Passwords of Inner Peace

Feel like it’s time to hit the refresh button? Some experts believe that finding inner peace starts with sorting out your sock drawer, so here are our tips to help you spring into action. Clutter is anything that gets in the way of what’s important to you. Physical clutter is the ‘stuff’ you immediately think of when you hear the word, like the sweet wrappers lying in the back of your car, the pile of old newspapers stacked up in the garage, the clothes hanging in your cupboard that no longer fit, and the ‘I’ll deal with it later’ drawer in the kitchen (yes, every house has one). Because your mood is often affected by the physical places you spend time in, if your home is a mess, it can make your mind feel muddled, too.

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In this way, clutter doesn’t just refer to physical things – a busy or cluttered mind can result in emotional clutter such as forgetfulness, tardiness or irritability. And it’s often emotional clutter that triggers negative reactions like anger, guilt or resentment. As we can’t see this sort of clutter, it’s easy to pretend that it doesn’t exist, but often it’s emotional clutter, more than physical, that is holding you back from living the best version of your life. Maybe you’re hanging onto an old jersey because it reminds you of happier times, or you’ve resisted trying something new, like an art class, because you’re worried that you won’t be any good.

Sometimes it’s not our own emotional clutter that’s causing us to lash out – you might be carrying someone else’s baggage: the friend who often unloads all of her issues onto you, or the regular Thursday lunch date you have with an old colleague because you don’t know how to say no. Why is it important to deal with it? The combination of physical and emotional clutter can lead to exhaustion, a tendency to run late, or to not fulfil promises – it’s a way to distract yourself so you can’t be present in the moment. It’s only by cutting down on clutter in all areas of your life that you can make the space – and the time – for what really matters, whether that’s a new coffee table, or an hour a day to curl up on the couch with a good book.

Physical clutter

1. Don’t get overwhelmed

This is the number-one reason good intentions fail. We start off with a huge rush of energy raking out cupboards, then after a couple of hours ‘decision fatigue’ sets in. Don’t think, ‘This weekend I’ve got to clear it all out,’ say, ‘This weekend I’m going to devote three hours to sorting out one cupboard or area of my life.’ Then identify what you can do in that time.

2. Work out where it’s all going

And do this before you start. The satisfaction you feel when clutter actually leaves your house is huge. The irritation you feel when you run out of time and trip over boxes of junk is almost as powerful. Before you start, check when your local charity shop, rubbish dump, and recycling depot are open – and stock up on those black bin bags.

3. Easy wins

Follow these simple rules to save pointless dithering when tackling physical clutter:

If something is broken and you haven’t fixed it in the last 12 months, you never will. Time to toss it. The same goes for anything that you haven’t used in 12 months.

Found stuff that’s not even yours? Give it back. No one even knows whose it is? A year is long enough to act as a ‘lost property office’.

Keeping things ‘just in case’ is a trap. If you find yourself thinking this, bin it. Chances are, if the occasion does arise, you won’t be able to find the item anyway.

4. Role swap

It’s infinitely easier to throw out other people’s junk than your own, but always tread carefully because this could cause a huge argument. You don’t feel any compunction about binning your husband’s ancient golf shoes (he’s got new ones), your son’s grade one school books (he’s left home), and the collection of old shoes your teen daughter no longer wears. In turn, though, you have to let them also get a bit ruthless with some of your blind-spot areas. Be prepared to negotiate, but don’t dispose of anything without the owner’s permission.

Emotional clutter

1. Reconnect with that

long-lost friend…

Whether you gave your old pal the cold shoulder after they did something to annoy you, or contact is just limited to occasional WhatsApp messages and social media, now is the time to reconnect over coffee or a phone call. Hit dial now.

2. … and bid farewell to energy vampires

Hanging onto friendships that are no longer mutually enjoyable will only bring you down. You want to be surrounded by positive people who improve your life rather than hinder it. Let go of negativity – anyone who makes you feel less than joyful when you spend time with them – and hit delete on all those Facebook ‘friends’ you wouldn’t hang out with in real life.

3. Say it

Tired of your partner putting you at the bottom of their priority list, or your best friend taking for granted that you’ll look after her kids at a moment’s notice? Emotional clutter often stems from the way others tend to treat us, or – more specifically – the way we allow others to treat us. The bottom line is: learn how to say no.

4. Recognise guilt

If you’ve started keeping things (those watercolour paintings done by a great aunt, or the concert tickets from your first date) just because they’re old or they have sentimental value, it’s time to free yourself of the guilt and dispose of them. Remember that parting with a physical memento doesn’t mean parting with the memory, and we’re sure your great aunt wouldn’t really mind. If you’re still battling to make a decision, try the emergency test: what would you grab if there was a fire?

5. Banish negative thoughts

Negative thoughts can block us from taking action, whether it’s a fear you won’t be good enough, or a criticism that keeps replaying in your head. Clear out this mental clutter by offloading these thoughts in a journal, and following meditation techniques. Freeing up your mind will allow you to focus on more positive achievements.

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