I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a hoarder. I must have been a squirrel in a past life with all the stuff that I pack away around the house. For a while I even had the habit of carrying around at least two or three bags whenever I went out – my purse, a lunch or gym bag and a grab bag full of notebooks, file folders and random lists and reminders of things I needed to do. I was ever prepared, yet always feeling behind.
At that time of my life, my head was so full of worry and my heart so heavy with stress that there was very little room for positive thoughts and joy. One day, as I was walking home from the subway under the weight of my excess baggage, it occurred to me that the physical clutter in my life was a manifestation of my emotional and mental clutter.
I realized that I was literally carrying all my negative thoughts and worries around with me. I knew that this had to change. Immediately.
When I got home, I dumped the contents of all my bags onto the kitchen table and took a moment to soak it all in. I felt overwhelmed by both the amount of physical stuff I was lugging around with me and what that implied about my emotional and mental state.
After a few deep breaths, I started sorting through the pile piece by piece, asking myself for each item: “Is this really, truly necessary to carry with me moving forward? Can I address it now, once and for all, or simply let it go?”
It took a lot of courage to let go of some of the stuff I was holding on to but in the end it was for the best.
My purse – and my heart – feel much lighter now.
Are you struggling with an addiction to clutter? Here’s a step-by-step process you can follow to deal with your baggage.
1. Set the stage:
Start with a large surface area such as a table or floor space to work with. You’ll also need a garbage bin, a separate bin for stuff you’re keeping but need to put away and a piece of paper to track your action items. Cue up some calming tunes to help you relax (check out Google Play for some curated “calm mood” playlists you can stream).
2. Empty out your bags, completely.
Spread everything out on the table or floor and take a moment to observe what you’re carrying around with you. What do you see? What might this tell you about your state of mind?
3. Start sorting.
Begin by picking up one item, and go through the following sequence:
Ask yourself: Is something I need to do with this item? For example, perhaps you’re carrying an empty tube of lipstick that you need to replace, or a post-it note reminder to send an email.
If there is no to-do, either:
- Throw it out (be ruthless; less is more)
- Put it away
If there is a to-do, either:
- Do it now (if it takes less than 2 minutes)
- Add it to your to-do list
Once you’ve cleared through the clutter, review your to-do list and enjoy the feeling of lightening your load!
After spring-cleaning your purse, you’ll probably find yourself inspired to de-clutter other parts of your life. Next is your briefcase! Then, I challenge you to go big – tackle your “everything drawer”, your desk, or wherever else that big pile of mental and emotional baggage is hanging out.
Want more inspiration for organizing and tidying up?
Check out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Happy Spring Cleaning!
Lisa Zamparo is a financial strategist and lifestyle optimist, as well as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), business coach and personal finance expert in Toronto who helps people make intentional decisions with their money. As a one-on- one coach, her personalized approach to financial planning helps her clients achieve their goals by aligning their spending with their priorities. As an inspirational educator, Lisa leads workshops that infuse mindfulness principles with financial concepts delivered in a fun and approachable style.