Many cultures follow ancient traditions of spring-cleaning at the change of the seasons. Clutter in our external environment is often a clue to congestion in our internal world, and letting go of physical things that no longer serve us can have a profound effect on every area of our lives. Allowing the natural rhythm of the year to prompt a clear-out can be transformative, welcoming in an abundance of happiness, health and space.
Statistics show we're making more purchases and accumulating more clutter in our lives than ever before. In a society that continues to support excessive production of short-lived, disposable items, it is not just our closets that are jam-packed. Exposure to a high speed, media-led world and compulsive multi-tasking at work and home overloads our minds and our environment. Fast-food, pollution and ever-ready stimulants clog up our bodies, resulting in illness and fatigue, while calendars bursting with tightly packed schedules burden our sense of personal space.
With so much 'stuff' filling every area of our lives, it can be quite a challenge knowing how, or where, to begin clearing. Due to our internal and external worlds are intrinsically linked, letting go of clutter on an external level has a direct effect on the internal, and vice versa. By releasing objects that no longer bring us joy, or serve a purpose, we can create internal and external space. This in turn creates a ripple effect across our entire life.
Sian Hill, a senior account manager, recently moved house and found this the perfect opportunity to de-clutter. "I donated a lot of my possessions to charity and even organised a car boot sale," Sian says. "Freeing myself from my old clutter and an environment that wasn't serving me anymore has given me a whole new lease of life and has freed up finances to fund the courses I had been looking in to." Sian has a new motto these days. If something doesn't feel right she de-clutters without delay or feelings of guilt. "This leaves space for positive, happy things that energise me at all times," she claims.
Often, people are reluctant to let possessions go. For many, a feeling of comfort from possessions stems from wartime rationing when food, clothes and goods were not readily available. Underpinned by the prudent ethos of 'make do and mend', people held on to their belongings for as long as possible. After the war, when purchasing power gradually resumed, consumption of goods became a way of defining an identity, reclaiming a lifestyle suspended by war.
Hoarding not only strains the purse, but also increases the amount of extra room needed to store an ever-growing cache of goods. A continuous growth of objects can take over our homes. Chantal Cooke, co-founder of Passion for the Planet, had a whole garage full of old things she no longer needed. Following a huge clear out she has since started converting the garage into a beautiful office space overlooking her garden. "I donated many items to charities and locals schools, sold some on eBay and gave some away through Freecycle," Chantal recalls. "Clearing the garage acted as a catalyst for me to sort through things I'd accumulated in my loft too." After de-cluttering, many people find renewed enthusiasm to make the most of their space.
The rewards of clutter clearing can be immense. Releasing the physical things that are no longer loved, or needed, creates a harmony in living and working environments. It allows the pleasure of cherished items to be rediscovered. Clearing also creates space at an energetic level, opening pathways in many other areas of life - relationships, career, money, creativity and an overall sense of self-esteem all benefit from letting go.
Deeply held fears often bubble to the surface when clearing out. This is a natural part of the process, because a clear-out releases not only physical objects, but also the underlying beliefs that have kept us hoarding.
So, time to get clearing! To begin this process, first put aside all the things you instantly feel drawn to that you firmly want to keep. These are your treasures, the things you use regularly, or love to have in your home or workplace. If there's ambivalence, hold the object in your hands and allow yourself to tune in to an inner guidance. Ask yourself if the item serves any practical purpose in your life and, if not, let it go. Notice whether your energy expands or contracts as you hold it, and if you feel a warmth or excitement in your heart, then you know it's a treasure to be saved. If possessions link in to a negative memory, or give a tightening, heavy sensation when holding them, then that's a sure sign it energetically drains you.
After sorting through clutter, there is often a temptation to store up piles and boxes neatly out of sight, rather than totally let go. This undermines the effort and the benefit of clearing out. Unless the clutter is totally released, and sent on to its next destination -whether that's to a new owner, the charity shop or the recycling bin - items will continue to drain our energy.
For Tammy Gray, the process of de-cluttering her personal space had a huge impact. "This process of change has helped me in so many areas of my life," she enthuses. "From appreciating my friends and family more to re-visiting my own personal understanding of spirituality and in general, being kinder to myself and those around me."
There is a sense of energetic lightness after clutter clearing, followed by a temptation to replenish the newly created space with more! But breathing into the space, and remembering to honour it, allows us to truly treasure the objects of beauty and personal value that remain. From this space we can enjoy renewed energy, increased creativity and the room for better, brighter and often unexpected positive things to flow into our life. After a clear out we need to trust that just as easily as new things flow into our life, it is safe for us to continue letting things go.
Jayne Morris took part in HuffPost Conversation Starters at Wilderness. The Huffington Post UK are proud media partners of Wilderness. Check back here for more exclusive blogs, competitions and stories soon. For tickets to the event click here: www.wildernessfestival.com
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“Identify your best time of day,” advises Mind. Some of us are morning people, some of us are evening people so it’s important to capitalise on the time when your energy and concentration is at its peak when you’re planning to tackle the most important tasks. Also prioritise you list and focus on the most urgent jobs first. This will also help you get a sense of perspective. Will the world crumble if you don’t have time to hand-sculpt a 3D birthday cake in the shape of a Peppa Pig? Probably not.
According to Mind, a common problem is that when we’re feeling overwhelmed, we try to take on too much in one – and consequently achieve very little. “Try not to do too many things at once,” the charity suggests. “You could try to start something else if you have to wait for the next stage in a previous task, but if you have too many things going on at the same time, you will start to make mistakes.”
Working smarter means prioritising your workload and concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference. “Leave the least important tasks to last,” says Professor Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. “Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.”
The fact that you’re attempting to juggle family and work life can be a source of stress in itself. Being a parent, managing a job, maintaining a home and having some sort of social life for yourself means that there are never enough hours in the day. Remember “there are no 'right' or 'wrong' choices, and your choices will change at different stages in your family’s life,” says parenting advice service Family Lives.
Talking through your concerns with colleagues, friends and family can ease your worries and help you see things more clearly. “If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help,” says Professor Cooper.
“Give children [above the age of eight] sole responsibility for their chores so that they have a sense of ownership and build up their confidence. Realising that they ‘must’ complete their own chores will also help their self-discipline”, advises family support organisation Family Lives. It's also important not to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re the only one who can do a job well at work. “When you don't delegate you risk ending up with too much work, not enough time, and lots of undue stress,” says career-building advisor Mindtools. “The belief that you can do it better and faster with fewer mistakes leads to a vicious cycle of too little time and too much to do.”
“Self belief is so important to your happiness; without it you’re vulnerable to the stresses and strains that we all face,” says relationship and parenting expert Dr Pam Spurr. Don’t become a slave to a gruelling routine. “Have the strength to allow your brain to overrule their heart; this takes the emotional sting out of the situation and allows you to approach it rationally”, advises Spurr. “Break the solution into manageable steps so that they aren’t overwhelmed by one seemingly impossible goal.”
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