulful Women’s Network here

Send me a message here

☕ Support the podcast here

❤ Love this episode? Leave us a review and rating here

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Live. Love. Engage. Podcast: Inspiration | Spiritual Awakening | Happiness | Success | Life

TRANSCRIPT

Gloria Grace Rand
Namaste. Oh, I am so glad that you are here. Whether this is your first time to Live Love Engage or you are a regular subscriber, I’m just delighted to be bringing to you another interview that we’re going to be having on the show. But before I get to that, just in case you are a first-time listener or viewer on YouTube, I am Gloria Grace, the light messenger and spiritual business coach and women entrepreneurs hire me to help them leverage their intuition to break through their revenue ceilings and to achieve sustainable business growth. And part of what keeps us stuck sometimes is issues that we’ve had in the past and that’s a little bit about what we’re going to be talking about today. So I am really delighted to introduce you to Valerie Huard who is going to be talking about from trauma to triumph. She’s seen it all and in fact, she’s a published author, a speaker, expert who works with people from all over the world and she brings you on a decluttering journey to declutter more than just your space. So I’m really fascinated to talk with you today, Valerie, to know about trauma and clutter and how those things get together. But first off, let me just officially welcome you to Live Love, Engage.

Valerie Huard
Thank you so much, Gloria Grace, I appreciate it so much.

Gloria Grace Rand
As I said, I’m intrigued because you’re involved in decluttering as your business, but you also have dealt with trauma. But before we get into the specifics of how those two relate, I love to start off the show asking our guests a little bit about your journey and what has brought you into doing the work that you do today. So I wonder if you can share that with our audience today.

Valerie Huard
Yes, totally. So basically, unfortunately, I had experience of childhood trauma and it had an impact on my life. Like when I arrived at the beginning of adult life in my 20s, there was a lot clutter and I had to stop going at university and things like that to really focus on healing my trauma. And I was thinking I heal it. Things were starting to get better and at some point my mom asked me wow, I don’t understand, why do you have that much pasta? Are you cooking for an army? And the thing is, when she left, I opened my pantry and there were easily 20 pounds of pasta. I don’t know how many cans of tomato sauce and maybe 20 cans of peaches and flours, like tons. But I looked around the house and my kids has more toys than the daycare and there were piles of paper on my table and in my closet I had maybe three size up, three size down of clothes just in case, more clothes than I can ever wear. So it’s ring a bell. But for me it was kind of normal. In society, you start having lots of things while you’re more b to C. And then we arrived to move because my husband was military and the movers came home and tell me, you know what, you need to let go of at least half your belongings. Half my belongings? It was kind of, whoa, what are you talking about? So we tried to let go of the possession, but it was too many of things to let go in a too short period of time. So Jay and my husband has to move forward to the new location and I stay behind with the kids to declutter. And at that like the first night he left, I was so crying. It was kind of the moment where it was, oh my God, what is happening? Will I be able to reunite the family? Am I a hoarder? Lots of question, like identity question. And I cried like I never cried before. And then the following day, I started to declutter and decluttering a little bit daily, daily, daily. And what happened is at some point I realized that I was getting in touch with my emotion more than before. Like the fact of manipulating my material possession and making decision helped me clear out my trauma. So as I let go of my possession, I healed my trauma and we were able to reunite the family. And that was really good. And I decided to become a professional organizer to be able to help other people in similar situation. And what I observe when I become a professional organizer is most of the people it’s with the decluttering that they have difficulty. After that, placing things here and there, that’s fine. But the decluttering, the act of letting go. And almost all my clients were talking to me about their trauma. So we did some research. We contacted specialists and researcher, and this is where we are today. We help people that has trauma and had accumulated clutter because of that, to really be able to get back control of their life and of their home, to be able to enjoy life.

