I’m the type of person who gets stressed and starts cleaning. To rid the chaos in my brain, its soothing to organize my home and workspaces; when my life feels disorderly, I try to rid my physical spaces of clutter. I acquired this habit the good old-fashioned way- through generational trauma of course! In as much as I am a purger during times of duress, my mother is a hoarder (of non-perishable items like clothes and accessories-not food or anything toxic.) Due to being raised in an unstable environment of scarcity, her natural inclination is to hang on to things because one day you might need them. Because I was raised by her in that mentality, I am the complete opposite; where bags of unworn clothes and pantries full of canned goods give her a sense of abundance and peace of mind, it is my greatest source of anxiety. If I start to feel like I’m spiraling, the first way I take back control of my life is by ridding myself of things that do not serve me and are getting in my way.
I don’t know if it’s due to the changing of seasons or coming off the most stressful month I’ve had in recent years, but I’m currently deep in the throes of my purger mentality. It always starts out innocently; for example, I noticed the other day I had calendars hanging on my refrigerator that ended in June, and a birthday card from someone I haven’t spoken to in months (my birthday was in December.) Cards and letters are something I do tend to hoard, so instead of tossing it in the trash alongside the outdated calendar and takeout menus, I opened my dedicated “junk drawer” which was overflowing with crap I’m not using. So that opened Pandora’s Box; next thing I knew it was hours later, one small drawer organization had led to a pantry purge and a full trash bag of stuff I hadn’t looked at in months or even years. I pulled out a check I’d written in July 2019- the month I moved into this apartment!
I’m not saying my coping mechanism is good or even healthy, but I will say in my experience, you cannot make space for new when you’re holding onto the old, and that goes for both the mental and physical realm. When you’re constantly side-stepping around unnecessary clutter it slows down the task at hand, whether that’s searching through bottles of expired spices while cooking or being dragged down by the people around you and their drama. As you continue to surround yourself with things that have reached their expiration date or no longer fit you begin to unintentionally bury yourself alive, and the longer you let that go on, the harder it becomes to dig yourself out.
Food, clothing, accessories, ideas and people can all become clutter. And while I’m not suggesting you become Mommy Dearest every time you’re stressed like I do, I think a thorough life audit and purge 2-4 times a year is necessary – healthy even.
Within your living spaces, tackle those unsavory tasks that don’t fall into the daily cleaning ritual. Go through your closet and donate anything that you’ve not worn in 6 months (seasonal attire notwithstanding.) Deep clean the fridge and throw out any expired condiments, as well as any items that have been taking up space in your pantry. Move your heavy furniture and clean the floors underneath, and give the bathroom a deep clean which includes throwing out all those old, crumbling makeup pallets.
For your mental purge I encourage you to begin by physically creating a written life audit. A life audit is where you take an unbiased examination of all critical aspects of your life to evaluate where you’re thriving and where you could be lacking. I always make a chart with my “Four Wheels of Fulfillment;” these 4 things are the tires on my life “vehicle” and if any of them are low, flat or I’m out of alignment, my car is all over the road and I’m fighting the wheel. Everything in life can fall under these 4 categories of health, relationships, financials, and spirituality.
Start by evaluating yourself realistically; how healthy are you, physically? Mentally? What is your diet looking like? Have you gained or lost weight? Are you happy more than you’re sad? What are the stimuli creating those emotions?
After creating a thorough list and developing a full picture of your current state of health, move on to relationships. And this doesn’t have to mean strictly romance; analyze your friendships and familial relations just as harshly. You are the sum total of the people surrounding you, and the energies you allow most certainly will influence you. While it’s difficult to do, be prepared to remove people from your life. This doesn’t have to involve a big show and dramatic exit; you’d be surprised how many people will naturally slip away when you stop reaching out to them. Remember, there is nothing toxic or hostile about removing people who no longer serve your highest good.
Continue through the “wheels” of finances and spirituality. Break down your debts and income, all revenue streams and outgoing monthly costs. When it comes to spirituality, this might be tough for some; for me, this is the hardest category. I am not, nor have I ever been a particularly ‘religious’ person, so this tire tends to run a little low or flat. If you’re like me, figure out what gives you inner peace of mind and comfort and how are you honoring that daily? Is it prayer or meditation? Journaling? Tithing or giving back to the community? If you do practice a dedicated religion, really analyze how aligned you are with their practices and how much time you’re spending honoring the values. Could you do better or are you doing too much?
Once you’ve laid your life out on paper, it will be extremely easy to formulate a plan to betterment. If your finances are lacking, create a roadmap to getting ahead. If it’s your health, start getting back on track by changing your diet, moving more or contacting a therapist. So on, and so on. Start purging the things you’re holding onto that are weighing you down, whether its unhealthy relationships, negative self-talk or a Starbucks habit that could be putting money in your pocket for something more fulfilling. You will be shocked by how much lighter you feel once you start climbing your way out of the mountain of mental clutter you’ve been unintentionally burying yourself in.
I know it can be difficult to release things from your life, but may we all take a lesson from the autumn leaves and be reminded of the beauty and necessity of letting dead things go.