I’ve read quite a few posts about clearing out clutter. Usually, the author is talking about useless or unused items around the house. They pile up, take up space, and don’t do much for your life. I get it. I’ve got stacks of paper and books I’ll never read and clothes I’ll never wear again. I’ve got stuff to purge, certainly. But, the “stuff” is just stuff. The clutter I’m most interested in clearing is the other clutter. It’s the “stuff” that clutters up my mind, my body, my emotional and spiritual selves.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m on board with the minimalist thing. I understand how it contributes to a happier and healthier self overall. I just want to talk for a minute about the clutter I’ve eliminated from my life that’s made a bigger impact than any garbage bag full of unwanted trinkets could make. I quit a few substances, activities, people and patterns through the years that have put my on a more truthful, more extraordinary path for my life.
I quit drinking alcohol in 2010, and I’ve never looked back. At the time, I was just sort of over it. It wasn’t fun anymore. I woke up after a party and though, “I am done with this.” And I was. No struggle. No regrets. I still go to parties and meet friends for drinks. I still tip the bartender when they serve me my soda water. But, I don’t spend money on expensive cocktails. I don’t wake up with hangovers. I don’t worry about how I’ll get home from a bar or a party because I’ve had more than the legal limit to drink. It removed one more decision from my life. I just don’t do it. I don’t even think about it much anymore, except when someone expresses shock when I don’t partake. I do encounter a lot of suspicion about a possible drinking problem, but I shrug it off. I’m not interested in those assumptions and I don’t feel the need to explain myself to people who don’t understand. I’m simply happier without alcohol in my life. It was cluttering up brain space that I’ve found other uses for.
I’ve quit refined sugar a number of times in my life, and I did it again in 2016. I was out of control. One evening, after leaving the house to go get donuts for dinner, I decided enough was enough. I’m not one for moderation. And, when I decide I’m done, I’m done. I was done. I cut out all refined sugar, including honey, agave, and artificial sweeteners. I stopped dropping by my favorite bakery for “emergency cake.” I stopped using it as a way to cope with stress. In the year that I quit, I’ve lost twenty pounds, without any additional exercise. It was a slow weight loss, which is fine, because weight loss was never the point. The point was to remove the decision from my life. I don’t have to worry about moderation. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ve had one or two or five piece of cake in a week. I don’t have to worry whether or not the muffin is a good breakfast choice. I just don’t choose foods with sugar in them. I’ve saved a lot of money in cake costs. I’ve also removed the clutter of the foggy mind that sugar consumption can cause. It’s one more decision I don’t have to make about food, too, which is its own kind of clutter.
I quit debt in 2016. Well, sort of. In 2013, I declared bankruptcy, which cleared me of credit card and medical debt that I couldn’t climb out of at the time. Once the credit card debt was removed, I felt tremendous relief. I was still carrying around $48,000 of student loan debt, though. In 2015, I started a blog, Dream Beyond Debt, where I kept track of my progress in trying to pay it off quickly. It took me 14 months, but I did it. I paid off the entire $48,000 I’d been carrying around for a decade. I got a glimpse at what debt free life is like, and now I prefer to live without it. I either have the money for something or I don’t. I did take on a mortgage, but I’m on a mission to pay that off once I reach $100,000 in savings. Now that I’m not juggling credit card balances and student loan payments, and all the various due dates and minimum payments that come with it, I can concentrate on my creative life. It is incredibly freeing. Debt is nothing but financial clutter.Debt is nothing but financial clutter. Click To Tweet
In order to pay off debt, I had to make more money. In order to make more money, I had to address why I wasn’t able to make more money. It wasn’t a matter of education or skill. It was a matter of ME. Underearning is usually a problem of self-esteem. I read the book Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny maybe three times before I could seriously do the work. The year between declaring bankruptcy and paying off my student loan debt, I worked through the book with a friend. I did the exercises. I discussed them at length. Slowly, the lessons started to take hold. I had a lot of old guilt and negative money messages to sift through. I had to learn to believe that I deserved more. Old, toxic messages are a type of clutter. I’ve cleared them out for a much cleaner, happier, healthier kind of message. Instead of the clutter of “how am I going to get by?” I now have the mantra, “I will thrive.”Old, toxic money messages from your childhood are a type of clutter. Click To Tweet
When you start to change your life, you’ll encounter a bunch of people who will say something to the effect of, “Good luck with that.” They might taunt you for even trying something new in the first place. I’ve never had a lot of patience for people who dwell on the dark stuff. I mean, I’m all for facing reality and looking at the hard stuff with clear eyes. But I’m not going to live it. You’ve got to talk to me about possibility. Don’t talk to me about what can’t be done. Sure, it’s possible that a plan might fail. But, what if it doesn’t? What if it succeeds? That’s who I want to spend my time with. I don’t want to spend any more of my time trying to convince the negative nellies that something might work. I’d much rather deal with the more enthusiastic folk from the start. Constant negativity is a type of clutter that can clog up the flow of good things through your life.
Shopping for Fun
I let go of shopping for fun when I was paying off debt. It simply became more exciting to see the balance go down than it was to buy a piece of clothing I might never wear. My personal preference is shopping at thrift stores, and while more frugal, it’s not as frugal as not spending money at all. Instead of shopping, I started hiking with friends. We had better conversations on wooded trails than we ever did in between sales racks. Eliminating the shopping hobby not only kept actual, material clutter out of my life, but it was one more activity I didn’t have to do. I could do ones that were more fun, and free, and fed my bank accounts instead of my closet.
Holy heck, TV clutters my mind. I will watch the same five episodes of a show over and over again as background noise. Sure, I could replace television with podcasts or music, but ultimately, I think the only non-clutter sounds in my home are those of my dogs sighing and snoring. When I find myself in a television hole, I think about what else I could be doing or creating with that time. TV makes me such a CONSUMER. I’m not even thinking critically about what I’m watching most of the time. It numbs me. It’s soothing, sure, but certainly I can find a different way to relax. I could read! I could write! I could live my own life instead of being a spectator of the lives of television characters!
Get Rid of the Other Clutter
Clutter is, simply, stuff that is not useful to you. It’s stuff made of matter that DOES NOT MATTER. All this other clutter causes roadblocks in my life. Like the piles of paper and clothes on my floor, it is IN THE WAY. By removing the other clutter, I’ve made space in my brain that can be better utilized. That space can be used to learn a new skill, focus on a new goal, consider a new concept…When the room is clear, there’s more ROOM. You can fill it with more important things. You can fill it with things that DO matter.Clutter is simply stuff made of matter that DOES NOT MATTER. Click To Tweet
What “other clutter” can you or have you removed from your life that will or has made a big difference?