Gloria Grace Rand
Wow, so many things are going through my head right now. And actually the latest thought that came to me is know they’ve done TV shows, especially here in the United States, about hoarders. I mean, there’s a show called Hoarders, I’ve never really watched it. I mean, I think I’ve seen commercials for it, but it makes me feel a lot of more sympathy and empathy for these people because and I’m just even still even reflecting on my own life. Like for instance, as a kid, I wouldn’t say I prided myself on a messy room, but it was like I had a lot of stuff and it was like my area of control because that was an area of my life that I can control. It was my room because I grew up, I had trauma, I had an alcoholic dad. And so that was like my area of life that I wanted to handle. But then I also see throughout my life, there have been times where, yeah, I did maybe accumulate few too many things over the years and I’ve done that with the clothes as well. So I can relate to that. But I find it fascinating and I can see even in my own journey as I have healed my trauma, that I have been able to let go of stuff too. So I find this truly, truly fascinating. What, what would you say to someone who might be listening to this and thinking like they’re looking around their house and going Ooh, is she talking about me? What do I do? So what would you recommend to someone?

Valerie Huard
The first thing is, it’s not your fault. Yes, you can have control on the future and on what will happen with those material position, but if the situation you are in is because of a trauma, they are linked together. Okay? And we developed a four-step process, but maybe before going into the four step process, it’s maybe better to talk a little bit about the link between trauma and clutter. So the thing is, when someone had a trauma, the brain changed the way it works and it start being on a higher level of alertness than other people, like the amygdala. The place in the brain for the stress response, the fight, flight, trauma or freeze response is requesting cortisol and then the cortisol raises and raises. The problem is with people that had trauma, the cortisol doesn’t reduce as much during the life than other people. So it always stay too high. And when it’s high like that, it’s affecting the frontal lobe, the part in the front of your brain. And in here you maybe have heard about executive function or ADHD. So the executive function, they are slowed down by the cortisol. And it’s a lot of big words that I’m saying right now. But basically what happened is the capability to plan, the capability to organize, the capability to sort, they are slowed down by the stress hormone that is the cortisol. So it’s more difficult to get up in the morning to do the task. It can be more hard to plan when I will do that or where I will put that. And it can look like I get into the house and I left my lunch bag in the entrance and the pile of mail on the countertop. So this is how things start to piles up. It’s really not because you don’t want to clean or you don’t want to put things away. It’s because the frontal lobe, the part in the front here is slow down and it make it harder to do those tasks like sorting the mail and putting in the recycle bin what needs to be there. It make it harder to do the dishes after cooking a meal. But the thing is, when you know that, now that you’re aware of that, it’s your responsibility to decide to do something to improve because it is possible to change that and it is possible to really feel better and take back control of our executive function.

Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve done enough reading different books about the brain and talk with other people about that. There is the ability, we have that ability to build new neural connections and so…

Valerie Huard
Exactly.

Gloria Grace Rand
So that’s really to offer hope to anyone out there is you don’t have to stay this way, you can change. So you mentioned that there’s four steps that people can take if you can maybe briefly highlight it. I know if anyone wants more detail, we’ll share a little bit later about how people can get in touch with you. But yeah, I would love for you to share that.

Valerie Huard
Yeah, basically the four-step process is the first one is to reduce the amount of stress. Okay? And it’s really that because as I said, the cortisol is the stress hormone. So we want to reduce that to be able to have the frontal lobe kick in and work better. So first step is going to reduce this. The second step is a mindset step, it is called the letting go mindset. So the thing is when we start to declutter we often have that inner voice of us that is not necessarily as nice to ourselves as it could be. And we also want to do something but we don’t do it. And we’re kind of not balanced or aligned between our thoughts and our action. So mindset is really important to be in alignment and also be able to make decision about keeping or not an item later on. Because most of the time when the mindset section is not done, we arrive to make a decision. Okay, do I get that china dishes or just in case I need it to a special occasion. So lots of things is going in the just in case category instead of adding a clear yes or a clear no. So the stress the mindset. Then the next one is the time. We call it discover free time. Because clutter didn’t accumulate in a day, it won’t go overnight. So we will need some time to be able to manage that clutter and get back control our surrounding. And also we don’t want the clutter to go too fast. Otherwise we have a tendency to purchase back item and to clutter it back. So we need the right pace here. And the fourth step is the one everybody’s waiting for. It is called simplify your living space. So basically that one is the decluttering, opening the closet, the cupboard, the drawer and the boxes maybe or the piles that you have and be able to let go of the clutter. And it’s way easier when you’re here because you have all the strategy you learn in the three first step to be able to accelerate how you make decision and be comfortable with the decision you’re making. So after all that you’re in control of your life, you’re able to maintain the peaceful environment at home.

