By Ashley Mays
Last December I stood in the kitchen and sliced veggies for dinner at 5:47 pm. At 5:48 pm, I ugly-cried over the squash for absolutely no discernible reason.
It was the weirdest thing. In that moment life was really, really good. My husband and I had just moved across the country a couple of months earlier, fulfilling a long-time dream of mine to live in a warmer climate. I was about to celebrate my birthday with my family. My yard was covered in palm trees instead of snow. But for some crazy reason, it was all I could do to stand there and cry because it felt like my heart was on the cutting board with the zucchini.
After some time to ponder my feelings in the aftermath of the tears, I came to a slightly odd conclusion. I hadn’t been crying in the kitchen because of my circumstances in that moment. I’d been crying because I hadn’t dealt with my emotional clutter months before.
My co-workers in Colorado had been my closest friends for almost seven years, and it was unexpectedly difficult to go from seeing them every day to emailing every so often. But I’d been so grateful for our move that I ignored the sadness and grief I experienced over leaving my job. And, like all the hard stuff in our lives, grief doesn’t disappear if we ignore it.
Back in December my clutter looked like grief. I have clutter that goes by other names as well like past trauma, an unforgiving heart, worry, and betrayal. The list goes on! We’ve all got emotional clutter. Some of it is heavier than the rest, but no matter what it is…it’s gotta go. None of us function as well as we could when we’re suffocating under the weight of unnecessary clutter.
In order to get rid of that stuff, we first have to do a little bit of prayer, reflection, and research. This is a great time to ask God what clutter He’d like us to begin working on. We need to pay attention to our triggers, patterns, and bodies to identify clutter.
What sets you off? What habits run your life? How does your body react when confronted with conflict, embarrassment, or fear? Is there a theme that seems to come up over and over?
Once we’ve picked up on a few pieces of clutter, it’s a good idea to find a wise mentor or counselor to help sort out complex emotions, thoughts, and experiences. When we get stuck in ruts we can’t see the best way to deal with our clutter. Thankfully, there are often people in our lives who are already equipped to help us navigate these tough situations. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of dedicated hours to ask the right questions and talk things through.
In order to get rid of the clutter, we also need to lean into the hard stuff. Difficulty does not automatically mean we need to quit. Difficulty is necessary for growth. When we avoid situations because we’re afraid of the pain we’ll experience when we’re working through it all, it gives our clutter more power than it deserves. A lot of times, the only way to make sure we get rid of our emotional clutter is to push through and experience it even when it’s unpleasant.
Finally, once we’ve done the hard work of identifying and dealing with our emotional clutter, it’s important for us to mindfully pursue restoration. When we put intentional effort into feeding our souls through rest, time spent with Jesus, positive relationships, and other activities which promote healing, we’ll find the impact of our emotional clutter begins to fade.
Of course, we need to remember, just like the clutter around our houses, emotional clutter has a tendency to reappear unless we take care of it often. Even when we feel like we’ve dealt with a certain pile of clutter for good, it may show up again. That’s normal and okay. It just means we have to be vigilant and commit to dealing with our emotional clutter every time we recognize it.
Next time you drag the vacuum out of the closet for a little bit of spring cleaning, think about your emotional clutter too. Is there something there that’s been holding you back for a long time? Seek it out and deal with it while you seek out and deal with the dust bunnies under the couch.
Ashley Mays writes award-winning fiction to inspire young women toward strength, dignity, and laughter. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency. Ashley is unabashedly introverted, a lover of heart-to-heart conversations, and enthusiastic about mentorship. You’re welcome to start a conversation with her on her Facebook profile, her Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or her website. If you’d like to hear from her once every few months, her email newsletter is always open to new subscribers.