The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Is Clutter Making You Confused or Depressed?

Ridding excess stuff relieves stress and clears the mind.

My client Ellen moved to a new apartment. She says she threw out so much stuff, (all of it in fine condition) that she actually sees space between the hangers in her new closet via a bulb that turns off and on when the door opens. A clean, well-lighted place, as the Hemingway story goes. She says just looking at this spare, clean space gives her a feeling of relief.

Here are some things you might say to yourself that prevent you from throwing things out, things you have not used in a long time:

• “I think I might need it someday. “

• “I know I can make something out of the material.”

• “My old boyfriend bought it for me.”

• “It cost so much when I bought it that I can’t get rid of it.”

• “It is pure silk.”

• “There is only one small stain.”

• “It’s dated, a little, but in perfect condition”

• “I can give it to someone.”

 

Why is it important to remove clutter? If you…

• Can’t find what you are looking for

• Have trouble making decisions about what to use or wear

• Feel disturbed or even embarrassed by the volume

• Can’t think straight when confronted with your piles

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• Feel sapped just seeing all of it

…you may want to develop the strength to discard. When excess accumulation causes internal distress, tune in and take note. Stop and observe what is going on inside as it will move you forward. Register your discomfort and look a little deeper to find out what clinging to things is about for you.

 

What might be hard about letting go of objects? Not what you tell yourself, but what actually might be going on beneath?

• Fear of deprivation

• Old, dysfunctional attachments

• Fear of emptiness

• Fear of freedom

• An interest in collecting (this can be a good thing)

• A hoarding urge

• Guilt about waste

 

No right or wrong here really, but if you think your accumulations are suffocating you, it is good to be aware. Being aware just might move you to action. Insight begets change. A clear space can calm you down and open you up.

 

 

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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