Gloria Grace Rand
Wonderful. And it definitely makes sense to be able to take care of all of that mental work first before you actually tackle the hard stuff. Because I know in the past sometimes when I’ve had to tackle something in fact, actually I’m even looking at it a little bit right now. I have some stuff at another location right now, and every time I go there and it’s like the thought of trying to move it is just like I just can’t deal with it right now. And so I know it’ll get done, but I have seen that that can happen in the past, is that you can just be stuck because it just seems too overwhelming.

Valerie Huard
That’s exactly what I was about to say. That procrastination effect comes because we are overwhelmed and that is often because there’s too much cortisol in our brain at that moment. So we feel overwhelmed and yes, it feels like some pain but by reducing the stress from the get-go you will see right away the difference and the capability and the energy to be able to tackle that from there.

Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah. Is there any way that someone who wants to be able to do this could possibly get it wrong in what you’re talking about?

Valerie Huard
When people do it too fast. Like, for example, sometime I see people wanting to help other people and they arrive with a dumpster and they throw everything out right away. A little bit like we see in the hoarder show. It creates another trauma because of the loss of all position in a short period of time. It’s a little bit like when you had a fire and you lost all your things, it’s creating another trauma. So I encourage to go progressively to let go of the belongings because you have like a set point, a comfort zone where you are used to be with a certain level of clutter. And if that change too fast, your subconscious will have a tendency to bring you back to the same level of clutter, either by purchasing item, either by finding item somewhere, but it will have a tendency to clutter it back. So just go one step at a time when it’s time to declutter.

Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, definitely. I was also just starting to think about that sometimes it’s not your clutter that you have to deal with. And so for instance, when my sister passed away a few years ago, I had to clear out her garage where she had been saving magazines for years and then found some of my dad’s papers who had also even passed like 20 years before that. So it was like all of this stuff that I had to get through. What advice do you have for someone who has to deal with like in that instance where it’s somebody else’s clutter and that again, you’re grieving but you have to deal with it because I had to sell her house. So I had to decide especially even some of her personal papers, what did I want to keep because she journaled. And I finally opted to not save a lot of it because I felt that it was her personal stuff and that I didn’t want to have to necessarily reread it later. Have a little bit of regret about that. But I still feel at the moment it was the right thing to do. But what do you feel about that?

Valerie Huard
It’s really to choose what idea, item or the position that you will use because there is no point of adding clutter to your own household if you are not going to use it. So like, for example, if you decide that you like the set of knives, for example, but maybe think about letting go of the knife you already have and replace the set of knives. So think about things that you will use. Think about things that, yes, you will remember. The thing is the memories of that person is not in the belonging of that person that passed. So one thing that I encourage often, if there’s too many items like for example, when a parent pass and we have to let go of lots of belongings over there, is to take some picture of the thing that make us some story or memories and do a book with it. And in that book, write a little story about that picture, about that object that what was the significance. Oh, that was the doll that we were playing when I was kids. Or oh, that was her favorite knitting basket. So she was already always adding that knitting basket or that was the cookie jar that we has the treat in. So write little story in that book so you have all the memories you want in something that is not too big and you’re able to if you really feel the need to remember that person more than what you already add in yourself, you have access to that memory book.

