Cherry blossoms, day light savings time, the sweet smell of fresh flowers…the return of all these things after a long winter can only mean one thing: Spring has finally sprung!
Springtime is often associated with a time for renewal. A time for deep-cleaning and decluttering. The act of decluttering our homes and lives has been having an especially important moment in the age of Marie Kondo, the author of best-selling books written about her KonMari method. The KonMari method consists of gathering together all of one’s belongings, one category at a time, and then keeping only those things that “spark joy” and choosing a place for everything from then on. It involves letting go of things that one does not necessarily need or like, but that she/he hangs on to out of obligation or guilt.
As a child and family therapist, this has gotten me thinking about how to apply such an approach to our mental and emotional health. What if we could organize all of our emotional clutter and baggage that stays with us season after season, year after year? All of us go through life with our respective ‘clutter.’ We tend to hold onto hurtful and angry feelings and situations. The more we keep adding emotional ‘junk,’ the less room we have to store positivity and joy.
Examples of emotional clutter can be found festering in several areas of our lives. We ruminate or think negatively about past or current issues that have not been resolved. Negative thoughts about us and the world plague us: “I’m worthless and wish I was different;” “Nobody values me or listens to what I have to say”; “Things will never change or will only get worse.” These thoughts nurture feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and often lead us to unhealthy relationships and self-destructive patterns and addictions. Decluttering our lives help us more effectively deal with and have room for what needs to come next.
Here are some examples of mental /emotional clutter we can work on letting go of. It’s by no means a complete list, but a good place to start:
- The need to be perfect. Perfectionism is often rooted in pleasing others. It stunts our creativity, consumes our thoughts, and creates an unhealthy obsession to do everything right all the time.
- Toxic relationships– one-sided friendships and people that drain us. Sometimes it’s even just the expectations of others that drain us.
- Lack of Forgiveness– though we often can’t just “forget about it” like some of our friends encourage us to do, we can begin the process of understanding and perhaps even letting go of past wrong-doings.
- The need for approval.
- Inaction– being indecisive or procrastinating on trying new things.
- Comparing ourselves and our lives to other people’s lives- this has become especially rampant and easy to do in the age of social media.
Identifying and taking steps to ‘clean out’ the specific emotional baggage in each of our lives is no easy task. Meditation, journaling, talking with friends, or working with a trained therapist can help. And if we begin putting in the hard work now, maybe, just maybe, we will be light enough to float by Summer.
-Posted by Kathy Voglmayr