Spring cleaning: an annual, intensive deep-clean of the home—that can take place in spring, or any time of the year—when you clean everything that you usually don’t clean on a regular weekly or monthly basis.
Now, in the age of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, the practice of minimalism has been broadening the scope of spring cleaning-like rituals to not only the act of cleaning itself but also decluttering to yield maximal happiness and minimal stress.
In this article, we’ll explain why you should not only be thinking about physical decluttering, but also mental and emotional decluttering on a regular basis.
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Do you ever find yourself becoming irrationally emotional because of something that didn’t warrant a big reaction, if any reaction at all?
If this is the case, it may be caused by underlying emotional clutter (also known as baggage) that you have unknowingly pushed into the depths of your subconscious without resolution.
As the MedicinePath.net blog states in a post on emotional baggage, “when we feel anxiety, guilt, or anger, we may not have the knowledge or the tools to be able to process these emotions in a beneficial way. We may distract ourselves from feeling these fully, [and over time,] the body continues to store them.”
It was even found in a 2015 Norwegian study that the participants’ feeling of immobility and frustration due to emotional baggage complicated or made difficult initiating major lifestyle changes such as eliminating bad habits.
Consider this: you live with your partner, and you find yourself arguing with them for an hour about how they didn’t do the dishes. Maybe you guessed it—but it probably isn’t about the dishes.
The dishes were merely your emotional trigger, or something which can be entirely unrelated to your emotional clutter, but nonetheless provides your subconscious with a reason to let it all out.
In order to sort out what’s really going on, try this exercise: take a mental or physical (even better!) inventory of all your emotional hang-ups.
It may seem a little petty or childish, but write down everything that has potentially been bothering you emotionally. This should include not only instances in which you were wronged but also those in which you wronged others.
Here are some examples of what to look out for while constructing your list:
Once you’ve identified the different sources of your emotional clutter, you’ll be ready to begin remedying them. With any emotional clutter, you’ll need to internally (or intrapersonally) resolve the matter in order to move on from it.
For some items, you may be able to merely put intention into letting them go. This may apply to any long-term grudges held for conflicts that passed years ago. It’s up to you to personally move on from that situation.
For other items, you might have to think about a confrontation. Has your partner hurt you in some kind of way that you haven’t addressed? Have you hurt someone and you haven’t owned up to it?
Once you’ve addressed all of your emotional clutter, you’re ready for the final steps: acceptance and moving on, two steps that go hand-in-hand.
Acceptance involves accepting the situation as a reality in your life, even when you didn’t like what happened, and moving on involves resolving to spend your emotional energy elsewhere.
Working on your emotional health may have its analogies to physical cleaning, but it indeed requires much more upkeep on a frequent basis. Make sure to check in with your emotions regularly—not just every spring!