This is not going to be a sad story, I promise. But it does start out with the process of going through my parents’ condo, after their passing, where they lived for 20 years after downsizing from a house in the suburbs. Oh my goodness, they had a lot of stuff. They certainly managed to upsize after downsizing. Functional usable stuff, beautiful stuff, valuable stuff, stuff filled with memories, stuff to give away, stuff to keep and cherish. It was an overwhelming process. But here’s what occurred to me at the end of one particularly long day of going through things. If I could pick only one thing out of all that stuff, something to remember my parents by, I would pick a particular ring of my mom’s that she wore every day, given to her by my dad many years ago. I would wear that ring every day and have a lovely reminder of them. Done. And it would be just fine.
We carry a lot of other kinds of stuff around with us too. We carry good memories and sad memories, and memories that evolve and change over time. Maybe we carry resentments, perhaps grudges (though, I am not a fan of holding grudges and cutting off relationships, life is just too short for that.) We carry worries. We carry good intentions. We carry joyful moments. We carry love and kindness and empathy towards others. This past year we have been extra burdened carrying worries of many kinds.
Do we need to declutter our minds and our hearts? Are our brains swirling with thoughts, or are we calm and clear? Or most likely, some of each depending on the day. If we need to declutter, how do we do that?
One thing to think about in decluttering is …..what is really important? Often times we are cluttering our minds with things that, in the whole scheme of things, are not that important. Holding on to worries that serve no purpose. Even holding on to facts and figures that we don’t need.
Perhaps we can learn to recognize these things and work towards letting them go. I use a five point rating scale of “how important is this?” A five rating is “it’s critical”, such as a tornado is coming and I need to let others know and take cover. A one rating is “it really isn’t that important at all and it’s not a good use of my worry time and brain space.” Like….the restaurant we wanted to order from is closed tonight so we need to pick somewhere else. Rating the importance of the issue is a way to let go of some of the less important thoughts.
Another way to declutter is by using our self-talk. For myself, I often hold up my hands in a zen-like yoga pose, and say out loud “Let it Go.” Of course, since the movie Frozen with its theme song of “Let It Go”, that song invariably comes into my head. And with some of my younger clients, we might sing a few lines of it together.
Often people tell me that they are holding on to a comment, in person or on email, which was slightly offensive to them. It could be what was said or the tone that accompanied the words. We all know that especially on email, it can be hard to read the tone and things can get misconstrued. These kinds of thoughts can clutter our minds. Can we make a conscious choice to not over-interpret the words or the tone, and let it go? One can go over and over these (perceived or real) slights, or make a choice to switch our focus to the good interactions we have enjoyed in a given day.
I spend a lot of time walking in my neighborhood, and I’m always noticing the beautiful hydrangea, spirea, and the variety of flowers. The colors are vibrant and beautiful against the green of the plants, trees and grass. Being out in nature is another way to make space in one’s mind. Nature is kind of magical, it is peaceful and quiet, it happens without us, it is bigger than we are…and that is what makes it so special and grounding.
So pack up a few bags of your stuff to bring to Good Will, and on your drive over, turn on your favorite station and sing along to a favorite song….and fill your mind and heart with easy thoughts and the good melodies of life. And don’t let the stuff get you down.
Lynn Denton, LCSW
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