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Do you want to thrive or to be surrounded by your stuff?

Tiistai 24.11.2015 klo 17:33 - Emo-Anne, Christine Li

Do You Want to Thrive or to Be Surrounded by Your Stuff?

Imagine a scenario where someone asked you, “Do you want to thrive or to be surrounded by your stuff?”

I have a feeling most people would choose “to thrive” but would, in reality, be living their real lives surrounded or even submerged by their stuff.  I say submerged because so many people are burdened by their belongings that they no longer love, use, or need that they are sapped of their natural creative, decision-making energy.

I know what I am talking about because I have spent my entire adult life submerged in some way by my stuff.  My own stuff accumulated through a mixture of disorganization, too much busy-ness in my schedule, and a penchant for shopping just to cure my boredom or to avoid something more important.  

On many levels, I think I tolerated my clutter because it provided a literal barrier between me and many of my feelings.  It also prevented me from feeling fully competent in my own life.  It didn’t really matter what the circumstances were:  I was always late because I could not find whatever I might have needed, or I came in looking disheveled because my iron (which had a dangerously separated electrical cord) had not quite worked as it should.  You get the picture.

You may also know what I mean, as I understand that an unfortunately large number of people go through their days bemoaning their cluttered lives as well.  

For me, there were as many layers of guilt in my day as there seemed to be layers of stuff.  

Fortunately for me, I am now nearing the end of my total life de-cluttering process.  Many, many important and not-so-important life events have helped me to get to this point.  I think just plain growing older is one of the most significant ones.  I just reached a point where I knew in my heart of hearts that I did not want to move forward in my own life feeling burdened, guilty, and a mess.  There really was no more need or room for these feelings.  I knew I wanted a life that was free and purposeful, confident and sound.

How do you take the leap and start this process of changing your relationship with your stuff?  

The path towards clutter-free living is both incredibly simple and deceivingly difficult at the same time.  There are many emotions we attach to our belongings, sometimes even before the belongings enter our homes.  

If your stuff does not support you and your life, then it is not good for you.  Detach yourself from those not-good things today.  

Here are some of the concepts and resources that were critical in my own de-cluttering journey:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you start, but it does matter that you do start.
  2. Relieve yourself of the idea that there is a perfect way to de-clutter.  Do not overburden yourself in this process as it is hard enough.
  3. Do not de-clutter for anyone but yourself.  Hold yourself in high regard and take care of yourself by getting rid of the stuff that is no longer good for you or part of what your life today.  Do not try to de-clutter other people’s belongings before you handle your own.
  4. View the de-cluttering process as a method of opening yourself up to the broader world around you.  You no longer have to hide in your home, afraid others will see the messes you have there.  When you begin to recycle, to donate, or to sell your unneeded stuff you begin to reconnect with your own community.  Instead of feeling afraid that you don’t have enough, you will eventually learn through the de-cluttering and letting-go process that you actually have more than you need.
  5. When we learn to let go, we automatically and somewhat magically are able to let new experiences in.  If we hang on too long to what’s no longer relevant, we effectively block ourselves from recognizing new opportunities
  6. Remember that you are rescuing time for yourself.  When you let clutter sit, you also sit on the energy invested in that clutter.  When that clutter is cleared, that energy and your time are freed.
  7. There are many wonderful resources to support you in this process.  I recommend the following books: Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley, Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  If you only have time for one, I suggest you read the Kondo book – it is a clutter cure.

Cleaning up and sorting through what you’ve accumulated in your home is a very personal experience.  I believe the de-cluttering process works well only if you play the biggest part in managing it, although it certainly does help to have friends and family on board to help out.  Invest yourself in this process of treating yourself and your living space well.

If you are debating whether to toss or donate the mementos from your own past, take some extra time to be appreciative of what those mementos have meant and given to you.  You could take a picture of yourself in that once-beloved costume or outfit before lovingly sending it on for someone else to use to make more great experiences and memories.  Or you could shoot a quick video scanning the collections you’ve owned as you make way for a lot more open space in your life.  

When you open up your closet, you open up yourself.  Whichever way you decide to thrive, I wish you the best of luck in the process and in your future.

Christine Li, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who works in private practice in New York City.  She also writes about topics like Procrastination, productivity, anxiety, and clutter on her blog Procrastinationcoach.com.  Receive weekly tips from her by signing up for her blog or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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