As we work through the idea of simplifying and decluttering, Alisha Otis, wellness coach, the Parkview Center for Healthy Living, offers these applicable steps for lowering some of the noise in your life.
The arrival of spring means opening the windows and releasing the trapped winter air. The seasonal blues begin to slowly fade as excitement for warm days, sunshine and outdoor play takes over. These anticipatory feelings can also bring motivation to spring clean or declutter. For most, their home tops the list, but that’s only one area that needs attention. Decluttering can be just as important for the mental clutter as the physical. Have you ever taken a moment to analyze each area of your life? Do you notice any areas that are just full of stuff or noise? Before you can commit to cleaning those areas and ditching the junk, you have to first ask yourself, “Am I ready to let go?”
Whichever compartment of your life feels filled with “junk,” explore what has prevented you from cleaning it out. For many, the reason might be the emotional attachment. There is a sense of loss that comes with letting go of something because it feels like, if we throw it out, we will lose a memory, a relationship or even a way of life. I want to stress the fact that you are not alone in that fear. However, to continue to move forward, we first must let go of what’s holding us back. We often get stuck in the past, which keeps us from achieving a productive fulfilling life in the present.
We all have, I can assume, felt a strong attachment to an object because of the connection we pair it with. It may not be that we love the thing, but rather love the emotional need that it fulfills. For some this might mean keeping a box of their late parents things so they can hold onto the memories that were once shared together. But if these things are stored in a box in the basement what purpose are they really serving? For others, it might be the cigarette that they can’t put down because all of their friends and/or family smoke and if they quit they fear they will lose those friends and disrupt relationships within their family. Or maybe it is just the love of stuff in general. We live in a consumer society and at times we feel our worth and success is defined by the amount of things we own.
So, how do we prepare emotionally to clean the clutter?
Step 1. Determine what the objects and/or habits are that have been cluttering your life.
What is it that you are attached to or have been holding onto for years that you just can’t seem to let go or give up?
Step 2. Determine what emotional need is being fulfilled through this object, habit or relationship.
Ask yourself, “What need am I trying to satisfy with this?” As I mentioned before, we aren’t necessarily holding on to these things because we love them, but rather because we love the emotional need that they fulfill.
Step 3. Find a different (more positive) way to satisfy that emotional need.
For example, with the child who is holding on to their late parents’ belongings, a healthy exercise would be to gather all of the items they have been holding on to and set aside just a few that have significant importance (not undermining the fact that each object is important). This way he/she can identify an area to display the items and appreciate their value each day, instead of only on the rare occasion they go through the boxes in the basement. Other family members should go through the remainder of the belongings, as well, and then whatever is left should be donated.
These three steps can be a guiding force to start spring cleaning your life. This can be an overwhelming task, so do not take it on all at once, but rather pick one area in your home, one relationship, one habit, and focus on that. Then move forward to the next thing. Spring cleaning is hard work, but with effort, dedication, and motivation it will be one of the most rewarding things you do. Don’t let the emotional attachment and fear of letting go stand in your way. It’s time to open the window and release the trapped clutter of your life.