Written by: Asya Grigoryan, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
“If you create an open space within yourself, love will fill it.” — Deepak Chopra.
“Because wherever there is air and light and open space, things grow.” — Helen Oyeyemi.
I was going through my Facebook thread and came across a friend’s post that caught my eye.
She was sharing that twice a year, she does a cleanout, the idea of which is to throw away ten items a day for the period of ten days. At the end of this “project,” hundred items leave her home and open up space for new things. But most importantly, this decluttering exercise helps her free up her mind from all the old emotions and thoughts and opens up space for new experiences, fresh ideas, and positive emotions. While I was reading the post, a light bulb went on in my head! I always adhered to the philosophy that “genius is simple,” and to me, this was a perfect illustration of this concept.
I am a leadership and career coach, and I work with people from different walks of life and different cultures and backgrounds. In the process of our work, we touch on very deep and often very personal areas of clients’ lives. And letting go of thinking patterns and emotions that are holding us back from moving forward is a big part of our work. The stories and journeys my clients share with me are just as unique as each person on this planet. But at the same time, we are all humans, so different and yet so alike, and certain patterns can be observed in the way we think, feel and behave. And that’s why I believe that just as this idea resonated strongly with me, it can appeal to and help many readers who seek to bring change to their lives.
So, as I read that post, I found it a great idea and threw myself into this project, very committed to cleaning my house from useless stuff. My eyes were wondering eagerly, looking around for items taking the space in my home, basically taking MY space. To my own surprise, I started noticing things around me and seeing them differently. There were new but never used items, there were others that served their term, and it was time to say goodbye to them, even though I felt some unexplainable attachment to them or memories associated with them. There were other things that I was keeping so I can MAYBE use them occasionally, but as you can guess, it never happened in the past few years. There were also things that I was holding on to with HOPE that I will use them one day again, like clothes from my past or numerous paints and brushes (as I used to paint and then stopped), etc.
In other words, I found so many things that had to be thrown or given away and perhaps be of better use to someone else. But they were definitely not serving me in any way, except taking my space, not just physically, but also putting the mental and emotional burden on my brain, because every time I looked at them, I felt almost like I can’t breathe freely.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. My house looks quite neat and clean. It’s not one of those cases where you see a lot of cluttering all over the place. I do get rid of stuff from time to time, yet I never did it in a structured way, and what’s more important, I hardly did it by facing every item one by one and stopping to think: do I really need you? Do you serve me? Or maybe you did, but not anymore? What makes it so hard to get rid of you?
I realized going through this exercise that besides cleaning the house, what I really needed so badly was clearing up my mind, getting a fresh start, and letting go of thoughts and emotions that don’t serve me anymore. They felt like a heavy load that you have to drop to fly or move on. Many studies show the correlation between the cluttered spaces and anxiety levels of people living or working in them. The cluttered spaces can also affect our sleep, our ability to focus and work productively. The visual destruction of clutter increases cognitive overload and, as a result, influences our cognition, emotions, and certain behaviors, including our relationships with others—the items we hold on to carry also an emotional burden with them.
Saruwatari, the author of the book, Behind the Clutter, says that we “hang onto far more objects than we need, and, instead of motivating us, they become talismans of guilt and shame.” They remind us of unfinished business or of how we used to look and, in a way, control our life even though we don’t necessarily realize it.
Feng Shui, a pseudoscientific traditional practice originating from ancient China, also claims that energy forces can be used to harmonize individuals with their surroundings, and according to Feng Shui philosophy, removing clutter as soon as possible makes you feel immediately good, because “objects retain lots of energy and physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually block our ‘path’ forward.” (Maureen Calamia, a re-nature Feng Shui consultant)
As a coach and a psychologist, I know that getting rid of certain thoughts or emotions that are holding us back from moving forward is not an easy task. It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes months of hard work to identify those thinking patterns, facing them, and replacing them with the new ones. But I can guarantee that taking this ten-day challenge of clearing up your space and your mind will produce some immediate results and will leave you uplifted, refreshed, and more focused on your present and your future. It will be a great step towards giving yourself a fresh start and opening up to new experiences in your life.
Here is how to do it:
1. Decide for yourself the length of the challenge and the number of items you want to get rid of each day. It doesn’t have to be 10 items a day for 10 days. Find a number that you feel comfortable with and that you are ready to commit to. You can also modify the project a bit. For example, nowadays, many people struggle with overloaded mailboxes or hundreds of photos that we take and mostly never revisit. So it could be something like committing to delete ten emails a day or ten photos a day from your phone. Or going through your old contacts and deleting the ones that are not in your life anymore.
2. Put a meaning in this exercise. It’s not just a ‘winter clean up.’ It’s an exercise of opening-up SPACE for new things in your life.
3. Go through items one by one, face them, even talk to them, if you feel like it. For example, I find it not easy saying