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Your Clutter May Be Concealing Some Critical Truths 

It’s hard to imagine that the clutter stacked on our countertops, and stuffed inside a few cabinets, closets and maybe the garage could signify an important revelation. It’s hard to imagine that it’d spark insights about who we are and what we need.

But it can.

For Brooke McAlary, who pens the blog Slow Your Home, decluttering revealed all sorts of uncomfortable truths: “I had no idea what I stood for, what was important in my life, what deserved my time and attention and what didn’t.”

McAlary wanted to portray a specific image to others, which was actually driving her desire to buy more and have certain things: “I wanted people to think I ‘had it all together,’ that I was successful and living a good, enviable life. I wanted to own the clothes, wear the makeup, have the new house, not because they were important to me but because I wanted to appear successful.”

Maybe you can relate.

Maybe you grew up in a family where appearances were everything, where your possessions somehow spoke to the person you were. Maybe you’re living in a neighborhood where that’s the case, where big homes, designer bags and pricey cars mean you’re successful—and ultimately that you’re worthy. Maybe you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses online instead of next door.

So you’ve accumulated everything from a closet crammed with clothes (with tags) to boxes of seasonal decorations to several collections of fine china and random trinkets. And you’ve unwittingly adopted values that when you really think about it, actually have nothing to do with what you sincerely believe.

Maybe you grew up in a family where gifts meant love, or there wasn’t enough money for presents. And so, you’ve given what feels like thousands and thousands of toys to your kids (and have thousands of dollars of debt).

Maybe your clutter reveals the person you yearn to be, but have yet to become: the athlete, the well-read book collector, the natural-born chef, the super creative mom who loves to craft and give homemade gifts. Which is why you cling to: the unused exercise equipment in the basement; the bikes and triathlon gear in the shed; the shelves of unread books; the cabinets of unused appliances; or the plastic bins filled with glue, scrapbook paper, old magazines and glitter.

Maybe your clutter represents someone you’re not anymore.

McAlary had a hard time getting rid of her jewelry supplies, even though she’d closed her jewelry business. “My identity for the past few years had been tied directly to that jewelry, and to give it away was admitting I wasn’t the person I thought I was,” she writes in her insightful new book Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World. “I wasn’t the go-get-‘em budding entrepreneur or the hard worker or the mom who managed to balance work and stay-at-home parenting, and what did that say about me?”

Our clutter often represents our someday, a day that actually never comes. What does is the shame, which keeps lingering. You wonder what’s wrong with you. You wonder why you can’t get it together. You realize it must be because you’re inherently flawed.

You’re not. You’re simply changing. Or you were never interested in those things to begin with. That’s OK, too.

McAlary views decluttering as “a wonderful place to begin the work of excavating our true selves, our values, our priorities, and creating the time and space with which we can begin to live a more truthful version of life.”

clutter

In other words, getting rid of the excess can create the opportunity to shed old and no longer true parts of ourselves. It can create the opportunity to relinquish old needs, wants and wishes. It can create the opportunity to start living according to our most significant values.

McAlary eventually gave away all her jewelry, because it was dragging her down and keeping her stuck. As she writes in her book, “I continued to tie my identity to this stuff, but instead of being a positive thing, it had morphed into self-loathing and failure. Why would I want to keep that around?”

Letting go of the jewelry actually felt liberating—and it was both less scary and more exhilarating than she thought it would be.

She also let go of wanting to appear successful to others and started asking herself more meaningful (and tougher) questions: “What matters to me? What do I want my life to stand for? What do I want my legacy to be?”

What if you asked yourself these questions, too?

McAlary wrote her own eulogy when she was 31. “[I] have used it ever since as a foundation on which I’ve slowly built a life full of the things that are important to me. And while my eulogy had nothing at all to do with decluttering, I would never have had the clarity to sit and write it had I not spent time shedding layers of stuff for years before.”

She includes her eulogy in the book, which she imagines her children saying:

Quick to laugh, creative, compassionate, with a wicked sense of humor, Mom was never without a new plan or adventure on the horizon. She…was spontaneous, loyal, introspective, and believed wholeheartedly that we all have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. Mom, we’ll miss you always. Thank you for our roots, but thank you even more for our wings.

When we declutter, we stop carrying the weight of all our things, of all our past needs and wishes and identities, of values we no longer hold, of shame that only shatters us.

