I saw a promo picture for of those hoarding shows the other day. It showed a woman surrounded by an impossible pile of stuff, trying to look strong, yet you could see the struggle etched upon her face. I did not watch the show, but I gather that she acquired and held onto these items out of fear, that she sees the piles of clothes of objects as some sort of talisman against the evils and discomforts of the world. This may have worked for a while, but eventually, as the stuff accumulated, so did its power. It now has her trapped, stuck, buried under the weight of that which she refused to let go of.
We see these shows or read these stories and wonder how they let it get so bad. Don’t they realize that the accumulations are smothering them? Don’t they know that many of those items are worthless? Don’t they see the freedom that comes from release? No, they don’t. They are wrapped in a security blanket of stuff that tightens around them like a serpent whispering platitudes into fearful ears.
We see these shows or read these stories and proudly declare that it could never happen to us. We would recognize that slippery slope and halt the accumulation before it grew to epic proportions. What we often fail to realize, however, is that we are guilty of the same behavior within our minds. You may not be surrounded by the tangibles of your past, but can you say the same for your thoughts? Do you let old hurts and pains clutter your mind? Are you buried under the weight of days gone by? Do you hold on to these memories and thinking patterns because you are afraid to let them go?
We hold on to our thoughts for the same reasons that hoarders stockpile stuff. They are known. They are comfortable. They fulfill some need within us, either real or imagined. It’s scary releasing those thoughts, those beliefs that hold us back. It almost feels traitorous, as though we are turning the blade upon ourselves. Yet sometimes branches have to be pruned back to let the light in.
If you have allowed your mind to become cluttered with unneeded and unnecessary thoughts, it is time to take out your mental garbage.
Recycle: Take your old patterns and thoughts and change them into something new and useful. If you have trauma or struggle in your past, how can you reframe it into something that can help others? Our brightest gifts often come from our greatest wounds.
Reuse: Repurpose a negative habit into a positive one. If you have negative mantras that echo through your thoughts, reword them into motivational sayings. I have a tendency to respond to challenges with the phrase, “I can’t.” I’ve reworked it into “I always said I couldn’t live without my ex husband and if I can do that, I can do anything!”
Compost: Use the decaying scraps left over from something transient and good, and turn the waste into fuel for new growth. There are often lessons to be learned from the low points of life. Let the sorrow feeds the roots of the young shoots of a new life.
Biofuel: If you feel stuck, turn the negative energy into fuel to power yourself forward. Anger can be a valuable, yet corrosive, fuel here as it has the potential to move you through the roughest of patches. Just be sure to release it once it has done its job.
Donate: Do you have any mental clutter that doesn’t serve you but can help others? Sometimes the best way to be thankful for what we have is to help others. Can you use your voice to help those that can’t speak for themselves or reach out to others that are where you have been?
Trash: Some habits and thought patterns simply need to be discarded. For me, the “what ifs” had to be thrown into the rubbish bin and carried away on the back of a truck, as they simply served no purpose and had no value.
We schedule regular cleaning for our homes. Our minds, which we occupy all of the time, deserve at least the same attention. So take a look around, inventory those thoughts and discard the ones that no longer serve you.
Lisa Arends works as a math teacher and a wellness coach. After using her own sudden divorce four years ago as a catalyst for positive change, she now helps people navigate their own divorces and transform stress into wellness. She loves to lift heavy weights and run long distances, and she is still learning how to meditate. She blogs at Lessons From the End of a Marriage and The Huffington Post.