Don’t smother your life with clutter

Why would anyone want to carry around needless burdens? That’s what clutter is. It drains one’s energy, slows one’s progress, and eats away at our limited time and space. Left unabated, it spreads all over one’s life becoming emotional, mental, and physical clutter.

Joel is an example of someone plagued by emotional clutter. He is always whining about how he was physically and mentally abused by his ex-friend, Eric. “After all I have done for him, how could he have treated me like that? Why did this have to happen to me?”

Emotionally, Joel is drowning in a sea of resentment, anger, and rage. All his time is occupied with self-pity and depressing thoughts. How can he move on with life and focus on his goals when his heart and mind are cluttered with negative emotions and thoughts? No wonder Eric Butterworth (1916 ~ 2003) wrote, “More important than learning how to recall things is finding ways to forget things that are cluttering the mind.”

I tried to explain to Joel the reason Eric has done so many hateful things is because he is unstable and immature. In a word, he is SICK. Once we grasp the full weight of the meaning that Eric is a sick man, it becomes easier to forgive him. To forgive him is to let go of all those hard feelings. Once we release all the negativity we were harboring, we will be FREE to focus on our goals and get back on track.

Yes, after being terribly abused by another, we CAN forgive them. In fact, we MUST do so to regain our sanity. Our abuser can be a dangerous person, so I’m not suggesting that we call them up or sit down with them and tell them, “I forgive you.” No, we forgive them in our heart, not in person. Once we sever a relationship with an unstable and unsavory individual, we need to stay away and not give them the opportunity to entangle themselves in our lives again.

Clutter is usually thought of as things we acquire or accumulate. However, the things we don’t do, but should do, clutter our mind with apprehension and stress. Unwritten letters, unpaid bills, unanswered phone calls, and unattended tasks and obligations take their toll on our lives. They create a slow energy drain and are as distracting as an endless humming in our head. We can free ourselves from such needless headaches by taking the time to do whatever needs to be done. We can’t do everything, but we should do the essentials.

If your office, home, or room is cluttered, let the piles of papers or belongings serve as a wake up call. They are trying to tell you that it’s time to get your life in order. Don’t smother your life with clutter, but decide to regain the space, order, and satisfaction you have lost. To do so, here are some points to consider:

1. As we grow and mature, we throw away our toys and the other things we have outgrown. We need to continue this process to weed out the junk in our lives. So, take an inventory and evaluate your possessions. Which ones are no longer necessary? Separate the unnecessary items into piles of garbage, donations, gifts, and garage sale items. And dispose of them accordingly.

2. Do not try to do too much weeding at one time. If you set your goal too high, you may feel overwhelmed by the task and give up or procrastinate. Just do a little at a time and you will be surprised how soon you will regain control over your life.

3. If you remain focused on your goals, or what is important to you, clutter should fall aside without any effort on your part. Here’s some sound advice offered by Donald Rumsfeld: “Amidst all the clutter, beyond all the obstacles, aside from all the static, are the goals set. Put your head down, do the best job possible, let the flak pass, and work towards those goals.”

4. However, remain sharply focused on your goals. Clarity of mind is essential. If you goals are too vague, you will tend to spread out in all directions creating clutter and muddled thinking.

5. Most North Americans eat too much. They are obese. Similarly, most accumulate too many possessions.
Both actions, overeating and overconsumption, stem from emotional problems or a misdirected search for happiness. For example, someone with low self-esteem may drive a fancy car with the hope it will make them appear important. Instead of appearing important, why not BECOME worthwhile and valuable by doing good? Others confuse pleasure with happiness. Pleasure is transitory; true happiness is a permanent state of mind. Although possessions can give pleasure, they also bring frustration because the appetite for possessions is insatiable. Pleasure comes from having; happiness comes from BEING. So, perhaps it is not about reducing clutter as much as it is about reducing desire.

6. The endless chase after possessions may also be propelled by the fear there isn’t enough stuff to go around. Some seem to think that if we do not act quickly and relentlessly, we may not get our fair share. The truth is, we already have everything we need to be happy. Possessions can be stolen. But no one can steal a kind word, a positive attitude, or a generous heart (all of which create happiness).

7. Clutter gets between spirituality and us. It blocks the path and hinders our growth. In her book “Simple Abundance,” Sarah Ban Breathnach explains why this is so: “I searched for the common thread in the lives of the world’s great spiritual teachers and traditions: Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, the Hebrew prophets, the Moslemm Sufis, the Catholic Saints, the Hindu rishis, the Shakers, the Quakers, the Amish. That’s because all embraced simplicity. Spirituality, simplicity, and serenity seem to be a sacred trinity; three divine qualities of the orderly soul.”

8. We can also clutter our lives by wasting time on trivial matters. But Og Mandino (1923 ~ 1996) explains why we shouldn’t: “Never again clutter your days or nights with so many menial and unimportant things that you have no time to accept a real challenge when it comes along. This applies to play as well as work. A day merely survived is no cause for celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in your routine. No more busy work. No more hiding from success. Leave time, leave space, to grow. Now.
Now! Not tomorrow!”

This article may be sputtering to a conclusion, but don’t let your life sputter out because of clutter. Instead, make a commitment to clear the way for endless growth, freedom and satisfaction. It’s a choice none of us will regret making.