Gloria Grace Rand
I love that. And it’s funny because I actually have my grandmother’s cookie jar that used to have the cookies that I would get from her house. But I’m thinking eventually that’s a really good idea about taking the pictures. And I’ve done that actually with some of my kids’ artwork when they were little. It was like all these projects that they make and it’s like you just can’t keep everything. So I’ve wound up taking pictures of some of those and having to let go. The other thing I was going to ask you about is and this actually helped me again when my sister had passed, because she actually had a copy of the lovely Marie Kondo book about and I forget what it’s called now. And when I came home, I actually used that philosophy to go through all of my clothes. And it’s like, what is it that you to really only save what you love or something like that. What do you think about her philosophy?

Valerie Huard
Her philosophy has some really good point, but some point also that are more difficult to use in a North America setting. What I mean by that is what is about if you love the object, that’s really good. If we talk about the way of folding clothes, awesome. But when we talk about put everything in the room in the middle, like empty all the room that are around and then declutter everything at once, it’s a little bit harder because over there what happened is there’s a main room and there’s different room around that. And this is not how her structure are built here. And they don’t necessarily have as much item as we have. So putting everything like, I don’t know if you saw her show on Netflix, but to do one episode that is about 45 minutes, it takes six weeks of a full team working on decluttering the place. And then people expect to do that in a week after having seen the show.

Gloria Grace Rand
Oh, gosh.

Valerie Huard
Well, there’s like a little thing is she say touch everything to know if you love it. When you add that trauma, it’s a little bit too overwhelming. In my philosophy, it’s more about put on a pair of gloves when you declutter because if you touch everything, you have all the memories that arrive, all the emotion. And this is mostly when people that had trauma, when they stop and they procrastinate and they push on the decluttering, that’s because they’re not able to manage that wave of emotion. So by wearing a pair of gloves, people are able to declutter 40% more and are less exhausted at the end of the decluttering session.

Gloria Grace Rand
Wow, that makes so much sense. Yeah, because our fingers when you’re touching that bit, really is you’ve got that tactile sense and it can really trigger the brain coming back to the memory. So I love that. That is a really excellent suggestion that you have. I think that’s great. I’m going to ask you a question because I love asking my clients my guests this. My guests because I love the different answers that people come up with. So what are you curious about right now?

Valerie Huard
Oh, that’s a really good question. Right now I will say that I’m curious about the different way people are enjoying life. Because it’s really like for some people it can be to walk in nature and they will be grounded. Some people will ground better in mountains and other at the beach, and some other people will prefer to manipulate things like either doing some clay or craft or knitting. Like what makes it that we have different things that grounded us? I know we are all different, but what is it at the center of that? That is something that I’m really curious about.

Gloria Grace Rand
So what grounds you?

Valerie Huard
Nature is grounding me a lot. Like going walking. And I love when they’re both maybe a lake and woods. Like you have the access to both the water and the wood at the same time. I enjoy that.

Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, I do too. I can relate to that. I love being at the beach, but I love water anywhere. And I’ve realized that when I grew up in Michigan and was able to go to Girl Scout camp in the summertime and they would be up in the woods and we’d go to a lake and yeah, I love that. That’s really my way of even really communicating with God, source. I really felt close to God when I was out in nature. So I love that that you do that as well, that you enjoy being in nature. I really want to stop saying um!

Gloria Grace Rand
All of my speaker training. You think I’d know by now that I should just pause for a moment while I think about what else I want to ask you about. And actually that is bringing me to what I want to ask is, is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about in relation to clutter and trauma that you’d like to share with our listeners or any other last tip that you could have?

