Voice Lessons for Today Blog » Insights from Atlanta therapist Mazi Robinson

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Decluttering Your Soul

I cannot stand clutter. It literally stresses me out. When my kitchen counter gets too overrun with unopened mail and my son’s artwork and stacks of other papers that I don’t know what to do with, my heart starts racing and I can feel my body temperature start to rise.

That being said, I am not one of these super organized people. As much as clutter stresses me out, so do those pictures on Pinterest of organizing solutions and color coded, labeled bins. I look at those pictures I simultaneously feel jealous, annoyed, and overwhelmed. That level of organization just seems like so much to get organized

So as much as I dislike clutter, the truth is I’m no stranger to jam packed shelves, overstuffed drawers, and stacks… oh I love my stacks.

Whenever I think of clutter and things that I need to let go of, two items in my house always come to mind: the double Slanket and the ice cream maker

Let me start with the ice cream maker. I don’t know what my husband and I thought our lives as a married couple were going to be like when we were registering for gifts twelve years ago, but apparently we thought we were going to be entertainers extraordinaire. We registered for an assortment of entertaining items and household goods that in a million years I don’t know how or when we could have used all that stuff.   Over the years, I have managed to part with some of those things, but there is one item I simply cannot let go of- the ice cream maker

This ice cream takes up a rather large amount of real estate in our pantry/laundry room, and truth be told, I have never even gotten the thing out of the box. Never. Yet, I will not give it away. I feel bad that someone spent all that money on a gift and feel like I should hold onto it. I tell myself that someday I’ll make ice cream for my son… and there will be memories… and laughter. There will ice cream, laughter filled memories. And so there the ice cream maker still sits

Then there is the Slanket. About six years ago you may remember that the Snuggie appeared on the market. You could by a Snuggie at Walgreens for $14. But a Slanket, the original blanket with sleeves, was sold on television for $40. I have no idea what prompted my husband to do this, but one night he saw a commercial for a double Slanket, a Slanket with four armholes so you and your loved one can sit cuddled under this contraption, and he spent $40+ on this double Slanket. He was beyond proud of himself and so excited to have solved all of my nightly temperature challenges.

Well, the $40+ Slanket arrived, and I have no idea what this thing was made of but you couldn’t sit under it for more than five minutes for fear that your body would burst into flames. It didn’t just keep you warm. It set your body on fire… a sweaty, fiery mess.

So use of the Slanket was very short lived yet it lingers in one of our few cabinets we have for storage because my husband refuses to let me give it away. Clutter. It is the worst.

We all have things we hang onto and things that are easier for us to let go of, and we have all sorts of reasons we let things linger in our lives:

So and so gave me this so I feel guilty if I give it away.
I might need it in the future.
It might come back in style.
I’ll reread it someday.
I will read it someday.
We got these on that trip years ago.
I’ll hold onto these in case I lose the weight… in case I gain the weight back.
I spent a lot of money on this- I can’t just give it away.
This might be worth something someday.
We have to keep it for nostalgic sake.

After we stare at the cluttered cabinet and closet for far too long and muse over this laundry list of reasons, we most likely end up feeling overwhelmed and we shut the door and think, “Ugh I’ll just deal with that later.” And the clutter stays… stays taking up space… taking up room… taking up opportunity that something more beneficial, more productive, more necessary could inhabit.

Isn’t that the problem with clutter? It takes up valuable space. Even if we don’t want to make room for something else, it is still taking up space. Clutter makes things harder to find. It clouds our vision and all we can see is the mess, the clutter. We can’t see the thing we’re looking for, the thing we need in the moment.

The cost of clutter in our homes is similar to the cost of clutter in souls. Like old sweaters we can’t let go of or kitchen appliances we’re convinced we will use someday, there are some things that we hold onto in our lives sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Habits, quirks, worries, fears, decisions, regrets, hurts, relationships, images of who we think a loved one should be, images of who we think we should be, criticisms, dreams, nightmares. All of this stuff clutters our lives. It may not clutter our physical lives- on the outside those may look pristinely organized with color-coded, labeled bins- but it clutters our inner lives.

Just like the stuff in our closets and cabinets, this clutter keeps us from seeing what we need to see. It keeps us from finding answers, from using the resources available to us. It keeps us from trying new habits. It keeps us from going after new, healthy relationships because we’ve learned to live around all the clutter.   We’ve learned to accommodate the clutter.

What are the worries, concerns, and insecurities that are cluttering your mind? What are the feelings of anger, disappointment, and shame that are cluttering your heart?   A cluttered mind races at night and spaces out during the day. A cluttered heart is overly guarded, a little raw, and sometimes lonely. Mental clutter keeps us from doing the things we were meant to do while heart clutter keeps us from being the people we were meant to be.

What do you want to let go of in your life? What are you ready to let go of in your life? It’s the same question with one very important word change. We have to be ready to let go. We have to be willing to do the hard work to let go of the clutter that has become so much a part of our lives that we may not even notice it any more.  It can be a scary endeavor to think about letting go of the clutter that has become your constant companion, your excuse, your rationalization, maybe even your identity. But when you let go of your mental and heart clutter, you make room for the answers, wisdom, love, freedom, and joy that your mind and heart truly need.

What do you want to let go of in your life? What are you ready to let go of in your life?

Kristen - I laughed aloud reading about the ice cream maker and slanket. Oh the slanket! Let’s break out the ice cream maker next time we’re in town. I can envision with you the laughter filled memories! We cleaned out the garage yesterday which is number 34 on my list of things to clean out (literally)–I could have slept in the garage last night. That’s how happy I was about decluttering that space. A 100x more when it’s my soul!

Ellen - Re the ice cream maker: I had one collecting dust for years as well. And then, as my husband and I faced one of our rockiest years, last summer we pulled out the ice cream maker and made ice cream. All summer. We would choose a flavor, make it, eat it til it was gone, and start all over again. We developed a rating system. It helped us connect over something, when at times it felt difficult to connect over anything.

I don’t really know what to say about the Slanket though. My dog does like the snuggie I got for Christmas one year.