The mind is a powerful rationalizer. It can make something seem true that is not. We can come up with reasons why we need to keep something, even though the evidence is proving otherwise. When I'm working with a client, I can tell it's rationalization because my client no longer feels present, even if their voice is emphatic. By asking them simple basic questions, they come to see that the rationalization is not supporting their well being.
I got a great email from someone that illustrates her experience:
"In order to justify keeping things that are clearly not in use, I tell myself stories about them—how they will eventually bring me some quality or experience that I long for. Initially, the narratives give me a jolt of energy: I imagine how that tent gathering dust in the garage will be at the center of some wonderful camping trip where I’ll reconnect with family and Nature. I embellish the story with details that make it seem real and enticing. My grip on the item grows, yet it brings me no closer to my original yearning for connection. Over time, the tent still sits in the garage, and I lose sight of the initial hope to spend time with family and enjoy nature (which I could accomplish in a myriad of ways right now). Instead, I have to keep putting energy into the camping story to justify keeping the useless tent. That’s energy I could be using to take a nature walk with my son right now. Bye, bye tent. Hello Ponderosa pines and my son’s hand in mine."
When I feel myself rationalizing I feel off balance. My head feels heavy. It's like all the blood went to my brain. I imagine my mind must be using a lot of extra energy to try and pull it off. It goes, "Well, you know, this is really important, and it's essential, and there's no question about it..." It feels like a very powerful attorney that's being extra convincing. The thing is, it feels very uncomfortable. That's why I tend to notice it. My clutter radar goes, "Um...you don't really believe this." That usually brings it to a stop.