Valerie Huard
Well, in the last tip, I can go with some other tips. Like, for example, sip the atmosphere when you want to declutter. What I mean by that is we talk about the sense of touch, but there’s the other sense also that have an impact on how you feel and how you will be able to manage that decluttering session. So for example, the sense of smell is really strong. That’s why a baby is able to recognize its mother by the sense of smell. So if you put a diffuser with essential oils that you always use the same essential oils, it won’t be known that you will realize that session after session it becomes easier and easier to get started and to stay focused. So that’s using essential oils. For the sense of sight, so add some light, like brighten the space that you declutter. You know, when we go to the store and we think, oh, I found the perfect pair of shoes to go with that dress and then you arrive home and you look at the both together and it’s kind of it doesn’t match us. And that’s because the light is different. So your perception of the object is different in different contexts. So by putting a lot of light on your closet or in the kitchen cabinet that you’re trying to declutter, what happened is you don’t feel it as every day. Like the same way that when you choose your clothes in the morning so you’re able to make decision more objectively about keeping or not. And I can and I don’t ask to taste the things that sentence. I don’t hack it when you declutter.

Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, especially because if you were to do that in the pantry or something that could really wind up going the wrong road. Yeah, definitely not good. Well, I appreciate that, and this has been amazing, and we’ve gotten a lot in in a very short amount of time, I feel like. But I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot, and I really appreciate you being on the show today. If someone out there desperately needs your help, how can people get a hold of you? What’s the best way?

Valerie Huard
We have two books that are like, put that stuff down, and put that stuff down, too. This one is more about the philosophy, the overall philosophy. It’s a little bit thinner. The other one is a little bit bigger and is more about the tactic and the strategy with the four-step process that I talk about. So you can find that at tiny dot ie slash dowell slash liveloveengage, and you can have access to the ebook and audiobook and even the paperback, depending on the selection you make in the process. All right, that’s the best way to get in touch with us. And of course, over there, there’s our email and everything.

Gloria Grace Rand
All right, excellent. Well, I’ll be sure and have the link to that in the show notes. So if you’re listening right now somewhere where you don’t have a pen handy, go to liveloveengagepodcast.com and you’ll find this episode and you’ll be able to get the link to that. And I’ll also have it in the YouTube description as well, so make sure you check that out. If you’re watching this, go back and look through that. This has been really educational for me and so many good tidbits. I still love the glove idea. I think that was great. And yes, the idea of having a lot of light on the subject, I think that’s very good as well, so that you can see everything to decide what you want to be able to release, let’s say, as opposed to get rid of, now we’re going to release it. And the idea of taking the pictures too, I think that is amazing. We’ve got such ways to be able to do that and to create even a scrapbook about that. I think that’s a wonderful idea for those memories.

Valerie Huard
And often it’s more about choosing what you want more than looking at what you let go. It’s all in the perspective.

Gloria Grace Rand
Absolutely. Yeah, that’s for sure. So thank you so much for being here. This was a wonderful interview and I knew it was going to be, and I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom with our audience today. Thank you so much, Valerie.

Valerie Huard
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Gloria Grace Rand
And I want to appreciate all of you as well. Thank you for listening, for watching, and if you’re not subscribed already, make sure that you are subscribed on your favorite podcast platform. And also you can subscribe on YouTube. Click the bell if you’re watching that and make sure that way you get notified when our new episodes come out. So until next time, as always, I encourage you to go out and live fully, love deeply and engage authentically.

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About the Author
Known as The Insightful Copywriter, Gloria Grace Rand is also an inspirational speaker, author and host of the Live. Love. Engage. podcast. Prior to launching her SEO Copywriting business in 2009, Gloria spent nearly two decades in television, most notably as writer and producer for the award-winning PBS financial news program, “Nightly Business Report.”

Gloria turned to writing as a way to communicate, since growing up with an alcoholic father and abusive mother taught her that it was safer to be seen and not heard. But not speaking her truth caused Gloria problems such as overeating, control issues, and an inability to fully trust people. After investing in coaching & personal development programs, and studying spiritual books like “A Course in Miracles,” Gloria healed her emotional wounds. Today, she helps entrepreneurs develop clarity, confidence and connection to the truth of who you are, so you can create a business that has more impact, influence and income!

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