Dear Lucy: This is the year I plan to clean up and get rid of all the junk in my life. I don't care if it's people or all the stuff I own. When I walk into my house, I feel overwhelmed, guilty and downright dysfunctional because of having too much! I have tried all last year to get rid of it but every time I get rid of a little bit, some more just shows up. I am not a hoarder, just too much stuff. Help!
– Too much stuff
Dear Too much: Every year about this time I get a letter about clutter. As we think about bringing newness into our lives it is natural to think about making room for it.
I love your perfect description of what having too much stuff makes you feel...overwhelmed, guilty and dysfunctional. Those feelings have to come from inside of you because we know that "things" don't create feelings. We create the feelings.
A good place to start is by first recognizing that what you are feeling is "noise." It is the noise of your emotions attached to having things you think you shouldn't. The noise shows up as overwhelm and guilt that results in dysfunction. Who wouldn't be dysfunctional when your mind is chattering on and on about how you ought to get rid of that stuff and don't you feel guilty for having so much? Nobody can talk to us as bad as we talk to ourselves. Lol.
Now what can you do? Maybe you have been asking the wrong question. Instead of demanding yourself to give them up "cold turkey," ask yourself this: "Why I am I are holding onto them?"
Recently, I asked that question about shoes. I had Pradas with heels that I will never wear again because I simply can't do three-inch heels anymore. I was holding on to them just because they were Pradas. I went through this with every pair of shoes and some clothes that I will never fit into again. I took them to a consignment store and got a nice fat check two weeks later.
Some of the things just were not that easy to let go of. So then I asked another question. "If I didn't have it, what would I miss about it? How would I feel if I came in and didn't see it?"
Now this can get deep because sometimes you will find out that "stuff" doesn't always mean what you think it does. My mother had fine china that she cherished and never used; beautiful sleepwear that she was saving for the day she got sick. We are influenced by our parents' ways of being. I have a drawer full of lingerie waiting for the right man for heaven's sake! Some of the things we hold onto represent our hopes, some represent our fears, some may represent our desire to never be poor or do without.
Some things have a story behind them. My elderly Aunt has a collection of 100 little glass statues. They mean nothing to me but she cherishes the memories associated with each one. She can talk about each one as if it was yesterday. I love the way those stories make her light up.
Releasing clutter is all about processing deeply held feelings and stories around the things we hold onto. And yes, the stuff will continue to come back until we fully address the reasons behind why we feel what we do about the things we hold on to.
For years, shoes and clothes just showed back up no matter how many I gave away. They did not sneak into the house by themselves! Try my advice and expect to dig deep into the truth and let the truth set you free.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or from her website.)