We are often weighed down by the things we accumulate – gifts, mementos, and even furniture gifted to us by loved ones and relatives. We feel that throwing out or giving things to the Good Will would be an offense to the memory of our parents, grandparents, friends, and children.
This grasping onto material objects seems to be an attempt to hang onto the connection we once had – or that we wish we had – to people and phases in our lives. We feel as though we might be tossing out the past if we clear out mementos from the history of our lives.
Yet, holding onto memories and keepsakes can confine us to the past. Not only do we develop material clutter, we also develop and re-enforce emotional clutter.
An extreme example of how a jumble of junk holds a person prisoner is demonstrated by the mental disorder of hoarding. Hoarders can no longer negotiate their way through their homes being blocked by a mass of “valuable” possessions that stand in their way. The cluttered home is a metaphor for the cluttered mind. Imagine what this self-induced captivity does to their love lives, professional pursuits, and spiritual or creative quests.
We don’t need tacky paintings, worn-out furniture, or outlandish jewelry to remember loved ones. Nor do we need to keep every drawing and science project our children once created to enjoy and love our children. Nor must we keep the decrepit desk or old frayed quilt to honor our ancestors.
De-cluttering our homes and our lives prevents us from becoming buried by our belongings. Freeing ourselves of excessive stuff, particularly things that don’t resonate with our soul, can free us to live the life we desire in the present and future without being burdened by the past.
To prevent clutter from taking over your life and home, choose only those clearly-meaningful mementos that give you pleasure. You’ll know which ones they are, because there will be no question that you want to keep them.
Some tips on clearing out stuff might help:
1. If you haven’t used it in the past year, you’re not likely to miss it.
2. If you don’t need it, but it’s the ONLY memento of Uncle Harry or Aunt Tilly, take a picture of it to preserve the memory without using up space.
3. If it’s a usable item from someone else, think of the joy it will give another person if it is donated to an organization that helps others.
4. Recycle… re-use… restore your own harmony of home by emptying the boxes at the back of the basement.
5. Follow the old rule: If in doubt, throw it out. If you can’t throw much of anything out, enlist a friend who embodies simplicity and common sense to help you.
You need space in both your home and your life to be open to possibilities the future may bring. Letting go of old stuff on a seasonal basis promotes recurring renewal on many levels of your life.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD