At 32, I was feeling burnt out.
I felt like I was 10 years older than my age.
I had this constant ache tugging at my heart and mind and I just couldn’t understand how to feel lighter and free. I had seemingly tried every health tip on the planet but still hadn’t achieved that elusive happy and healthy glow.
Then, one serendipitous day, I got a one word answer to all my problems: declutter.
So far, decluttering in my dictionary meant the spring cleaning I did for my house every year. But as I was to discover over the next year, decluttering is a powerful tool which can bring instant as well as long term results for the mind, body and spirit.
Even as I skeptically started decluttering my life, I soon discovered that it can have amazing health benefits. Here are the four steps of decluttering that led to a healthier life for me.
“You cannot reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.”
~ Louise Smith
Probably the first and the easiest place to start decluttering was my physical surroundings. According to Feng Shui (the Chinese system of spatial arrangement in relation to the flow of energy) what determines whether a space is positive or negative is the flow of energy known as chi. Clutter is the main source of blockage which prevents the free flow of energy and creates stagnation, making us feel lethargic and tired.
I soon discovered that clutter was hiding in places I never suspected, so apart from decluttering the obvious like storage spaces, closets, kitchen etc., I started paying attention to the hidden sources of clutter too.
One of the first things to go was the paper and document clutter. I found out that between me and my husband, we had kept decade old bills and invoices from restaurants, shopping, past clients, service providers etc. I took the whole lot out in my backyard and burnt it. As the smoke wafted towards the skies, I could feel something releasing in my mind; I felt incredibly free.
Next thing I tackled was the digital clutter. I had some 100+ icons on my desktop, gazillion files and folders I no longer needed and more books on my kindle than I could ever read. I went through each and every one of these and if no longer relevant in my life, I hit delete. There was a temptation to keep them in a hidden folder or a backup drive but I persisted and the end result was not just a faster computer but also a focused mind.
Once I had cleared out these sources of physical clutter, the change was almost instantaneous. I felt lighter, calmer and a sense of balance was restored.
Our body is our ultimate temple. The principles of Feng Shui apply here as well. As long as energy is free flowing in our body, we feel healthy, radiant and glowing. But what we often do is create clutter within our body which blocks energy and makes us haggard, prematurely aged and ready to give up.
Clutter like toxins from smoking, excessive drinking, drugs, artificial flavorings, food dyes, carbonated drinks, processed foods and so on.
Having a baby had left me feeling entitled to let go of myself. I would hide my lack of exercise, eating processed foods out-of-box and my unhealthy love for coffee, behind the demands that parenting made from me. But over a period of time this had created toxin clutter in my body which made me feel lethargic and without a zest for life.
Taking one step at a time, I tried to rid my body of these negative elements. I started drinking more water, switched to whole foods, drank a green smoothie everyday, did some light exercise, started eating mindfully and completely cut out coffee from my life.
Slowly, I could feel the clutter rinsing out from my body, creating more energy, brightening up my spirit and definitely making me healthier.
Our relationship to our inner self and others in our life has a huge effect on us. We should take a periodic stock of our relationships, first with ourselves and then with others.
Are we too hard on ourselves? Are we feeling guilty all the time? Do we plan regular time for self-care? Our first and the most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. So I decided to work on my relationship with me and declutter every negative perception I have about my inner self. Once that was done, I took a look at the other meaningful relationships in my life like my parents, my husband, my daughter and my closest friends. I was trying to understand if I had some unspoken feelings, angst or questions for them.
I decided to write down all my not-so-positive feelings towards each important person in my life and then forgive them completely. Even though I thought I wouldn’t have more than a page or two to write, I ended up writing around 20 pages. I realized that this was the clutter which was making me feel depressed, full of anxiety and panicky. I had no idea that I was carrying so much resentment and unresolved feelings inside of me. No wonder I was feeling burnt out!
At the same time, I also removed all negative people or energy vampires from my life. Not just the visible life but also my virtual life. I cleaned out my Facebook friend list and my mobile contact list of those people who made me feel weighed down and not good enough. This cleansing process made me feel infinitely more healed and happy. I was ready to create more meaningful relationships in my life and live my purposeful life.
This is probably the most difficult yet the most important part of decluttering for health. Take years of negative thought patterns, toxic self beliefs, mindless distraction from TV and tabloids and so much of useless information is cluttering our mind space.
The first step towards decluttering the mind was to become aware. Journaling is a great way to understand how we think, our thought patterns and it also keeps us on track of self-improvement. I started maintaining a daily journal, in which I could scribble my thoughts, events and lessons of the day. I also started writing positive affirmations in the journal to make the change in my thought pattern more permanent.
I also discovered meditation as a great tool to declutter the mind and live an intentional life. Meditating regularly helped me focus, live in the present moment and have a clear mind.
A mind that’s free from useless information and thoughts can be geared to achieve great things in life.
Decluttering is a lifelong practice, one that we can repeat as and when needed. If we use the four steps here to frequently declutter our lives, we will feel more healthy and alive than ever.
Remember, today is your day to let go of things that no longer serve you.
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Editorial Assistant: Judith Andersson / Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Nicki Varkevisser Flickr