Cleaning the Clutter

attic I admit it. I’m not a fan of owning too much stuff. My sister dubbed me “Ruth” (short for “ruthless”) the year we were cleaning out my mom’s house. I prefer to think of myself as practical and clear-headed when it comes to deciding what to keep and what to purge. I recently left almost everything I owned and moved across the country with only the things that fit in my Toyota Camry. I wrote about it here.

I don’t think we realize how much our stuff (however well organized) clutters our minds. Subconsciously, we set aside mental space to care for it. We say: “I might need it…It’s still perfectly good!…It’s beautiful/lovely/cozy… someone special gave it to me…my kids/nieces/nephews will want this someday…”

Most people think their stress comes from who they know or what they do, but it can also come from what they have. Even from inside a closet or attic, your stuff is quietly tugging at you, pleading for your attention. It’s background static. Collecting is a short term high. It feels good and gives you a false sense of security. But just like a drug, it doesn’t keep you satisfied for long.

Here are a few ways to begin changing how you think about your stuff:

1. To begin cleaning, start small. One drawer, one shelf. Ask yourself: Do I need it? Do I love it? Do I use it often? If you answered yes to all three questions, keep it. Otherwise, throw it away, sell it or give it to someone.

2. When you get the urge to add something new, make sure you need it, love it, and will use it. Then ask yourself if buying it be a mental, financial or emotional burden on you or a loved one.

3. If you enjoy adding things to your life, consider adding some space. Make space in your rooms, in your relationships, in your busy schedule. Space is a nourishing and healthful addition to any circumstance.

You have a lot more to show this world than your stuff. Don’t save things for later. Give life your love, your time, your full attention. Right now.

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