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May 28, 2021

Emotional Spring Cleaning – How to Emotionally Declutter Your Brain

About a year or so ago, I became obsessed with the idea of minimalism. I read minimalists books and set about finding ways to declutter my space, take up less and live more simply. I believe I developed this bent, after growing up with a mother who is reticent to let anything go. I tend to find joy in throwing things away that no longer serve me- much to the frustration of my family.

I can’t say that I have become a minimalist, though. I kind of let that idea go as a result of living with 6 people and multiple dogs. It isn’t really fair for me to force my desire to live a certain way on them- especially when it involves throwing their stuff away. At least that’s my rationalization. I certainly force plenty of my other desires about how I want to live on them. I guess this just isn’t a battle that I want to fight in this season.

I do still adhere to the concepts that I learned and apply them to myself as much as possible.

As Spring has approached and I find myself itching to spring clean- especially as my house is in disarray with a renovation, I find myself coming back to the not new idea of emotional spring cleaning.

I know how freeing it feels to have zero obstructions or clutter in my physical space. Everything feels aligned, easier, more efficient, in order and calm. But that’s just a start.

An uncluttered house is great, but you may not realize the stressful effects of emotional clutter or even what it is.

What better season than now to tackle it?

I would like to caution you that as much as listening to a minimalist podcast makes you want to toss out every single thing- it’s not wise to throw your whole house away just yet. You would suffer all kinds of shock and withdrawal symptoms. Not to mention, you’re going to want that toaster back someday.

It’s healthier to start small and work your way to a lifestyle that feels comfortably minimal. The same needs to happen with your emotional spring cleaning.

So what are the issues, rattling around in your brain, that are creating clutter?

Anger, resentment, to-do lists, shoulda coulda’s- regret, comparison, disappointments?

The list goes on.

Emotional de-cluttering is not about getting rid of emotions. it's about expressing and aligning themEmotional de-cluttering is not about getting rid of emotions- let’s make that clear. All your feelings and emotions are good. Emotional de-cluttering is about expressing and aligning them. Getting some order in your darn brain and tossing out the unnecessary or redundant items.

What are these items?

  • Anger

Ask yourself if you are holding on to any anger. Anger at your spouse, your kids, that high school teacher who insinuated that you would never amount to anything.

A helpful way to release your anger is to work on increasing your understanding and decreasing judgement. We’re not talking about forgiveness, but just understanding how the person could have made a choice to do the hurtful thing they did, can help release some of those feelings. It doesn’t make it okay, but there is always a reason why people are assholes.

  • Envy

Envy makes us scroll for hours on insta and spend our hard earned money trying to nip/tuck and keep up with fake perfection.

Start with compassion with yourself. It’s okay to acknowledge that it’s hard to want things that you don’t have. Go ahead and say it to yourself. It hurts that she gets to have fill in the blank.

Social media has created a new term, self- envy.  I’m fascinated by it. It’s the concept that we look at the avatar we create of ourselves on social media and we are prettier, skinnier, and our life is way more interesting than the real one that exists. We feel curiously envious of the self we wish we could be. That, my dear friend is damaging, and that deserves some emotional spring cleaning. Any self-envy you may possess could be completely subconscious. I hope I have now brought it to your consciousness, so you can clean that cobwen out of the corner.

Transform envy into joy by shutting off your phone and taking a few minutes a day to focus on your own lane and all the beautiful things you have. And while you’re at it, create a practice of attempting to feel joy for others who have what you don’t.

  • Minimize Grudges

Holding onto stuff feels comfortable and familiar- even when we trip over it every time we enter a room or when it has long outgrown its use. I have a shelf in my closet that holds all the things that are sentimental to me and I don’t want to get rid of. Our grudges can be like that. We clear grudges out with forgiveness.

Do some emotional spring cleaning today by looking at what grudges you need to clear out.

  • Self- Judgement

When we are de-cluttering- in order to do a good job of it, we need to throw things away or give them back to their rightful owner. As a mother, I find that many items that are not mine deposited into my bedroom often. I have to remind the kids that my bedroom or my car is not their closet, toy room or bedroom and they need to take their things back. Self judgement is like that. It doesn’t belong to you. Someone else gave it to you and it’s time that you hand it back to them. You may have been carrying it around your entire adult life. It’s still not yours. De-clutter by giving it back to whoever gave it to you. They don’t have to be present for you to do this. Just visualize yourself handing it back and don’t pick it up again.

  • Over Caring

The last is Over Caring. I’m going to tell you something interesting. I have been a worrier and stressor my whole childhood and early adulthood. I have always admired people who seem to not care and don’t hold onto things and have noticed their lives seem a bit easier.

My grandfather who was severely overweight his entire life, lived a very long life in seemingly good health. And nothing seemed to bother him. He was also a narcissist. He hurt a lot of people in his life, but he wasn’t bogged down by guilt and anguish because he thought of himself first.

Although I don’t suggest you take the entire page out of his book, it may be useful to take a sentence of two. Research has clearly demonstrated that narcissists live longer and in better health because they experience less emotional stress. Why? Because they simply don’t care about others. that’s a whole lot of emotional stress they aren’t holding on to.

How can you still be your wonderful, caring self and reap some of the benefits that narcissists have?

Narcissists don’t take criticism well because they don’t believe it. They consider themselves perfect and therefore the problem is you. All your concern about what other people think about you is emotional clutter that you don’t need to hold onto.

All your concern about what other people think about you is emotional clutter that you don't need to hold onto
What concerns about others’ problems are not yours to hold onto? What concerns about the way others think about you are not yours to hold onto? Visualize yourself as a warm hedge that keeps negativity out, not a sponge that soaks up everything indiscriminately.

How do we spring clean our brain? The same way we spring clean our home- Purge, Clean and Re-arrange.

Venting is an excellent form of purging.

There is a fine line between venting and complaining, though, and I want you to ride it hard. Venting should include some processing, where you are pouring out your thoughts in an attempt to order them, make decisions or change your perspective- deciding what should stay and what should go.

Complaining is just listing off all of your grievances with no desire to process, connect or repair and sometimes an unconscious desire to stay stuck. Complaining is often a bullet list excuse for why you can’t move forward. Complaining would be the equivalent of you walking around your room and picking up all the things you don’t like- saying you don’t like them and putting them right back where they were. Big waste of time. Don’t do that.

Once you have vented to yourself, in a journal, to a trusted friend or therapist, work on changing your negative self talk that doesn’t serve you. All of that negative noise in your brain is unnecessary clutter.

I have an excellent course for changing your self-talk and encourage you to access it:

https://dr-zoe-shaw1.teachable.com/p/new-you-new-self-talk-mindshift-program/

Last I will leave you with a gratitude affirmation from my book from November 15th

Speak these truths out loud as a cleansing, affirming practice

I am grateful for the people in my life because…
I am grateful for my place of residence because…
I am grateful for my body because…
I am grateful for my mind because…
I am grateful for the mundane because…
I am grateful for all the unnecessary luxuries in my life because…

Happy Spring Cleaning!

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