Decluttering my Home Frees my Mind, Reduces Stress

I searched desperately for one of my favorite T-shirts to wear to the YMCA the other day, looking in the hamper, multiple dresser drawers and odd places like the bathroom and old purses. Eventually I gave up, deciding logically a ghost had stolen it, as it had some of my socks.

Later I uncovered the shirt buried deep in the chest (where I had also looked earlier) under several layers of clothes. I realized some spring cleaning was long overdue.

Getting organized and figuring out what clothes I have for workouts, professional outings and social events in the scorching hot Phoenix summer was my main motivation behind filling bags with things to donate to the Salvation Army.

But I have another, just-as-valid reason for wanting to declutter my home. The task has helped reduce my stress over bigger life issues by giving me a sense of control over something, however small as it may seem. Unloading old, worn-out clothes I no longer need has also allowed me to focus more on the present and let go of old emotional baggage, too.

Actress Vida Ghaffari told her house was cluttered and she often would show up late to auditions because she couldn’t find the right makeup or clothes. Her packed closet made her feel overwhelmed and tired. She finally decided to donate 20 bags of unneeded things to Goodwill and to give her friends many shoes and clothes.

Cleaning up her domestic act helped Ghaffari professionally. She said shortly after the decluttering, she was cast in a supporting role in the pilot for TV show “The Mindy Project” with actress Mindy Kaling. Casting directors and producers found her more serious about her career.

Author Tisha Morris told, clutter is like “stagnant energy.” She wrote “Feng Shui Your Life: The Quick Guide to Decluttering Your Home and Renewing Your Life” and says homes reflect our emotional states. She says an ancient Chinese proverb claims to change things in your life, you have to move things in your home. Morris says color, lighting and simple objects can generate good energy flow.

Gretchen Rubin, in her book “The Happiness Project,” wrote about the great joy she found cleaning out her closet and leaving a blank space in it. She says it might sound superficial, but getting things organized on the outside makes people feel calmer on the inside. I felt like a new woman after creating a blank space on my kitchen counter!

In her blog last month, Rubin urged people not to save things for a “hazy future.” I felt better getting rid of things from a blurry past, as well. By shedding old shirts I rarely wear anymore, I’m making room for a wardrobe better suited for my life right now.

I also took Rubin’s advice in deciding to get rid of some clothes I could wear, if I lost a little weight, or if I ever found the right shirt or pants to go with them. After several years of not wearing them, it was time to give up the fantasy. Besides, as Rubin said, if I lost a little weight or needed something new for an occasion, I could always go buy it.

Rubin in her book said it’s okay to keep some things in your closet for sentimental reasons, but not to go overboard trying to reminisce about happy occasions. I decided to keep several old Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure T-shirts, though I rarely wear them, because they remind me of how far my mom has come in beating cancer 14 years ago. The shirts remind me of celebrating cancer survivors at the Race for the Cure every year with my mom and other family members.

However, I only saved two of my high school yearbooks and one from middle school after multiple moves because I have lots of other ways to remember old friends, some of whom I connect with on Facebook. And let’s face it; some memories from high school aren’t exactly heartwarming, including wearing braces and struggling through geometry tests.

Getting rid of old paperwork, coupons, magazines and mailers also helped me let go of unrealistic and unwanted expectations for the future. Am I really going to study the fine print in a thick brochure about investments from my bank to become a financial guru or drive out of my way to save a dollar at a dry cleaner’s rather than going to the one just up the street? Probably not.

I still have a ways to go on my decluttering journey. I know I will enjoy selling old books back to a bookstore where I bought them so someone else can enjoy them. Then I will have more room in my home office for my expanding company, for a bookshelf to hold cherished books and a guest bed or two for my niece and nephew, or friends to come visit.

While getting rid of old clothes, books and other things isn’t likely to land me a part on a sitcom like actress Ghaffari, I believe it will create more energy and keep me even more focused on all the possibilities of my future. And I won’t have to blame an innocent ghost for stealing my socks anymore.


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