No clutter is labeled “CLUTTER”. Clutter is invisible. It was put in its location subconsciously. That’s why you have to ask if each thing is truly helpful to you or if it’s clutter. Sometimes the most cherished thing is clutter. Count on it. It it’s not useful to you now, toss it. (Brooks Palmer)
I still have to work on this one. I used to move almost every year and every time I moved, I got rid of lots of stuff. But every time I moved again, I always had more stuff to get rid of. How did that always happen? I didn’t remember buying this much, or receiving so much that I clearly did not need! In my last move, I got rid of 2/3 of my furniture and about 1/2 of my other belongings and I still have lots of “stuff”.
Sometimes I think about a few things I have gotten rid of and I miss them, but for the most part, I don’t remember them at all unless someone reminds me.
“Remember that stuffed donkey you loved so much as a child?”
“Remember that ugly green shirt you used to wear that was 3 sizes too large?”
“What happened to that ceramic Garfield statue I got you for your birthday five years ago?” (Those are the ones I hate the most, when someone wants to know what happened to something they gave you that you got rid of because it doesn’t fit who you are, or maybe ever were. It just fits who they wanted you to be.)
I think the things I have the most problem letting go of are papers and music. There are still things I hold on to from school that I probably should let go – such as my notes from physiology – but some part of me keeps thinking things like “What if I need to remember how potassium is exchanged across the cellular membrane? I should keep my notes so I can look back at them and see how I wrote it down to understand it.” But why do I do this? And I have probably 200 cassettes that I plan to transfer to a digital medium – someday.
I think the clutter we keep definitely is part of the identity we use to protect ourselves and our identity. I always did well in school and like being thought of as smart – so I want to keep my school work to somehow subconsciously justify it to myself. I am a musician and there might be some great, brilliant idea on one of those cassettes, but I don’t know which one, so I better keep them all, rather than risk losing it. Hmm…it’s very interesting when you try to step back from your clutter to figure out why you have it.
I think the book that has been one of the absolute best in helping me figure out why I have clutter and how to get rid of it is Brooks Palmer’s Clutter Busting – Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back. I like that it helps explain psychological, emotional, and spiritual reasons for clutter. I have several family members that are kind of hoarders – not to the point of the house needing to be condemned, but to the point where they cannot live comfortably, nor get around easily. I have another person who is very close to me, who may very well have ADD, who lives in a very cluttered environment because they can’t focus long enough to get things in order – yet when they are able to get it somewhat under control, they are always able to relax more.
Another problem is that sometimes when we get rid of the clutter, we enjoy the space for a few minutes, and then rush out to get more. STOP! You don’t need to fill your life with stuff! And the world cannot keep taking on more and more garbage of the things we thought we wanted or needed and then threw away.
Sometimes the clutter is memories that we are trying to hold on to, to protect us from making new ones. Sometimes it is an excuse to not move forward, or have guests, or grow, because “I have to take care of this”. But I find that when I do get rid of clutter – I can think better, I can breathe easier, and my creativity flows more freely. I just feel…better.
So make that effort. Clean one room at a time, or even one small space – the top of your dresser, the kitchen counter, under the bed – and open your life for new energy and new things.
I will leave you with a few more tips from Mr. Palmer’s book which have helped me examine my own clutter more carefully.
- Remember that nothing is sacred except you.
- If it doesn’t fit anymore, physically or psychologically, let it go.
- Be ruthless. Clutter will try to trick you. Question everything.
- Toss anything that makes you feel that the past is more special than right now, that gives you the feeling that life will never be as good as it once was.
- Make your bedroom a peaceful sanctuary. Toss anything that agitates or distracts you.
- Avoid the habit of hiding things that you don’t want to look at. Even if something is buried at the bottom of a box, underneath other clutter, it still affects you. Everything you own is attached to you in a subtle way.
- Have fun!