“Clutter is just stagnant energy”

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 I wrote recently how content I was after I cleaned my garage.  I still get a smile on my face when I drive into it.  I also declared this the Year of the Purge, when all non-essential items were going under review, and anything not categorized as essential was going to be sold, donated or thrown out.  This weekend it was the coat closet, and I filled an entire bag full of unused scarves, mittens, and hats.  I may end up with some jackets to donate too.   For me there is such a sense of freedom when I clean and organize, as well as a feeling of doing good because the items I donate will go to people who need them.

I was discussing this with some friends recently, and they lamented that they just don’t have the time to do whole scale cleaning and organization because they are never home.  They admitted they had plenty of stuff to go through, pitch or donate, but just not the time.  It got me thinking – is there an emotional impact of having too much stuff, no organization, or a combination of both?

Turns out there is.  Read on to see what it might mean if you hold on to a certain type of stuff, and the benefits of unloading it.  

“[Clutter] is just stagnant energy,” she {Tisha Morris, author of Feng Shui Your Life:  The Quick Guide to Decluttering Your Home and Renewing your Life (Turner, 2011)} says. “Where there’s clutter in your home, there will be clutter in [you] — either physically, mentally or emotionally.”

Professional organizers, who are hired to help with everything from decluttering closets to restructuring entire homes, routinely see their clients reap emotional rewards. “It’s hard for me to even imagine talking about clutter without talking about the emotional benefits of decluttering,” says Hazel Thornton, professional organizer and owner of Organized for Life, a consulting service in Albuquerque, N.M. “There’s no one who calls me who isn’t stressed out, frustrated, or feeling inadequate, incompetent in their job, or guilty. It’s all about emotions — definitely it’s more about emotions than it is about the stuff.”

…In other words, identifying an item as clutter has more to do with how it feels than how it looks. If you feel less than great in certain rooms or even your entire house, it might be time to target a few items (or a few dozen) for removal.

Here you’ll find a guide to the most common kinds of clutter, the emotional signals they may be broadcasting, and the toll they could be taking on your life. Start seeing your questionable stuff in this clear new light, and you may start feeling a whole lot more ready to let it go.

Other People’s Stuff

Whether it’s belongings stored for a friend in a garage or basement, or the stuff your kids left behind when they moved out, storing other people’s things can be a signal that you need to be more assertive about your space. “When [other people’s stuff] gets to be a problem, that’s all about setting appropriate boundaries,” Morris explains. “Our home is a template for our own energy, so when people store things in your home, those people are taking up your energy.”

If you do decide to let people leave their belongings with you, Morris recommends being very specific about how long you’re willing to turn your home into a storage locker. “Say, ‘OK, I’ll store this for six months and after that you need to come get it.’ [You] can still make the decision to do it, but at least [you’re] conscious of it.”

The belongings of deceased loved ones also fall into this category. After the initial shock of losing someone, it may not feel right to dispense with all of his or her things. But hanging on to an entire collection of china or oversized suits you don’t really want and can’t use — especially if they’re packed away in boxes somewhere out of sight — doesn’t honor a loved one’s memory as effectively as choosing a few special items to actively enjoy or display.

In Thornton’s experience, this particular kind of letting go is “a huge emotional issue.” She describes working with a client whose husband had died nine years earlier. The client had several remaining boxes of her husband’s things she referred to as “the hard stuff”: personal items and career souvenirs that she didn’t really want but couldn’t bear to donate or throw away. Together they figured out a plan to turn the boxes into a source of comfort rather than pain.

“Her husband had kids from a previous marriage, and we made a box for each of them. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a good home for something,” Thornton remembers. “We were able to divide up some of the things, and she kept a few cherished items, and that’s how we resolved it. She made a point to get comfortable with how she cleared the clutter and where she could go from there.”

Thornton’s client soon felt motivated to go into a room she had left untouched since her husband’s death: his workshop. “It was a mess,” Thornton recalls, “but we organized it to the point where it was beautiful and functional. Now we’re adding color to her life, painting accent walls and putting up pictures.

“She really revitalized her whole life by reducing clutter. She’s so active now — she goes hiking and she skis; she has the energy and feels free to go do these things she wasn’t doing before.”

Out of the Past

Having a sense of history in a home is one thing, making it a temple of nostalgia is another. Whether you’re holding on to stacks of high school yearbooks or jeans from college that no longer fit, releasing unhelpful reminders of the past can free you up to move forward.