“We can let go of the guilt and the obligations and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are,” McAlary said. “[A]nd we can put that time and energy in to things that truly matter to us.”

Which might mean savoring short trips and adventures with your family, practicing restorative yoga, taking dance classes, hosting dinner parties (where the main course is pizza from the delicious place down the block), and having items in your home that you absolutely love, that genuinely reflect who you are. Right now.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.         9 Sep 2018
 
Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central.
Her Master’s degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University.
In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.


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The Practice of Letting Go

There are a number of times when our mind clings to something tightly, and it is rarely helpful:

  • I am right, the other person is wrong
  • That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change
  • My preference is the best way, others are wrong
  • This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else
  • I really don’t like that, it sucks
  • I should have that person in my life, loving me
  • I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life

In all of these cases, and more, our minds are fixed in a certain viewpoint, and we often judge others. We complain. We are attached to what we want and what we don’t want.

It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.

And it leads to being closed off to the beauty of this moment, as it is, full of openness and possibilities.

If you’d like to work on letting go, I would like to offer a simple practice.

mind

 

The Practice of Letting Go

You can actually practice this all day long, because even if we don’t realize it, we’re clinging and hardening and fixing upon viewpoints all day long.

Here’s how to practice:

  1. Start by realizing that you’re hardened. Notice that you are stressed, upset at someone, feeling like you’re right, complaining about someone or a situation, not open to other viewpoints, putting something off, avoiding, tensed. These are good signs that you are holding on, hardened in your viewpoint, fixed, attached, clinging. Get good at noticing this.
  2. Notice the tension in your body. It’s a tightening that happens from your stomach muscles, through your chest, into your throat, up to your forehead. Think of this as your central column, and it tightens up when you think you’re right, or someone else is wrong, or you really want something or don’t want something.
  3. Start to relax those tightened muscles. This is the heart of changing from holding on to letting go. Whatever is tight in your central column, relax. Try it right now. What is tight? Relax that. Soften.
  4. Open your awareness beyond yourself. Once you’ve done this (and you might have to repeat the relaxing, multiple times), you can open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.
  5. Become aware of openness & possibilities. With your mind opening, you can start to feel more open. Your mind is no longer closed, but has made space for possibilities. You are not fixated on one right way, but are open to everything. This is the beauty of not-knowing.
  6. Open to the beauty that is before you. Now that you are not fixated on rightness or your way or the way things should or shouldn’t be … you can take in the actual moment before you. You’ve emptied your cup, and made room for seeing things as they actually are, and appreciating the beauty of this moment, the beauty of other people, and of yourself.
  7. Step forward with a not-knowing openness. From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.

It’s that simple. And of course, it takes a lot of practice. You can do this at any moment, but it’s helpful to have a short time of day when you set a reminder and then take a few moments to sit still and practice with whatever you’ve been clinging to today.

When we practice like this, we are shifting from our habitual patterns of self-concern and shutting out all possibilities, to openness and not-knowing, to unlimited possibilities and seeing the breath-taking beauty of the world in front of us.

