Monday, March 21, 2011

Emotional Clutter

Every time I finish a bottle of supplements or pills, I have to fight the urge to keep the bottle. I can think of a million uses for each one: other pills, vitamins or supplements, seeds, spices, paper clips, thumb tacks, etc. My contacts come in adorable little glass bottles with screw-on lids, and I always have to force myself to throw them away after I’ve harvested the contacts out of them. The reason for this is very simple: no matter how many ways I imagine I can use these little containers, the truth is that I won’t use them at all and they will just end up adding to my clutter.

It seems to me that the universe has been trying to send me a message lately: every blog I follow, many people I talk to and a lot of the books I read have mentioned the cathartic effect of reducing clutter. Initially I thought that these messages were meant for someone else; like there was someone that I should pass the message on to. The truth is, however, that the message was for me: the more I looked around my house and my life with clutter in mind, the more clutter I saw.

The reason I didn’t see it the first 100 times I looked was because my clutter is invisible to the naked eye: my clutter is mental. Inside my head are rooms full of stacked junk that needs to be sifted through or simply thrown out. As much as I purge myself of empty pill bottles and contact containers, I stuff the drawers of my memory with useless information that does me no good and actually hurts me when I find it. I’ve been holding onto to memories and their emotional attachments for so long that they’ve become a part of me, as if I were wearing a vest that I have tied these tidbits to as they happened, until I am so weighted down by them that I can hardly walk upright.

With the realization of my emotional clutter came another one: I am so caught up with the clutter in my mind that at some point I began procrastinating on what was physically in front of me. I don’t consider myself a dirty person, but I hate doing dishes so I put them off. My clean laundry pile overwhelms me, so it lives on my chair until half the clothes are dirty and I am unsure of what I’ve washed and what I’ve worn.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not condemning the untidy person. I am simply saying that in my case, my clutter started to physically pile up because my emotional clutter inbox was full. I started viewing simple chores as just another drain of my energy and attention, when the truth is that my attention and energy had already been drained by what was going on inside my head.

I didn’t realize how much more difficult I was making my life until a friend of mine told me about an article she had read about reducing clutter. The article suggested that you set a timer for 10 minutes, and work on reducing clutter – or doing your dishes or folding your laundry, etc. – in 10-minute increments. I discovered – much to my chagrin – that things I put off doing for days because of the time it would take were easily completed within a 10-minute block of time. This is a little disturbing, especially considering that I am notorious for thinking, “Oh that will take FOREVER. I’ll just hop on Facebook for a little while first,” and an hour later I would be strangely frustrated and the dishes would still be dirty in the sink.

Realizing that I could reduce physical clutter so quickly lead to another realization: instead of stuffing my problems into the drawers of my mind, what would happen if I actually dealt with them? I tried it, and you would probably not be surprised to learn, invisible audience, that dealing with my problems makes them disappear: when I open up that drawer now, there’s nothing in it. That’s right: there’s room for today because I’m not constantly confronted with the yesterday.
I am now one drawer down, thousands to go. As overwhelming as that sounds, it’s invigorating to know that I don’t have to open a door and slam it shut again for fear that the contents are going to fall out on top of me, crushing me under their weight. Instead, I can open the door, snatch out a box, rummage through it, and throw it out, knowing that I don’t need what was in it anymore. It will take awhile, but the clutter is already diminishing; there’s now room for sunlight to stream in through the windows.

Love and uncluttered kisses

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