It’s no secret that clutter in our homes and work spaces can be a great source of stress in our lives and even in our thinking. I know this is true for me. When my home and work space are in order, I am able to think more clearly and accomplish more in less time than when I’m sitting among disorder. I fall into clouded thinking or encumbered decision-making when I have too much stuff laying around. I find myself struggling to break through to a solid answer that I can feel good about, or I tend to second-guess myself. Many of us run around at such a fevered pace that we often look regretfully at a stack of papers or stack of something and promise them and ourselves that we will handle them at the next available moment, because now, we have to dash. And when that next available moment comes, we are utterly exhausted or have something more pressing than the stack of papers to address. Things can easily build up this way until it seems like we need to take a week off from all other commitments to free ourselves from the tangled web we’ve created.
My sister shared with me recently that during the Lenten season from March 1st to April 15th this year, her church suggested that its members select one item to release for each day of Lent. This has a terrific two-fold purpose by serving to clear the superfluous from their homes, as well as to provide for those who might welcome these items. It has a nice “win-win” feeling to it. I also appreciate the gradual approach to freeing ourselves from clutter that this suggested assignment embodies. We don’t have to back up a truck to our driveway and load ‘er up. Perhaps we pick a particular room to tackle, and each night we pull one item and pat ourselves on the back with every day that we continue this exercise. Then, at the end of a week or two, we take our collected items to one of the many organizations that accept them. Amazon even offers to ship our unwanted items to Goodwill for us if we re-use their boxes (check it out).
There is another form of clutter that also requires clearing in order to move about our lives freely: the negativity we allow to roll around inside us. Self-Criticism, Holding Grudges, Re-Playing Hurts to name a few….This stuff has most likely been collecting for years. Granted, it’s easier to give away unwanted clothing or knick-knacks than it is to release negative ways of thinking about ourselves or others, but allowing these thoughts to remain is like dragging around a ball and chain. It impedes our freedom and takes our mind off of what is life-giving. So where do we begin in releasing these unseen things that hold us back? We begin by taking note of such negative thought patterns. We’ve given them free reign for so long that we’ve hardly noticed them anymore – up until now. We can notice such thoughts and then write them down as we would the inventory of the things we’re putting out for our yard sale, except that this is a private list for your eyes only. Catch the negative self-talk and criticisms and list them. Notice the grudges and hurt you continue to hold on to. And then, just like the exercise above, we select one thing and address it. For instance, let’s say you caught yourself thinking or saying, “I am so stupid.” You pause this recording (and that’s just what this has become) and break the pattern by saying something like, “No. Actually, I am highly gifted and smart in many ways.” (Use a phrase that resonates with you). This takes continued and dedicated practice. To further support this, it’s good to praise yourself when you’re pleased with what you’ve accomplished, however small. We are creating a new and more expansive pattern that brings self-appreciation and self-acceptance. We can do similar work in re-structuring our thoughts surrounding grudges and holding on to hurt. How wonderful it is to clear the way to the point that self-praise replaces self-criticism and releasing offenses through forgiveness can become second nature and by doing so, we feel lighter and less burdened with internal stuff. Again, this takes time and practice. It took a long time for these things to build up, but they can be given the boot with awareness and dedication.
Letting go of what no longer serves us is a great exercise for our physical and mental environment. Isn’t it interesting how they both serve clarity of thought and overall well-being? Baby steps can often lead to massive changes. Go for it, my friend.