Cleaning Out the Closets of Your Mind

Dear Friends,

Decluttering is contagious. Over the years I have decluttered many things in my life. It is kind of like peeling an onion. Once you get past the outer skin it comes off in many layers.

When it comes to the physical clutter of our homes I have a hard fast rule that works well for making decisions as to whether to keep something or to throw it away. If it doesn’t make you smile it needs to go away! The goal here is to only have things in your home that trigger that smile in you! When you walk through your home I want your face to light up as you see the items you have chosen to keep! Using this rule helps to make the decision easier. Why would you ever want to keep something in your home that does not make you smile? That is another essay and I am not going to get sidetracked. I will say that you cannot throw away your husband’s things. There has to be compromise. Look at it this way. If it makes him smile then that should put a smile on your face.

Getting rid of the physical clutter is easy. Tossing out this type of clutter is hard is when it is tied to some emotional clutter that we are hanging on to for some reason. Over the last couple of days I have been pondering how to help you eliminate some of this emotional baggage. The easiest way to help you with this is to set the stage for decluttering these items just like we do with a closet. Leanne and I wrote about much of this in our book Body Clutter.

Our mind is a closet of thoughts; if we can help you to purge the negative ones and replace them with happy positive thoughts then you can get on with truly living and not having to wade through the emotional clutter day in and day out.

We need three boxes: A put away box, a give away box, and a throw away box!

In our closet of thoughts we are going to take each one and decide where the thought belongs. Now we just can’t sit down and start pulling out memories from our heads. That would be too hard of an assignment. We will do this type of purging as we see a hot spot start to brew. Think about it this way. When we start to feel uneasy or sad; it also could be the opposite reaction. This could be when you laugh out loud at something or as you remember something and a big smile comes on your face. Let’s start with our put away box. These are things we want to keep.

We have all been told about saving things for a rainy day. Personally I like rainy days. I put on some lovely music, light candles and enjoy the cleansing process of a good rainy day. We all have emotional rainy days. It is on this day that we can nurture ourselves with our box of things to keep. Pam and Peggy gave us this tool to help us through our rainy days. They called it the Happiness File. I have lots of Happiness Files. I have one in my computer of pictures and cartoons that make me smile. I also have a little box of things that bring that smile back to my face when I am feeling sad. I have selections of music that fill my heart with joy.  I am going to put notes to look or listen to them in my box.  This box is all about recognizing when we need cheering up. Just like our calendars it needs to be a physical box to keep notes of these loving things in front of us so that we remember to look inside of it for a smile. I call mine my Happiness File. You can name it whatever you like. Coming up with the names could be fun too.

Right now I want you to spend five minutes to find a box to start using as your Happiness File. It can be a candy box, a cookie tin, a cigar box, or a glass jar. This is the place you are going to keep a pen and a little note pad. This does not have to be perfect. The act of using this box is going to change your life one smile at a time.

Keep this box by your chair or up on a shelf in your line of sight from your chair or where you see it often. Eventually you will find the container that fits exactly the feel you want it to have. Do you remember in vacation Bible School we would take cigar boxes and decorate them with macaroni? This is your special box in which to fill with your happy moments. As you remember them, write them down and put them in the box. You could also add small mementos of the event. I have a coin, a rock and a lapel pin in mine. You don’t have to have big items or big stories to evoke the memory!  We did this as children. We all had keepsake boxes hid in our closet or under our beds. We knew how to nurture ourselves when we were babies. We can do
it again.

The next box we are going to make is our give away box. With our control issues and perfectionism, we don’t want to put anything in this box. I am going to call this box my serenity box. These are the things that I am concerned about but I cannot do anything about and I recognize this. It could also be called a prayer box because these are things that I have given to God to take care of and in faith I don’t have to worry another day because it is in God’s hands. I have let it go! That is what a give-away box is all about! Letting go! When you read the Serenity Prayer you will understand why I chose this poem for the top of my box.

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Now for the hardest box of all! The Throw-Away Box! As with our physical clutter we have to get this box out of your brain closet once and for all! To do this we are going to practice an exercise when we have a negative thought. When you catch yourself having a negative thought; look around to see what triggered that thought. If it is an item in your house it needs to be given away. It is not making you smile. If it is one of those thoughts you have had said to you over and over, we are going to have to turn it around to a positive statement and write it down. I do not want you to even write down the negative thought to put in your box. Just write “NT” on a piece of paper and put into a box I am calling Pandora’s Box.

This box is never to be opened. In fact it needs to be taped closed or locked and throw the key away. I do not want you to write that negative thought down because that just reinforces it. I do want you to turn that negative thought around and say that phrase seven times. I know this seems like something you can’t do but you can. Put a Post-It note up to help remind you. These negative thoughts may be ricocheting in your head constantly. Today it could flash in your thoughts 500 times but tomorrow may only be 499. Eventually you will gain control over them. You can do this.

Just yesterday a teenage boy made the comment to me that he was stupid. That never sets well with me. I eventually after an hour of debating got him to admit to me that he just wanted people to think he was stupid. I told him he was not a very good bluffer and I could see right through him. I think he was in shock. This is one of those phrases that has to be turned around. “I am a very intelligent person and I can do whatever I set my mind to do!” You can even take the negative words someone else says to you and reverse their effect on you. I think it is best for you to write these down on a piece of paper seven times. These positive phrases can go into a section of your put away box (Happiness File or whatever you call it)! These are the parts of yourself that you chose to keep and you are working on. These are the positive affirmations that build you up instead of tearing you down.

When you are FLYing you will only want to surround yourself with happy things. This is why I have a personal mission statement; To find joy in everything I do! If a time comes when there is no joy in something I am doing; that thing will be decluttered from my life. This is when the Serenity Prayer helps me. There are some things in our lives that we have no control over and the only thing we can control is how we react to that item. There are tough decisions out there. I have made many in my life and each one has got me to where I am today. I would not change a thing in my life. Each had to be lived through even the bad things.  I will leave you with a Bible verse that has been the God Breeze for this essay.

Isaiah 43:1-2

1 But now, thus says the Lord who created you, O Jacob and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.

2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.

The other day I turned this passage into a card for a dear friend of mine. I found a lovely heart and put the words into the middle of it. She has put it on her desk.

We can do this! We have the tools! A Give-Away Box, A Put-Away Box and A Throw-Away box!


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