Getting Rid of Emotional Clutter (And Making Room for the Things That You Really Want)
My sweet mother-in-law just turned 90. She's been like a mother to me after losing my own mom to cancer. 'Nanny's' life has demonstrated so many admirable qualities I want to emulate. But I confess there’s one quality I’ll avoid modeling. She’s a bit of a pack rat. Having gone through her life habitually saving endless mementos and squirreling away countless ‘but-it-was-on-sale’ finds, every drawer, closet, shelf and storage bin is at capacity load. Downsizing for a small condo is now a monumental chore.
We're All Pack Rats Whether or not you fall into the category of a pack rat with possessions, most of us accumulate mental baggage. We collect drawers crammed with frustrations and closets brimming with unresolved conflicts.
Make Room for Happiness By the time we reach middle age, we find that there’s not a lot of room left over for happiness. At least that was my assessment as I found myself preparing to be an empty nester. I had stored away so many irritations and grievances, my soul felt cluttered. I decided to do some serious sorting out of my emotional clutter.
Create a Plan I made a plan. I took three steps.
I applied Marie Kondo’s ‘joy’ mantra to my emotional life.
Find the Comfort of Counsel Going to a good counselor is like getting spa sessions for your soul. A trained clinician can massage the muscles of memory and relieve their kinks and tightness. They can help you breathe more deeply and relax more into your life.
If you're considering counseling, there's great guidance in finding one HERE.
Take a Journaling Journey
There’s something powerful about writing in a journal. Especially when using skillful prompts. That’s exactly what the ‘Self Authoring’ course is! By dissecting your life into decades or seasons, you’re able to see themes and create a sense of order in your understanding.
If you're interested in Jordan Peterson's 'Self Authoring' Course, you can find out more info HERE.
Use the Kondo Rule As I talked to my counselor and journaled my way through messy memories, I used Marie Kondo’s ‘joy’ mantra as a filter. Asking myself, ‘Does this attitude spark joy?’ (Or does this response or reaction facilitate joy?)
‘“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one's hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.’ Marie Kondo
Know it's Messy Business Sorting through life is messy business. I actually think it’s easier to sort through closets and drawers than it is to sift through life issues. Kondo’s encouragement to those purging closet chaos is just as pertinent to those attempting to do the same to their internal clutter.
Commit to the Process Stay committed to the process. It takes a gritty determination to declutter. The commitment to bring emotional clarity requires even more grit. The temptation to quit always lurks. Out of sight, out of mind describes the temptress. But our unresolved angst isn’t really ‘out of mind.’ It’s like an open tab that is always running in the background, draining us of vibrancy.
Don't be Discouraged Culling throughemotional baggage is daunting. As troubling memories are pulled out from the back of mental recesses, their sting can be freshly felt. But it’s a process. As painful residue tumbles out and piles at your feet, with resolve the mess does dissolve.
‘Don't be discouraged if your home temporarily looks worse while you're in the process of tidying.’ Marie Kondo
How are your emotional drawers and closets? If you find they're at maximum capacity, know you're not alone!
I hope these tips help inspire you on your own journey to clear out the cumbersome clutter make room for lots more joy.
Have you ever noticed some particular thing and then find that you just keep noticing it? It could be a car, a word, a breed of dog, a particular style of house, or just about anything. Suddenly, you’re aware of that thing all over the place. Yeah, we’ve all had it happen at some point. It’s actually got a name! It’s called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon - it’s a frequency bias.
Well, recently, I’ve repeatedly come across the idea that joy is something that’s super important to our emotional well being. (duh!) I know. It’s so elemental. But sometimes the simplest truths are the most profound.
Marie Kondo, the organizational guru, revolutionized our lives with her instructions to sort our ‘stuff’ by considering their ‘joy factor.’
I bet we could also sort through emotional clutter if we could put her ‘joy’ guideline to work on other parts of our lives.
What if we honestly appraised our commitments, our friendships or memberships by asking the question, ‘Does this spark joy?’
I’m NOT advocating self centered narcissism. I’m just saying we usually make commitments from a viewpoint of ‘I guess I should’ rather than ‘I really want’.
I only wish I’d thought of this years ago! This would’ve alleviated a lot of angst. I am a recovering ‘should’ addict. I’m currently sorting through the effects of collecting way too many shouldas’, and oughtas’.
I’m recuperating from a severe case of ‘Mom Burnout’ due to all of my self imposed ‘shoulds’. As a mom of five, I remember feeling empathy in reading this Mother Goose rhyme:
But, I know now it wasn’t necessarily my kids who caused the burn- out. It was all the other commitments and obligations. What if we moms were to hold up each of our engagements and ask, “Does this spark joy?’ or ‘Is this just another ‘should’ that’s going to clutter our lives?’ Marie Kondo struck a sensitive chord in our hearts with her invitation to question our joy levels. Joy is a rare commodity today. We put our heads down and trudge ahead like automatons. Her elegantly simple criteria jolted us to stop and think, ‘Does this make me feel any joy?’
As moms, we can easily find ourselves bound to patterns of self sacrifice long after the nightly feedings are just a memory. What if we intentionally considered ways to spark joy in our day-to-day routines? If the ‘Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’ had done so, she would’ve been much better off. I know I would’ve been! I’ve been taking intentional regular steps.
My own personal journey in recovering my joy started when I enrolled in, ‘The Science of Well-Being’, a free six week online course from Yale University. FREE! That’s enough to spark a lot of joy! Having just completed it, I highly recommend it!
Intentional actions taken to awaken joy is one of the featured points in the course. Joy. It’s such a simple word - just three little letters. But it can have such a huge impact on our emotional wellness. After taking the course, I continued learning about specific ways we can spark joy. Below is a list I’ve gathered.
Ways to spark joy every day: Dance to some awesome music. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Plan a fun night/day out with friends. Make new contacts. Volunteer your time. Grow a new hobby. Return to an old hobby. Send a meal to someone. Take a scenic bike ride. Watch a sunset or sunrise. Pick (or buy) some fresh flowers. Make something with your hands. Learn a new skill Go on an adventure (even a tiny one.) Play with an animal. Light scented candles. Do a puzzle. Soak in a bubble bath. Try a yummy new recipe. Make your bed each morning after waking up. Write a letter of appreciation to someone. Play solitaire with real cards. Go for a walk or run. Curl up with a book. Make a gratitude list. Put on relaxing music and stretch for 20 minutes. Write a mini-poem about your day. Draw or watercolor. Prepare a smoothie. Go to a new coffee shop. Visit a museum.