When you harbour emotions that bring you down, go to endless meetings you don’t care about and hang on to stuff you don’t need, clutter has taken control of your life. By Nicola Davies-Laubscher
Clutter can creep into our lives on many different levels. Understanding why you allow it into your life, however, can help you get rid of it. We look at different types of clutter and how you can free yourself of the mess.
Clutter enters our lives on a daily basis, so getting rid of it is also something that we need to concentrate on daily. Holding out for a big spring clean can be quite unrealistic in terms of time and effort, so focus on small achievements, such as filing your mail once a week and cleaning up the living room every night before going to bed.
‘We come into this world with nothing and we will leave with nothing, yet we spend our whole lives accumulating stuff,’ explains life coach Liesl Saayman. She has a golden rule for all material items that we hang on to: if you haven’t used, worn, picked up or even thought about it during the past year, it must go.
‘People often find it difficult to let go of physical possessions as they reason that they worked hard to get it in the first place,’ says Liesl. The idea is not to look at your stuff as ‘possessions’ but as things that you have stewardship over: once you no longer have use for them, it is time to pass them on to someone who needs it or can use them.
Getting rid of your stuff will require a commitment from you. People often start a clean-up of the garage or the children’s playroom and end up simply moving stuff around the house without accomplishing any actual decluttering. Liesl advises contacting a charity when planning your clean-up and committing yourself to delivering a certain number of items to them. This will give you both a purpose and a deadline.
Emotional clutter refers to any negative emotion that we hang on to regardless of its validity. ‘It can be something so small – a remark by a former teacher or an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend – that then develops into a negative belief about yourself,’ says Liesl.
A good example of emotional clutter is the long feud between the Montague and Capulet families in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, essentially ‘I don’t remember why I am so angry at your family, but I remember that I am and therefore I live my life accordingly.’
Meditating and practising mindfulness will help you stand back from emotional clutter and find calmness. Taking deep, rhythmic breaths also has a calming effect on the mind. ‘Imagine your mind as an eye that’s underwater, staring up at the turbulent waves washing over it,’ says Liesl. ‘Your mind should be like an anchor, unaffected by any movements beyond its reach.’
How often do you agree to things that you don’t really want to do? Do you serve on school committees because you really believe in the cause or do you do it just to look involved?
‘By all means, get involved if you feel passionate about a cause, but before you say ‘yes’ to something, think about why,’ explains Liesl. ‘Don’t clutter your days with mindless activities that leave you feeling frustrated, exhausted and empty. Your time is valuable, so use it wisely.’
To get rid of time clutter, you will have to identify the things that are most important to you and that you want to focus your time and energy on. It can be your children, your work or a specific goal, such as finishing your studies. Write down your top five priorities, then start eliminating the obstacles between you and what you are passionate about.