Emotional clutter, just like physical clutter, is the “stuff” of life that holds us back from the places (real or perceived) we want to go. Could you be an emotional hoarder? Answer the following five questions below and if you answer ‘yes’ to any of them, read on for some sure-fire solutions to set you free.
1. Do you tend to focus on incidents or events in your past that made you feel bad?
2. Is there anyone in your life that you dread seeing or spending time with?
3. Do you subject yourself to social situations out of guilt, a sense of obligation or pressure from another person whose values don’t match your own?
4. Are there any negative associations or traumas consuming any part of your world?
5. Are you frequently angry or irritated by those around you?
Confronting Your Clutter author and licensed mental health counselor Carolyn Koehnline explains in her book: “Physical, mental, emotional and time clutter are not neatly separated categories. A cluttered space depresses me and scatters my thinking. A cluttered mind keeps me from making clear choices on my own behalf. When my heart is cluttered, I have difficulty knowing what to keep and what to let go. A cluttered schedule means I’m always running out the door late, feeling fragmented, distracted, and leaving disaster in my wake.”
Sound familiar? Here are some tips to get you out from under the weight of emotional clutter.
1. Remove ‘should’ from your vocabulary
As in: I should do this or I shouldn’t get out of this miserable relationship. “These are just examples of how we maintain the emotional clutter in our lives,” said psychologist, physical therapist and author of the best-selling book A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, Elizabeth R. Lombardo. Think about how all of these “shoulds” are holding you back. Which ones can you release so that you can make more room for “I get to…,” “I can’t wait to…” and “I’m thrilled to be a part of…”?
2. Figure out what is important to you, then prioritize
According to Lombardo, when we apply our own individual values and strengths, we are much happier. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking the time to regroup and ask yourself: What and who do I really care about? Write it down. Take the time to identify the things that are most meaningful to you and then determine how you can incorporate more of them into your life.
Ever come back from a run, a long walk or a yoga session feeling totally refreshed and clear headed? Exercise reduces stress and depression, gives us positive energy and helps us see things from a different perspective. Whenever you’re feeling frustrated, angry or just plain stuck, get your body moving and the answers just may present themselves to you in blazing color.
4. Pay attention to how you feel
There are only so many hours in every day. When it comes to relationships, clinical psychologist, professor of psychology and media commentator Dr. Ramani Durvasula encourages people to give themselves a feeling check. “There are X kinds of people in our world – (a) those we are forced into contact with by dint of employment, family or neighborhood proximity; (b) people who make us feel good and we choose to be with them; (c) people who lead us to feel bad about ourselves or the world. If you don’t like how someone makes you feel, ask yourself WHY do you spend time around this person?” said Durvasula. “The top reasons for this are guilt, obligation, duty, fear, laziness or you just don’t want to disappoint or inconvenience others. In general, you wouldn’t eat food that makes you feel ill, so why would you consume a person who makes you feel ill?” Figure out who the keepers are and stay focused there. They’ll carry you through the tough times when you need the energy to deal with unpleasant people you have to deal with, i.e. a bad boss or a difficult family member.
5. Clean up your emotional house
Durvasula likens this to devising an exit strategy for letting go of the people in your life who undermine you or otherwise insert toxicity into your world. “Emotionally cleaning house creates new spaces for those who bring wellness into your life to move into,” said Durvasula. “Interestingly, it is often the toxic people who suck more of our time – drawing us away from the authentic ones that make us feel good. The good news is that you don’t have to confront anyone in the process or attend lengthy therapy sessions unless you want to. This is merely an attitude shift you can make on your own. “There is no virtue in holding onto old hurts or grievances,” said Karen Kingston, author of Clearing Your Clutter With Feng Shui. “I see so many people who harbor anger and resentment, sometimes for decades. What they don’t realize is that they are hurting themselves in the process. So many of the things that we find fault with in others are actually traits we don’t like about ourselves. Once we can recognize that, we can move on.”
How do you declutter your life?