When we think of clutter, we tend to think of untidy stacks of useless items in a garage or attic. However, clutter could be anything that you are holding on to that you are not using, or in the words of the famous organizational consultant, Marie Kondo, anything that does not “spark joy” in our lives. This could be designer clothing, useful books, or a beautiful decoration that do not inspire or excite and instead take up space and block energy in your home.
The same concept of ‘clutter’ can be applied to your inner space. There are many emotional, mental, social, and spiritual things you hold onto simply because you have ‘always been this way’, and you ‘cannot imagine being or doing something different.’ You eventually do not even notice this clutter, but it is taking up space, blocking energy and keeping you stuck in different areas of your life. Consciously addressing these areas, acknowledging them, and letting them go will yield an inner space that is light, energetic, and peaceful.
The different kinds of clutter that might be occupying your inner space include:
- Emotional clutter: grudges and unprocessed emotions such as resentment, grief, anger, and hurt
- Mental clutter: constant worrying, thinking traps, information overload, never-ending to-do lists
- Social clutter: people or events that we are engaging with in person or on social media that don’t add value or meaning to our lives
- Spiritual clutter: collecting spiritual information from bookshops and workshops, but never committing to spiritual practice.
How to start decluttering your inner space
We all go through difficult life experiences, and most of us will either deny, project, intellectualize, or ‘rise above’ the difficult experience before we have had a chance to feel the feeling. The unprocessed emotions remain stuck in our body and eventually result in dis-ease.
- Journal: write down all the experiences of hurt that still reverberate inside you. Resentment, grudges, and vengeful thoughts and feelings take up a lot of your energetic space. The more you hold on to the past, the less energy you will have to create the future you want.
- Give the earth your hurt. Instead of carrying your hurt in your heart, connect with the earth’s energy, and consciously release your pain. Earthing/grounding helps our bodies de-stress, reduce inflammation, and decrease pain. You can do this by walking barefoot on grass, sitting and breathing for a few minutes as you sit on the beach, or standing in the sea, ankle deep as you gaze at the horizon. Connect with your heart, and from that place, ask the earth to help ease your pain.
- Bodywork. The combination of long hold stretches, shaking, yoga, qi gong, tai chi along with breathwork can help you move emotions through your body. Focus on the slow gentle movements, while breathing and visualize the pain of the emotional experience moving out of the body through the breath.
Thoughts, decisions, and constant flow of information can create a lot of mental clutter.
- Do a brain dump — write down everything you have to do in your personal and professional life on paper. Once you have this, see what you can do, decide, delegate, or delete it off that list. Everything you have to do should be put in a time slot for the upcoming week.
- Make decisions — a lot of our mental space is taken up with delayed decisions. Make time in your schedule, preferably in the morning when you have mental energy, to make decisions you have been postponing. If you need support or information to make the decision, then get assistance.
- Limit the distractions — Turn off notifications, keep your desktop clean and organized, and focus on doing one thing at a time. You use a lot more mental energy, and create a lot more mental noise when you are multitasking.
Socializing without consideration for how it is adding meaning and value to your life can be emotionally and physically draining and adds to your social clutter.
- Consciously connect — before you make a commitment to attend an event or follow a person’s social media account, ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘what do I hope to get out of this?’, and ‘what am I saying no to if I say yes to this?’
- Clear out your social media account — You are what you watch. Your attention is prime space and your time, a limited resource. If it is not ‘sparking joy’ or teaching you about something that will benefit you or inspire ideas, you are just gathering social clutter.
- Deep connections — while being a social butterfly has its charm, it is the deep bonds that make our life meaningful. Make an intention to spend less time with acquaintances, and more time with those you want to cultivate deep connections with. This can be done with one on one outings, or small group gatherings. Make sure to be present in the moment by putting your devices away and connecting heart to heart, and eye to eye.
When we know a lot about well-being and spirituality but don’t practice what we know, we are adding to spiritual clutter.
- Practice what you know — Most of us know enough to be enlightened human beings, but most of us are not practicing what we know. Before you sign up for another workshop or buy another book, spend 30 days devoted to a practice that has helped you in the past. If you don’t know where to start, start with breathing in for 4 seconds, and out for 4 seconds for a total of five minutes, three times a day.
- Silence — we collect a lot of noise in our day to day lives. Many people fill their space with distractions to avoid their inner spirit. Make a practice to be in silence so that you can connect to your inner spirit.
- Gratitude — There is nothing that lightens up your inner space like feeling and expressing gratitude for the people in your life. Write a gratitude letter to someone, or look at the grocery store attendant in the eyes when saying a heartfelt appreciation, or hug your loved one’s heart as you thank them for something specific they add to your life.
Dr Saliha Afridi
As a clinical psychologist for the past 13 years, Dr Saliha Afridi has spent 12 years working in the UAE and founded The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, a community mental health and wellness clinic providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples and families.