This time of year is always a time for reflection for me. We always think that this is the time of year to make changes to improve our lives, but really these can start at any time. We just have to get our mindset right. 2023 has not been the best of years in some ways, and so I was thinking earlier about things that I would like to leave behind at midnight, and not take into 2024. I also thought about what I have left behind in previous years. These are not physical things, necessarily, though, hands up, I did walk away from a relationship one year on this day.
Intentionally eliminating things from our lives makes life more simple. We can enjoy a fresh start without out old ‘clutter’ holding us back, thus making space for new goals and intentions. The physical clutter in our home is not the only thing that can trigger anxiety, or holds us back from having the life that we dream about and know we deserve. I think it is more important to clear the mental and emotional clutter first. The physical clutter is then easier to deal with.
Are you tolerating and finding it hard to let go of a habit or behaviour that is preventing you from having the kind of life that you want? Sometimes it is easy to dwell on mistakes made in the past, and beat ourselves up about them, but we have to forgive ourselves and reset to start to move forward again. We can not have a fresh start otherwise. I remember a quote saying that our past does not define us. I have made loads of mistakes and silly decisions in the past, but I am a different person now. It is never too late to start that change. It is hard to believe that a large period of my life I spent expecting the worst, and thinking that was all I deserved. My mindset is the opposite now.
Ask yourself if you have feelings that hold you back and make you feel trapped or weighed down? Do you feel like there is no alternative? I can remember feeling all of those things, and still do from time to time when I forget to do my self care. The big changes that we make to our lives don’t remain constant unless we continue working on them, and it is easy to neglect ourselves when caring for other people sometimes. According to Eleanor Brown, “Clutter is anything that does not support your best self” , and this can include negative thoughts, behaviours and habits. I have eliminated (or at least reduced) quite a lot of emotional clutter in the past, which is why my life feels so much better than it did 10 or 15 years ago. Here are some examples of things I have decluttered in previous years.
Not feeling good enough It was reiterated to me as a child that I was a disappointment and ‘stupid’, and then reinforced by a partner that I was unlovable, as “even your parents don’t love you.” I was told that I would be nothing without him. In 1993 I decided to leave those feelings behind for good and have not looked back. I had never gone for jobs or promotions due to those feelings, stayed away from relationships, and always put myself down. For years I worked in a shop as I did not think myself clever enough to go to college. I now have a 2 degrees including a masters degree, and eventually became a high manager during my career. Becoming a single parent again, and leaving that relationship, brought out a fire that made me prove that I was good enough. I worked hard on myself to prove to myself that I deserved better.
Guilt. I have felt guilty for lots of things in my life. but holding on to this guilt had a massive impact on my mental health and my ability to progress in my life. Often the things I felt guilty about were out of my control. I had no choice due to circumstances, or I had to choose my own welfare before the feelings of some one else. I always felt like I let people down. It took time to learn to forgive myself and learn from my mistakes. I had to learn that I am not responsible for the decisions that other people make. I had to change my self talk and get rid of the word ‘should’.
Limiting Self beliefs. These are those little voices that nag us and warn us not to do things, but are really just our brain trying to keep us safe and in our comfort zone. I am hearing them a lot at the moment as I make a big scary decision. They were thunderous as I decided whether or not to retire back in 2015, and they could have stopped me making one of the best decisions in my life. In the past these limiting beliefs have held me back from taking chances that would have probably been good for me. I had to learn to acknowledge them, thank them, and then make a decision based on measured outcomes rather than fear.
Toxic relationships. Just because some one has a toxic impact on me, it does not mean that they are a bad person, it just means that being in a relationship with them impacts on my mental health for some reason. This can be for lots of reasons eg. because their values are different to mine, or their behaviour triggers the worst response from me. I had to let a friend go this year, and in previous years I have had to let a relative and partners go. Eliminating people from your life can be painful, especially if you still love them, but it helps you to move forward as often the behaviour of these people drag you backwards, or undermine your self esteem, which in turn keeps you stagnant.
Bitterness. After one particular relationship I was very bitter. I felt that the person had ruined my life, taken my confidence, and ruined me financially. He continued to interfere in my life long after I had left him. I blamed him for everything that was wrong in my life and I was very bitter. That bitterness made me negative and ate away at me on a daily basis. It impacted on my physically health, as well as emotionally. I realised that I had to leave that bitterness behind if I was ever going to have a healthy relationship again. It wasn’t easy to release that pain and take responsibility for my own feelings, and took an awful lot of work on myself. That was the biggest turning point in my life, though, as that was the start of the journey to the person that I am now.
Unhealthy habits connected to stress This is the one that I am going to declutter this year. I want to get a regular bedtime, stop watching as much YouTube, reduce my sugar intake, and drink more water. I can’t change those habits by midnight but I can make an intention to try and leave those unhealthy habits behind in 2023. I know that they are all linked to stress I am feeling about a situation in my life, and so my aim to move forward will be to write a plan on how I am going to reduce that stress. If I don’t change the level of stress that is cluttering up my brain, I will fail at changing the habits, as they are linked.
Do you have emotional clutter? Journaling can help you start to identify it. Your emotional clutter may be different to mine, but we all have some tucked away. The new year is a great time to get rid of feelings and emotions that no longer serve you. As we get nearer to the clock striking midnight, are you wanting to carry that emotional clutter into 2024 or are you going to make a plan to get rid of it this next year? If you have been carrying it for a long time, it is not an easy thing to let go of, but just acknowledging the clutter, and making a plan, will help you feel lighter. Doing the work brings the same positive consequences as decluttering a room. There is more space for new habits, new feelings and there is a feeling of lightness. However, removing emotional clutter does not mean that you will never have those feelings again, but it does mean that you will know how to process them next time so that they do not have the same impact.
Good luck with any decluttering that you do in 2024, and wishing you the best for the new year.