Our stuff has a lot of power over us. Think for a moment about a favorite possession. What feeling do you get when you wear, use or look at it? How would you feel if you lost it? Now think about that corner of the garage that you haven’t cleaned out in years, or the stack of paperwork accumulating on the kitchen counter. Or maybe you have a pile of shoes in front of your closet, or a drawer filled with clothes you never wear. When you think about these kinds of things, the feeling is different, isn’t it?
One of the best ways to live better and stress less is to do something about clutter in your life. Clutter is anything unfinished, unused, unresolved, tolerated or disorganized. Clutter can accumulate in our physical spaces – homes, offices, cars – and it can also pile up in not so obvious spaces like our e-mail boxes, our daily habits, and our thoughts. As any feng shui master will tell you, clutter in your environment will bog you down, drain your energy, keep money and clients away, prevent opportunities from being apparent, and help keep you or any situation stuck. Clutter blocks energy. Clutter becomes a burden because it demands more physical and mental energy. It sits there staring at you, demanding that you take care of it, put it away, step around it, or feel guilty or bad about it. Whether you have physical, mental or spiritual clutter, it pays to take care of it.
Clutter in your Physical Space
When your environment is organized and less cluttered, life is easier and less stressful. You have more energy and become more efficient, motivated, and clear with the direction of your life. Think about where you accumulate physical clutter. Even if your house is generally clean and organized, you probably have some. Consider the spaces that aren’t visible, like closets, drawers, files, garages, sheds, etc. Out of sight is out of mind, and you probably have many things in these places that are taking up space that could be used for something else you really want. Think about your relationship to these things. Storing things for an extensive amount of time and not using them is a sign of holding on to things from the past. A lot of people hold on to things because they think they might come in handy someday. Holding on to things in this way can also be due to a feeling of scarcity or fear of loss. The pathological extension of this behavior is what we see on those shows about hoarders – people who cannot let go of anything and are confined by their stuff. Luckily, most of us just need a little spring cleaning (or a good cleanse!) from time to time. If you are having trouble letting go of old things you are saving, try some of these ideas. Remember that spot you thought of when I asked you to think of a cluttered space in at the beginning of the article? You should probably start there.
- Use these questions when considering items you might clear from your environment:
– Do I use it?
– Do I NEED it?
– Does it bring joy into my life?
– It is broken, damaged, or unsightly?
– If I lost it in a fire would I replace it exactly as is?
– What image, thought or energy is it sending to the universe for me?
– Is it associated with something in the past that evokes energy that has negative thoughts, memories, or emotions?
– If I were to move twice in the next year would I want to pack it or pay to have it moved?
- If you have trouble parting with something because it is valuable, still useful, or you just like it, think about finding it a good home with someone who will use it or appreciate it more often. Sell it, give it as a gift, or donate it to a charity. I held onto an antique lamp my great aunt gave me for years, because it is pretty (but doesn’t go with my décor), an antique (maybe it’s worth something!), and I felt like I should keep it in the family (both of my sons think it is hideous). I finally decided I needed to do a little research on similar lamps on EBay, and sold the thing to someone who was REALLY excited about it. That allowed me to get it out from under my desk, where it had been stashed, and where I had to avoid kicking it. My feet have so much more space now.
- If you are a person who just can’t let go of anything, think about the last time you were away on vacation. When I am on vacation, staying in another place, I actually forget about most of the stuff in my house. I only have the clothes and things I brought with me, and usually I get by pretty well. Sometimes I miss a thing or two, like the bathing suit I forgot to pack last time or my own comfortable bed, but I don’t feel like I miss most of the stuff in my house or life. In fact, last time when I got home, I was struck by how much stuff I actually have, compared to what I needed to live well for a week away. Remembering that we can live lighter, we are not our stuff, and that we are valuable and fine without it is helpful.
- Start small by trying this feng shui tip: Clean out, organize, or put away (in the proper place!) 27 things each day for the next 9 days. If you miss a day, start over. That is a total of 243 items you will move to clear space and allow energy to flow. If you like the results, do it more, or make it a regular daily habit. You don’t have to clean everything all at once to feel better and get more space and energy flowing.
- Install some new habits to prevent clutter. Open the mail by the recycle bin and immediately chuck all junk mail, envelopes, and catalogs you don’t want. Put the bills in one spot, and deal with any other mail you are keeping right away (read them, file them, etc.). Put a recycle container near where you read your newspaper and deposit it there as soon as you are done, or carry it out to the trash as you go to the car. Go through magazines and pull out what you want to read or save (recipes, coupons, etc.) and immediately recycle the rest of the magazine when you are done. Start reading books on your computer, phone, or kindle. Clean out the dishwasher every morning so everyone can put the dirty dishes in it as they go through the day – avoid the pile on the counter. I am sure you can think of one or two similar ideas that will work for you.
Other Kinds of Clutter
- Clear out Cyber-Clutter. Your computer can not only accumulate clutter that affects its performance and your time and stress level, it can be a source of clutter in your day – eating up your valuable time and causing stress later when you haven’t gotten things done.
- Set up a regular routine to clean out your e-mail
- Spend an evening cleaning out old programs and files you don’t need
- Unsubscribe to regular e-mails you get but do not read
- Try setting boundaries for when you will read and deal with e-mail, and when you will be allowed to spend time on Facebook or playing solitaire.
- Open up and air out your mind. Just like in your physical space, clearing clutter in your mental and spiritual spaces relaxes you, reduces stress, and creates more space for the new things you would rather manifest in your life.
- Use hypnotherapy or other methods to release old habits, fears, or behaviors you would rather live without
- Dump at least one negative thing you say to yourself. Pick one, and whenever you hear it inside your head, tell yourself “That it isn’t true anymore.”, or counteract it with a new positive statement. Once you start to notice how you speak to yourself, you will become more able to stop and give yourself the counteracting statement. Don’t expect to totally stop having negative thoughts – you are human. Instead, your goal is to give yourself more positive input than negative, and tip the scales your way.
- Clean out your “Should” list. Think through all those things you keep putting on your to do list over and over. You know, the ones that have been there for months, or perhaps even years. Allow yourself to let go of all of them that you are not going to do in the next month. It’s O.K. to change your mind on a goal, or stop thinking you need to do something just because other people think you should. You don’t need to keep carrying the weight of those unrealistic expectations around on a daily basis. You can always put something back onto your list later, if you want to, when it is possible.
Now do one more thought experiment. Imagine you have done some of the things from this article. Think about your space and the things you have chosen to keep in it. Take a deep breath and feel the difference you can make by clearing clutter and creating space.
Karen Maleck-Whiteley is a certified hypnotherapist, coach, speaker, and author. Karen is also the co-owner of Balance Point Spa in Canyon Country, where she helps people remove clutter in their minds through individual coaching and hypnotherapy sessions. Find out more by visiting BalancePointSpa.com or calling 661-252-0650.