BY LEO BABAUTA     FEBRUARY 4, 2019

zenhabits.net

Obstacles That Stop Us from Decluttering
—And How to Overcome Them

Years ago, Cas Aarssen would spend hours looking for lost items, cleaning and tidying, and dusting items she didn’t even like.
Sound familiar?
Sometimes, we get so entrenched in our routines that we don’t see the belongings that no longer belong in our homes. Or we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, too exhausted to tackle a big project such as decluttering. We think it’ll require energy and effort we just don’t have.
Another obstacle to decluttering is actually letting items go. “We are especially reluctant to declutter things that were expensive, have sentimental value, or things that we perceive as being useful ‘someday,’” said Aarssen, an author and professional organizer. “Unfortunately, almost everything can land in one of these categories and by holding onto too many ‘useful’ items, we are making the spaces in our homes ‘useless.’”
We also don’t get rid of items because our stuff starts to represent different possibilities. And that stuff ends up replacing our actual habits. For instance, professional organizer and ADHD coach Debra Michaud, M.A., worked with a client who had a growing yoga DVD collection, which she didn’t use. “What she really wanted was the habit, but she found herself instead buying more and more DVDs.”
Basically, our clutter can personify the people we want to be. The person who lifts weights and runs on the treadmill. The person who always looks put together in fancy (and uncomfortable) shoes. The person who uses cookbooks to make elaborate dinners for their family. The person who does arts and crafts and makes beautiful things.
“Unfinished projects are a very common cause of clutter,” Michaud said. You might be surrounded by broken things you’re planning on fixing one day and piles of magazines you’ll read next week or the week after that or the week after that or….
“People often hang on to [these items] as some sort of albatross, almost a punishment for not getting everything done.”
All of these are super-common obstacles—which you can absolutely overcome. These tips will help.
clutter
Have a clear vision
“The best motivator to declutter is to have a clear vision of what is beyond it,” Michaud said. She suggested asking yourself: What do you really want? What would you really miss?
Remind yourself regularly why you’re decluttering. For instance, clutter robs us of our time and causes a lot of needless stress, said Aarssen, bestselling author of Real Life Organizing and Cluttered Mess to Organized Success. It also zaps our energy, makes us inefficient, and prevents us from living in the present, Michaud said.
Start small
So overwhelm doesn’t stop you from starting, Michaud always suggests tackling clutter in small chunks. Really small. For instance, you might identify one item per day you’re going to donate.
Michaud also recommended using a timer, and starting with five-minute sessions. “Five minutes of focused decision-making is more productive than two hours of wheel-spinning and moving things around.” In fact, she defines clutter as “the interest we pay for deferred decisions (or projects).”
And because of the decision-making required, pick a time when you can focus, Michaud said. “At the end of a tiring workday, for example, will probably yield a frustrating and inefficient organizing session.”
Start with garbage
Aarssen suggested grabbing a garbage bag and filling it as quickly as possible with things you can throw away without any hesitation. For instance, this might include old receipts, expired medications, stale food, empty boxes, and old magazines.
Address your guilt
Michaud always tells her clients “wouldn’t you rather [an item] go to someone who needs it and uses it, than have it sitting in the back of your closet?” She also asks them if the giver would really want them to feel burdened by their gift. And, of course, they wouldn’t.
When it comes to unfinished projects, remind yourself that no one gets to everything. “In a way, letting go of clutter is…coming to terms with the finiteness of life,” Michaud said. However, “ironically, it’s when we let go that we start to feel in control.”
Self-reflect
If your stuff represents different possibilities, wishes and people, consider if those are still true for you. Consider if you even want to do these things, if you’d even enjoy them. Do you want to lift weights and run on the treadmill? Maybe you don’t—and that’s OK. Maybe you love to take walks. Maybe you actually prefer to cook quick meals, and don’t like cooking from recipes.
Either way, you’ll feel so much lighter once you let go of the stuff that represents your unrealized and unwanted dreams—along with those no longer-relevant dreams.
Donate 21 items
“I love this decluttering technique because it is a big enough number that you need to push yourself, but small enough that it isn’t overwhelming and won’t take you more than a few minutes to accomplish,” Aarssen said. Again, the key is to go quickly, and make it into a game.
Create a time capsule
According to Aarssen, when you’re really struggling to relinquish certain items, pack them in a box and write an expiration date on it: “If Not Used By September 2018, DONATE This Box.” Keep your box somewhere in your home. When that date arrives, if you haven’t missed or needed anything in the box, donate its contents, she said.
Get help
“Sometimes the biggest impediment to decluttering is just knowing when to reach out for help,” Michaud said. She suggested hiring a professional organizer or finding a neutral “clutter buddy.” This might be a close friend or a member of Clutterers Anonymous.
Whoever you pick, it’s important that they’re not judgmental and can ask you thoughtful questions, such as: “Do you love it? Do you use it? Realistically will you use it in the next 2 years? Would you buy it again today? Would you miss it?”
Decluttering does take time and energy and effort—but it’s time and energy and effort that aren’t a waste. It’s worthwhile, and it’s absolutely freeing. As Michaud said, “We often don’t even realize how much clutter is weighing on us until it’s gone.”
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. 
Associate Editor        8 Jul 2018


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Why Clutter is BAD for your Health

So you come home after a busy day at work and sit down on the couch in front of the TV and plop your feet on your “antiquish” coffee table. As you open your eyes after waking up from your 2-second nap, you realize the piles of stuff around you. Your mind has now become distressed and goes into overdrive to process your space.

