“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” Louise Smith
Are you still holding on to stuff from your past that’s stopping you from embracing newer, better things in life? Are you clinging to what’s familiar, even if it no longer brings you joy or benefits your life? Do you hoard lots of clutter because the effort of letting go just feels too much?
Your environment can often reflect what’s going on for you internally – and having your life filled with clutter is known to be a factor in depression and anxiety. When you feel depressed, you may not have the energy or inclination to tidy up or make the best of your surroundings. You may feel overwhelmed and helpless at the mess around you – and you may even stop having friends round because you feel embarrassed or ashamed by your surroundings.
Clutter can be a trigger for anxiety symptoms. Having clutter around you is a reminder of your huge to-do list which never seems to be completed. Piles of paperwork or clothes that need ironing distract you from what you need to focus on. The need to sort and clean can worry away at the back of your mind – making you less present and mindful to your everyday tasks. Also, it can be frustrating and anxiety provoking when you can’t find what you’re looking for because all your drawers and cupboards are stuffed full.
National Old Stuff Day on 2nd March encourages us to let go of the old – donating, shifting, clearing – to make way for the new. As we head into the spring-cleaning season, March can be an opportunity to usher in fresher air by getting rid of (or passing on to charity) all the stuff you no longer love or need. Arguably that can be applied not to just clearing out objects, clothes and knick-knacks that have done their time, but also letting go of an opinion, perspective or mindset that no longer serves you.
Here’s what clearing your clutter can bring to your life:
A sense of agency
Taking control of one aspect of your life gives you a sense of agency: a feeling that you can have an effect on your life. Clearing out your stuff – even emptying a drawer or removing piles of papers from a window ledge – helps you take charge of your life and feel more powerful in your ability to shift obstacles.
A feeling of achievement
There’s no better feeling than sitting back in a clutter-free environment and admiring your work. A sense of a job well done is good for your emotional wellbeing.
Reduction in anxiety
You’ll be able to find the things you need, stay focused, and have more time for what matters. The frustration, lateness and self-blame associated with a cluttered environment can all foster symptoms of anxiety. Clear your clutter and there will be fewer factors to cause anxiety in your life.
An end to procrastination
Putting things off is where clutter comes from in the first place. Procrastination is linked to that feeling of helplessness – that what you do will never be good enough, so you don’t bother doing it in the first place.
Release from your past
We can become attached to objects rather than people if we’ve had a difficult upbringing: at least objects don’t let you down, whereas people can. Yet holding onto objects that no longer serve you can keep you dragged down in those past dynamics. A first step to releasing yourself from the chains of your past is to let go of the symbols of that past. Painful though it might be, letting go can allow you to create a more meaningful future.
A chance to grieve
The process of clearing your clutter can be emotionally draining. The stale energy and dust from your past can feel like a slog to work through. Feelings may emerge as you sift through old photos, magazines, concert stubs, letters, cards etc. Allowing those feelings to come up, and sitting through them – much as you’d allow a tide to come in and flow out again – can help you access the feelings of grief that the clutter may have been protecting you from.
Creating space for new things
Without clutter around you, life can feel more of a choice than an obligation. Rather than being defined by your past, you can find new purpose. There’s less to hold you back. There’s space and freedom to allow in things that truly matter to you.
If you’re ready to clear the clutter from your emotional life, give us a call. Our team of therapists can help you work through issues from your past and free you to live your future. You can make an appointment with one of our therapists by calling 020 8673 4545 or emailing [email protected] We have centres in Clapham and Tooting, and offer sessions seven days a week.