Spring Cleaning – Clearing the Clutter

Oh my goodness! Have you ever cleaned out – as in removed every single thing in preparation for a move or a remodel – your closet?!?!? HOLY COW. How do we acquire all that STUFF??

 

“Spring has sprung”, as the old saying goes, and many of us become obsessed with cleaning out closets, drawers, books and clutter. This is a lot like life. All that clutter weighs us down and drains our energy at work, at home and in our relationships. I find it interesting that we are not as excited to embark on a road to an “emotional clearing of the clutter.”

We put up with, accept, take on and are dragged down by things that we may have come to ignore.

Situations, people’s behavior, unmet needs, crossed boundaries, incomplete items, frustrations, problems, and even your own behavior can drain your energy and increase your stress levels. Perhaps we have gotten really good at excusing or minimizing certain things that get in our way of living life to its fullest.

Emotional cleansing is an art form: It takes practice as well as a deep commitment to shifting your thinking. But you can clear out unproductive thinking, negative self-talk and the clutter of past experiences. Just like cleaning out a closet, this kind of cleaning requires a sorting process (what to keep, what to release, what to give away).

Emotional Spring Cleaning Checklist:

1. Clutter. Yes, we’re talking about physical clutter! Messy surroundings are a definite source of stress because cleaning it up is constantly on our “to do” list. Our goal in emotional spring cleaning is to get rid of the excess baggage that’s needlessly occupying space in our brain and holding us back. A great place to start is by getting organized in our living and work spaces.

2. Resentments. Make a list of the people in your life you haven’t forgiven yet, and work on letting go of this negative energy. When you allot negative energy towards people and situations and do nothing about it, it festers and grows, and gets in the way of you being (and sharing) your best self. Try to understand why you’re holding on to it and what the payoff is aside from having something to occupy your mind and keeping your focus off of what’s really important. Do you hold onto resentment because you’re afraid of moving forward? Don’t be afraid to get real with yourself.

3. Excuses. Do you make excuses as to why you don’t go after the things you want in life? When someone suggests something to you that’s out of your comfort zone, do you make excuses as to why it’s not feasible or possible? This is your fear talking. Ask yourself: “Whose voice am I listening to?” Life is about opening your eyes to the opportunities that are available to you. Ignoring or dismissing them will only result in stagnation and lack of growth.

4. Procrastination. Procrastination is the physical result of denial. When you choose not to live in the present and you put things off until “someday”, which inevitably never comes, you’re again using valuable space in your brain and body as a storage space for stress. Abolishing procrastination and taking care of your business in a timely manner sometimes takes willpower and discipline, which may expend more energy in the present moment, but ultimately saves you tons of energy and stress in the end.

5. Wishing/Regrets. When you wish for something, or say, “If only…”, you’re focusing on the future, but in a very passive way. It does absolutely no good to wish for things or to express discontent about the way things are, if you do nothing to change them. The same goes for the past – having regrets about your actions only expresses your inability to see the potential growth that could come from every situation you’re in, positive or negative. Not to mention – you certainly can’t re-write the past, so dwelling on it without reflecting on the lessons is another pointless energy waster. If you find yourself unhappy about your current circumstances, figure out what you can do to change it. If you can’t change the situation, then perhaps choosing to view things differently will help you learn to accept that reality and not stress as much about it.

Why not take some time this weekend to inventory old behaviors and patterns that keep us in a constant state of drama – and clean them out along with the dust bunnies?

As a place to begin, let me encourage you to make a list of what you are putting up with at home, at work, or from outside activities that may be limiting you right now. There is no time like the present to identify those items. You may or may not choose to do anything about them just now, but becoming aware of and articulating them will bring them to the forefront where you will naturally start handling, eliminating, fixing and resolving them.

Choosing Life Without Regrets

There was a time in my career when I worked in a medical hospital with patients who were facing death.  Though people develop differing attitudes when they know that their death is imminent, many express feelings of regret.

In the hope of encouraging you to consider living life in ways to avoid these, here is what a lot of people say they regret.

1.  Choosing not to live their lives in ways that they really wanted, but how they were expected to live them.

These are the people who discovered their passions but did not pursue them.  They had dreams but never acted on them.  They let the opinions of others or culture dictate their decisions.  What they chose wasn’t necessarily bad, but wasn’t as fulfilling as what might have been.  Frequently their sadness at life’s end is around the pursuit of money and “things” instead of relationships and their own true preferences.

2.  Working much and living little.

They worked instead of being involved in the lives of their children, whether it was their sports involvements, recitals, plays, or even homework.  They didn’t spend enough time just enjoying the relationship and “playing” with their spouse.

They worked hard to create a “lifestyle” instead of making a living so they could savor life.  There seems to be a movement recently to simplify in order to satisfy.  It’s difficult in our “get all you can get” culture to choose to downsize lifestyle and enlarge living, but the needed perspective and painful regret appear when health is lost.  Then it is too late.  Some of the most painful statements start with “I wish I had/hadn’t…”  At the end, newer, bigger, better, and more don’t mean much.

3.  Fearing to break the silence and speak the truth.

People often express regret at not having had the courage to appropriately express their true feelings.  The usual result is thinking less of themselves for keeping quiet instead of being pleased with themselves for speaking their truth and running the risk of “upsetting someone else, hurting their feelings, avoiding conflict” or whatever excuse they used to support their fearful silence.

Over time, bottling negative feelings creates resentment and bitterness toward others AND toward the one whose voice is silent by choice.  Bottling the positive feelings leads to sadness from missed opportunities and relationships not beginning or being nourished.

Speaking your truth with courage can add to the depth of a healthy relationship or the end of an unhealthy one.  That’s seems like a win-win to me.

4.  Neglecting to maintain and to nurture valued friendships of old.

The usual reason given is simply choosing to be busy with things that are now seen (with the benefit of hindsight and impending death) as far less important than those wonderful, rewarding, and rare relationships.

Realizing that loving relationships are the most valuable commodity human beings can possess comes too late when you only have weeks or days to live.  If nurturing them over time and benefiting from them for years has been missed, they will also be missed as special support during those last days.

They will be missed, not because of preoccupation, but because of the absence of intending to pay attention to those we truly value.

5.  Failing to CHOOSE to be happy.

Huh?  Yes, happiness is a choice.  We can consciously choose to focus on being positive, using language “in our head” that gets us out of the rut of familiarity, frees us from unhealthy or unpleasurable behavioral patterns, overcomes our fear of change, relieves us of the weight of pretending to be satisfied with our lives, allows us to laugh more and be serious less, and encourages more smiles than looks of fatigue, boredom, and sadness.  We can do this consciously and intentionally.

If you don’t know what it would take for you to be successful at achieving this goal, give it some serious thought, talk about it with someone you love, go to a comedy club, rent a funny movie, or call a therapist.

Like Nike said, “Just do it!”, before it’s too late.