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Dealing with Emotional Clutter

When you look at your pile of clutter, there's probably at least one piece in there that you've avoided dealing with for emotional reasons. For instance:

  • Getting rid of clothes we'll never fit into again means accepting our current shape and level (or lack) of fitness.

  • Getting rid of an expensive item we never use means admitting that we made a poor decision when we bought it.

  • Getting rid of books and magazines we don't have time to read means accepting that we'll never have enough time to explore every topic that interests us.

  • Getting rid of possessions remaining after a loved one has died means coming to terms with our loss and grief. Realize that if you let go of an item, you do not let go of that person. People do not live on through material items.

Emotional clutter has sentimental meaning but little financial value. The personal relics that lurk within your clutter - college papers, family memorabilia, dried flowers from a long ago prom, 20 years worth of greeting cards from friends and family members - can be easier to ignore than to carry to the dump, which is why they've been haunting the back of your closet for so many years.

Often people with emotional baggage collect material baggage in the form of clutter in their homes. And unless you clear the emotional clutter along with the external clutter, you may be doomed to repeat the cluttered house over and over again. You will have to be prepared to deal with some of the unresolved emotional issues that may be attached to your clutter. As difficult as it can be, letting go of these attachments makes us available to create new ones.

The first thing you need to do is find a close friend, relative or professional organizer to help you purge until you feel emotionally safe to handle your clutter alone. Choose someone you know will listen to your feelings and give you positive support. It's very important that you receive emotional encouragement in the very beginning; otherwise you may end up putting off your project again.

Many of our reasons for hanging on to clutter are about fear; fear that we won't be equal to the challenges of the future, and fear of confronting our regrets about the past. Clutter can be comforting; it acts as a buffer between us and reality. But learning how to let go of your emotional clutter can be one of the most empowering experiences of your life.

Clutter is just postponed decisions.

Think of your emotional clutter as deadwood in a river. The more trees, logs, bushes, etc. in a river, the less the water will flow. The river begins to stagnate. However, the more you eliminate the deadwood, the better the flow. When we finally make the decision to clear the deadwood, or clutter, it means facing the fear and doing it anyway.

The past is over and the future isn't here yet. Confronting the emotions raised by clutter will make living in the present less threatening. Clutter saps your energy and makes it difficult to get things done. Clearing out your clutter is a process and can lead to a simpler, less stressful lifestyle. Having fewer things to keep track of is easier.

Here are three tips to help you clear out your emotional clutter:

  1. Take a picture of the memory item, frame it or put it in a scrapbook, and then get rid of the physical item. You still have a reminder in photos about the fond memory but it's not sitting in your basement or junk drawer.

  2. Keep a journal as you purge. This process is slow but very effective. Many people have journaling projects planned out in their minds anyhow.

  3. Keep items that only bring back positive memories, not painful ones.

In the course of clutter clearing, you may get rid of something that you later wish you'd kept. Emotionally healthy people do feel regret; but then they let it go, trusting that an equal or better item will be available if they need it.

How can you release your possessions and free yourself emotionally and physically? What would your perfect living environment look like? What would it feel like? What features would it have? Are you close to that ideal environment where you're living now? How could that change for the better?

Begin slowly and tackle one small area at a time. No matter what's dragging you down, I guarantee that clearing your emotional clutter will dramatically improve your mood and energy. Letting go of excess makes room for blessings.

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