“When all your available space is filled with clutter, there is no room for anything new to come into your life,” writes Karen Kingston, author of Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (Three Rivers Press, 1999). “Your thoughts tend to dwell in the past, and you feel bogged down with problems that have dogged you for some time. You tend to look back rather than forward in your life, blaming the past for your current situation rather than taking responsibility for creating a better tomorrow.”

DeAnna Radaj, an “eco-shui” home designer based in Charlotte, N.C., encourages clients to let go of items that look nice but are holding them back emotionally.

…Releasing emotionally charged objects can take soul-searching work, tears and sometimes even flames, says professional organizer Melinda Massie, who occasionally advises clients to ritually burn objects they need to part with permanently. “If it’s physically possible,” she says, “I like to set that stuff on fire — with the proper precautions, of course.”

She acknowledges that the process of ditching nostalgic stuff can be profoundly challenging. “Be compassionate with yourself,” she advises. “When you come to something that’s [painful], sit with it. Don’t judge it or get mad at yourself about it.”

You don’t have to burn down the house you shared with your ex to create a sense of closure, she notes. Repaint. Get new sheets for the bed. Or, if you must light a match, burn some candles, sage or incense to reclaim the space as your own.

Unused Goods

Plenty of pantries contain stacks of unused appliances and unchristened cake pans. Home offices are stocked with boxes of file folders, paper clips and reams of paper that have no hope of ever getting used. And it’s a good guess that the number of shiny, untouched tools that fill garages could stretch around the equator — twice.

According to Kingston, piles of unused stuff can signal “just in case” thinking, which “indicates a lack of trust in the future.” This can create a bigger cycle of distrust, she explains. “If you have lots of clutter you are hanging on to because you think this way, you are sending out a frequency of not trusting, and you will always feel vulnerable and insecure about the future.”

Unused items can also represent an unmet aspiration, says Geralin Thomas, a professional organizer who appears often on the A&E network’s show Hoarders: “Often, people’s clutter is tied up with their identity. Who are you?

…While there’s nothing wrong with having aspirations, Thomas explains, she also feels that “your house has to be something other than just a container for your stuff. You need to figure out if your possessions orient you toward having or being. The ‘havings’ want to acquire and possess. For ‘beings,’ it’s all about experience. The beings are eager to let go of things that aren’t being enjoyed and used; the opposite is true for the havings.

“Your house should be a respite from the world. A place where you want to enjoy your life, a place where you can enjoy your family, your friends, your spiritual practice, whatever you’re into. But if you’re not into the stuff that’s in your house, then it’s got to go. It doesn’t tell the story of who you are.”

Giving away unused belongings, especially those in good condition, not only benefits others, it can help you rewrite the story of who you are. Being comfortable with a little empty space helps make room for new things, experiences and even friendships.

“Clutter — and all the shame that comes along with it — tends to isolate,” says Pesi Dinnerstein, author of A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys (Seal Press, 2011). “Who wants to invite someone in to see the mess that we ourselves don’t want to admit is there? But I’ve found that allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help has not only made the decluttering process more successful, it has also deepened my connection to the people I care about.”

Incomplete Projects

Having projects in process around the house is common and, in some cases, necessary. (After all, a project, by its very definition, is a work in progress.)  Still, when half-knitted sweaters or stalled kitchen remodels sit too long, they start to broadcast troubling messages. Unfinished projects are often accompanied by a sense of failure, says Morris. “A lot of times, that stems from perfectionism — it will never be good enough, not perfect enough, so they just won’t finish it.”

Morris believes it’s important to acknowledge when you’re not finishing a project in a reasonable amount of time. If something sits untouched for six months with no major life events distracting you, it’s time for review. If you realize you’re really not going to finish something, Morris recommends unloading materials at a donation site…Getting rid of that material will be helpful, Morris says, “because the subconscious mind knows those unfinished projects are sitting in a drawer or a closet — and it’s a constant reminder of failure.”

Massie suggests creating a list of each and every one of your unfinished projects. Since some projects need to be completed before others can start, prioritize them. Then, she says, “go through the list and see what is worth your time. Is the outcome going to be worth the energy you put into it? If so, fabulous! Give it a deadline and make it happen. If you don’t finish in that time, give it away and let it go, guilt free.”

Once you’ve cleared out looming unfinished projects, she says, you can focus on the ones you care about most in the present. The rewards of that will be ongoing, as will the rewards of getting rid of any other stuff that weighs you down.

The freedom that comes with a clear space is tinged with possibility for new experiences — and isn’t that more enticing than that box of old, mismatched socks?

Source:  https://experiencelife.com/article/the-emotional-toll-of-clutter/

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