By getting rid of clutter, including mental and physical baggage, we make space for the things that matter. It’s important to consider why we hold onto things in the first place and with this in mind, make the decision to let go of things that no longer serve us.
My first purge to get rid of clutter
When I was young, I was a big fan of sticking all my junk into a closet. Out of sight out of mind was my go-to approach to most things and especially, cleaning. In contrast, everything in my room had to be in a specific place or I could not relax. I was so neurotic about this that my furniture had to be at certain angles and my things had to be lined up just so. For me, staying organized helped me feel in control of my life. On the surface, I had it all together but behind the scenes, I had no problem ignoring things that I could not see.
When I was in high school my brother decided I was a little too uptight. He thought it would be funny to dish out a little therapy. With nothing else to do but torture little sisters, he and a friend spent an afternoon upending my bedroom. I came home to find everything in my room had been literally turned upside down. The bed, the dressers, even the bookshelf! In doing so, my brother had unearthed years of stuff buried in my closet. I went completely nuts. When my father saw how much crap I had in my room, he made me get rid of it. So began my first big purge.
Getting rid of clutter is not just physical
Most people I know have attics and garages filled with boxes of things they don’t need. To clear out these items we need to think about why we have been holding on to them in the first place. It could be as simple as the clutter just got out of hand. That part of a cleanout goes fast. It’s the personal things that bring on mental gymnastics. We need to think about whether these things serve a purpose. Does an item represent our childhood? Unfulfilled dreams? Happy memories? We are forced to reflect on the importance of our belongings and make the decision of whether or not to keep them.
Letting stuff go
People hold onto things because it’s easier to tuck those things away in the proverbial closets of our minds or in the literal ones in our homes until we are ready to deal with them. It’s a coping mechanism. A way to compartmentalize and not have to face any emotions that may come up from releasing something. Avoidance and procrastination are bad habits we develop when we are feeling overwhelmed.
Just in case
Not getting rid of clutter can also be about fear. It can be a survivalist instinct to try to maintain control of our personal environment and be prepared for the unpredictability of life. A current example of this in a real-world setting is the giant storage bin full of pandemic food in my office saved- just in case. Or, it can as simple as the fear of not be prepared and not having what you need, when you need it. Examples in my home include storing dozens of batteries and flashlights, a life straw, and an excessive amount of blankets.
Make space for things that matter
Having your house be a mess can cause a lot of stress. It is a constant visual reminder of what still needs to be done. Nobody wants to look around their house and see piles of stuff screaming for their attention and setting them on edge. It can make people feel completely overwhelmed, distracted and make them unable to concentrate. This can lead to scattered thinking, brain fog, insomnia, and even panic attacks.
Break the cycle
Many of us occasionally shine a light into our darkest and most cluttered corners. We address a few problems, release some physical or emotional junk, only to return and fill the space again and again. Dealing with clutter can be an unrelenting circle and learning to let things go once and for all is a life skill that we should all strive to practice regularly. One great tool for exploring your mind and releasing emotional baggage is journaling.
I once learned that how you do one thing is how you do everything.
If you have an organized household, you more than likely have an organized mind. Getting rid of the clutter in your mind and your home is a simple strategy to rid yourself of things that are holding you back both metaphorically and in the physical world. Explore the mental roadblocks that are making you feel stuck and preventing you from moving forward toward the life you want.
Clean up your living environment and start each day with less stress. Organize your personal space for maximum efficiency and save time and energy. Build a good morning routine and daily schedule and know what to expect from your day. Remove potential feelings of anxiety and enable yourself to be prepared to face unexpected challenges from a place of calm rather than a place of fight or flight.
How to get rid of clutter:
- Break the project up into small increments that are realistic and doable.
- Pick a time frame per clean-out session and stick with it.
- Put the sessions on your calendar.
- Take it one room at a time and don’t move on to the next room until finished.
- Start in the room where you spend the most time or that causes anxiety.
- Set a timer.
- Pick up each item and ask yourself why you need it. Do you use it or wear it? Does it hold a good memory? Does it serve a purpose?
Coming home should signal rest and relaxation. Clean out the clutter and make your life easier. Create space for the things that matter.
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