The Effects of Clutter and Stress

STRESS, the 5-letter word that is seen as both positive and negative. We try to keep it out of our lives and at the same time we can’t live without it. Stress is how we deal with challenges or threats in our lives. When we feel threatened, our body responds by releasing stress hormones called cortisol. High levels of Cortisol can:

  • Lower immune function and bone density
  • Increase weight gain
  • Increase blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease
  • Increase risk of depression and mental illness
  • Lower life expectancy

As mentioned before, in many cases stress is positive as it helps us concentrate, focus and stay alert, but an overload can be detrimental to our health.

Here are a few guidelines on how to stop clutter in its track and focus on living a more happy, stress-free and clutter-free life.

  • Would I pay to move it? If this answer is No then it probably isn’t important enough to keep
  • Does it make me happy? After touching an item and there’s no sense of joy or good memory then it may be time to part ways.
  • What is it about? What is the real reason you can’t let go of an item? Sometimes the items we hold on to bring back a memory whether it is good or bad.

At first it may seem overwhelming to know that you will need to get rid of your stuff to remove unnecessary stress in your life but with practice and persistence, it will come natural. By the time you know it, you’ll be able to slide down the hall without worrying about anything stopping you.

 December 29, 2015                Judi Igwe

Resource and References
Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No.1 – Christopher Bergland 5 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels without drugs. (Psychologytoday.com)

 


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The Science Behind Why It’s So Hard to Get Rid of Clutter

There’s a clear link between what you keep and how you feel about yourself.

BY AMY MORIN    PUBLISHED ON: FEB 12, 2016
Author, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”    @AmyMorinLCSW

There’s a reason Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold millions of copies and dominated the bestseller lists since it’s release in 2014–people yearn for simple, clutter-free spaces. Despite the desire for simplicity, embracing Kondo’s minimalist lifestyle may be more difficult than it seems.

Kondo recommends only keeping the items that “spark joy” and eliminating everything else. Readers who successfully adopt Kondo’s methods report emptying drawers, cleaning closets, and clearing off table tops in an effort to unload heaps of clutter.

While a tidier home can spark joy for many people, others aren’t willing–or emotionally able–to part with their possessions. Getting rid of stuff stirs up a lot of emotional turmoil and for some, it’s just not worth it.

Whether you’re hesitant to donate clothes that went out of style a decade ago, or you’re reluctant to toss your childhood bowling trophy, you’re not alone. Research explains why it can be so difficult to part with your possessions.

The Link Between What You Have and Who You Are

The objects you struggle to get rid of are likely tied to your self-worth, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Rather than viewing those objects as “mine,” you may think of them as “me.”

The study found that people struggle the most to part with possessions that lack monetary or functional value. That’s why people who lose their possessions to burglaries or fires report the psychological damage is far worse than the financial loss.

clutter

According to researchers, the items you hang onto are likely to be linked directly to your self-worth. And people measure their self-worth in different areas.

While one person may link their worth to their physical appearance, someone else may think their value stems from other people’s approval. Whatever objects you cling to the most, are likely the ones that fuel your self-worth.

If you place a lot of value in success, for example, you may have trouble getting rid of anything that serves as a tangible reminder of your accomplishments. A plaque from your last job, an expensive watch that no longer works, or a stack of old college transcripts may represent your achievement.

Throwing away these objects might cause you to feel slightly less successful. It’s as if these physical manifestations of your triumphs will somehow take away from your achievements.

If however, you value your relationships above everything else, you may have difficulty getting rid of gifts from other people. Donating that shirt that never fit, may lead you to feel like you’re being disloyal to Grandma. Or, getting rid of that book your friend gave you, may cause you to feel like you’re giving away a little bit of your friendship.

Those palpable objects likely fuel your identity as someone who is loved and appreciated. Despite their lack of function, you may feel like they serve as proof that you mean something to other people.

To Keep or Not to Keep

The study shows that getting rid of these objects leads to real grief. Parting with possessions that make you feel worthy can cause you to experience sadness–and even depression.

So the next time you get frustrated by your cluttered desk or your spare room that serves as a catch-all, consider whether those objects you’re holding onto have anything to do with your self-worth. Not only could it give you some insight into the way you measure your self-worth, but it might also help you decide what’s worse: the grief you’ll experience if you toss it or the frustration you experience from looking at the clutter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

source: www.inc.com