Life, too much, too fast, too crazy; a merry-go-round that never slows long enough to allow us to jump off safely. Then there’s the whispered promise we make to ourselves as we fall into bed at night exhausted; the promise to slow down, to eliminate the things that complicate our life, the promise to find time to enjoy more and work less. As I come to realize there are more years behind me than ahead, a new sense priority appears. I want to understand not only how to rid my life of "stuff", but why I have clutter at all. The endeavor has been so much greater, so much harder, and so much more fulfilling than I ever imagined.
What I didn't understand when I started - but I suspected - is that the longing to move beyond my present environment is rooted much deeper than the cleaning of a countertop or closet. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or a doctor of any sorts - although my children would argue differently - so what I offer next is simply my experience, observations and lessons learned.
We are constantly reworking our identity as human beings. Think back on the things you have collected over your lifetime. As a young girl I collected dolls, as a teen it was make up, jewelry, etc., the things I thought would make me more beautiful, more popular. As an adult I went through a phase of collecting Hummel figurines, tea cups, and a few other short term collectibles. Each was a reflection of where I was in my life during that point in time. They served their purpose. However, I no longer feel compelled to grow any of these collections, and with the exception of the tea cups, I no longer own them.
When we hold on to things, situations, emotions, etc. that no longer serve a purpose in our life, we stay stuck or confused, or both. Often times the inability to move forward and the wanting to accumulate or hold on to, is more a reflection of deeper inner struggle, discontentment, or feeling of lack of control. We use our past “stuff” and even add to it in order to distract ourselves or provide a sense of comfort and security by way of its familiarity.
My personal barrier is accepting that my children are grown adults and my divorce is eight years past. I'm doing well at letting go, but I get nostalgic at times. My situation is not unique to me; clutter can hide many things, a dream that is drowning, a business or career that is stagnant, a relationship(s) that is stuck or long gone, the body we had 10 years ago (ugh!) ….the list is long and unique to each of us.
The deal is, our outer environment will reflect our inner environment; our outer chaos will reflect our inner chaos and vise versa. If we do not change our identity and our environment with age, circumstance, and the lessons we have learned along the way, the ability to live simply is inhibited by all the noise and clutter; and ultimately, we miss out on experiencing the unscripted life ahead of us.
When we think about living simply, we tend to focus on things we can see. We think about de-cluttering and donating. We celebrate clear countertops, closets less overstuffed and organized computer desktops. While all of these things are important and certainly worth celebrating, they're just the surface of simplicity. The reality is that clutter, being that which has outlived its purpose, takes from our attention, the things that really matter. As we devote time, energy, and money to maintain the mare's nest we have grown, that which we own, often comes to own us.
If you can relate to junk piling up, stress for time, stress for money, lingering problems, unaddressed hurt, postponed decisions, unfulfilling or limbo relationships, un-forgiveness, over commitment, and the list goes on...it may be time to de-clutter your life. If there are things you value more than possessions, mine for example – God, my family and friends, inner peace, self-care/love, my character, my passions, fun! - it may be time to simplify our life.
I've only been on this journey for a short while, but the experience thus far has been life changing. It's by no means a quick fix and it's not always easy, but I have learned that what you love and what you believe will guide you to where you are going. When, and if we are ready to commit a true heart change, we are empowered to change our own world!
Although clutter breaks into categories, it stands to reason that one area bleeds into another. Do we dare to think our relationship clutter won't affect our work life or our health. Right!? I could write a book on this, but I'll try to just hit the highlights and let you discover for yourself.
For the rest of the month, I'll touch on these and more!
Physical Clutter – the stuff
Emotional Clutter – un-forgiveness, anger, worry, fear
Relational Clutter - toxic, one-sided, negative, draining relationships
Mental Clutter – over commitment, misplaced priorities, the story in your head
Financial Clutter – debt, lack of budget, insufficient insurance
Legal Clutter - estate planning, wills, legal documents
Spiritual Clutter – longing for inner peace, lack of connection with your creator
I hope you'll join me!