We all know that clutter is subjective. Each of us has a tolerance level for the accumulation of Things that is different from someone else’s. The reason for this accumulation is also different in each of us.
If you’re completely happy with the amount of Things in your home, where they are in your home and the impact your Things might have on your immediate future, then your Things are not clutter.
However, if you are struggling to find things, feel overwhelmed by your cupboards, a room, or your whole house or are dreading moving or downsizing you may need to do something about the Things that are causing these feelings.
This will mean letting some things go, and will definitely mean organising what is left to make your life easier.
The heart centred person often struggles with strong feelings that are deeply connected to the Things they are thinking of letting go.
As well as dealing with anxiety at the thought of no longer owning a Thing, their heart aches with layers of other emotions too. These emotions are simply part of being human and are healthy and often a pleasure when part of a balanced emotional life.
But when these feelings stop the heart centred person from living a free, happy, easy life in their own home it means these emotions are out of hand.
Nostalgia is a seductive emotion. It’s a melancholic happiness, a sad-happy. It can keep you tied to the past and can become a little bit addictive. It can sometimes seem to be a place to retreat to escape the harsh reality of life. Nostalgia can be wonderful, but it can also be a problem.
If your home is stuffed with Things that make you feel nostalgic and those things are becoming a problem for you, the nostalgia you feel is no longer healthy.
The Keeper Of Things
Responsibility can be a proud emotion. It can give us feelings of self-worth, usefulness and in this case a tiny bit of immortality. The important job of passing down the family’s treasures is the Keepers job. It’s often the choice of the Keeper but sometimes it’s foisted on them by others who are relieved to be free of the job.
Duty is similar, but can come with negative feelings attached, like resentment, anger and guilt.
Sentimental feelings are slightly different to nostalgic feelings. They’re less melancholic but can still hold you prisoner in the past. In this case sentiment is simply the attachment of emotional memories to a Thing. Sometimes the memories vanish completely and we just feel that the Thing is our only connection to a person, place or event.
Like nostalgia, if you find you have far too many sentimental things and they are causing a problem, your feelings of sentiment may no longer be healthy.
The polite acceptance of gifts we don’t want, like or need is an acceptable social norm. However feelings of fear of offending or upsetting the giver mean some people tend to keep them for as long as the relationship lasts. If we have a strong attachment to the giver we may also feel sentimental about the item. Sometimes we feel we should display the thing in case they visit even if we hate it.
Over our lifetime we are the recipient of many gifts we don’t want. If you have always been completely unable to gracefully decline, feel guilt at re-gifting or donating them and they are causing you distress you might need to change this behaviour.
There’s a spectrum of guilty feelings. Most people feel them at some point, some people feel guilt a lot. It can completely permeate their life and control how they behave towards people and things. It can masquerade as responsibility and it can be used by other people to get what they want from you.
If guilt is stopping you from taking steps to improve your life and your home environment is suffering it may be time to look at how you can change this emotional habit.
So, what can we do?
YOU are in charge of what is kept in your home and what is not. If you are becoming uncomfortable with the amount of things you are living with it’s a sign you are ready to make changes.
It may simply be that you need a reality check. Ask someone you trust to be honest to help you talk through your feelings. Their clear vision and concern for your wellbeing might help you change how you feel about the Things that are causing your distress.
Of course it’s not easy making decisions about disposing of things we love. To resolve this it can help to grade things by the level of your feelings towards each item. Letting go can be a long process, but the moment you start to compare each item, they start to loosen their hold over you.
During the process of refining your Things to an amount that works for you, you could establish a keepsake collection. This is a collection of Things which are the most important to you. The things that you would rescue if there was a fire, that you would take with you where ever you moved. The interesting thing about Keepsakes is that often the importance that you put on them now, changes when you review them a few months or years later.
It’s important to preserve the things that we love the most. A practical system of rationalising photographs and organising the correct long term storage for fragile things is essential. Offering items to other family members before they are disposed of gives them the chance to take responsibility for their family’s heritage too.
Our emotional reactions to the things and people in our lives become habits. They form deeply embedded patterns in our minds that are hard to break free from. At some point the distress of our situation starts to overcome the uncomfortable feelings that come with changing these patterns.
And that is when positive change happens.
Maybe it’s time to talk to someone.
Talk to your GP or medical centre, they can refer you to appropriate people and services who offer various types of therapies.
Take advantage of your employers EAP services.
Find a counsellor or other medical professional who specialise in changing unwanted behaviours. Talking Works -/- NZ Association Of Counsellors -/- Find a therapist or mental health professional (scroll down the page for more resources).
For other free counselling services check out this handy resource – Free (funded) counselling/help in Auckland & NZ