The Importance of Emotional Spring Cleaning

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.

Read on to learn more about:

  • What “emotional clutter” you’re holding onto
  • How to conduct an emotional clutter inventory
  • How to accept and let go of your emotional clutter

What is “emotional clutter”?

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.  

We’ve all been there: becoming frustrated due to something which wasn’t that big of a deal in the first place. This takes up a lot of your emotional energy, most likely because the root of the problem is in your emotional clutter.

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.

Take an emotional clutter inventory

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.

Try this exercise: make a list of all the things that are bothering you emotionally. You may arrive at some examples that have been hidden for a long time.

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:

  • Personal: Intrapersonal conflicts with partners, friends, or family members
  • Situational: e.g. Frustrations with a client at work
  • Global: e.g. Anger due to the lack of justice for all peoples

On the up-and-up: Remedying, accepting, and moving on from emotional clutter

Remedying emotional clutter

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.

A big part of remedying your emotional clutter may be confronting whomever you feel has wronged you or whom you have wronged. Approach the situation calmly and empathetically.

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?

Acceptance and moving on

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.

Squeaky clean?

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!

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