I had been meaning to declutter our apartment for a while now but even the thought of it was too overwhelming. I kept putting it off until my wife and I started to feel “off”. Something wasn’t right. We were feeling low on energy all the time, and our 11 month old son was not the cause (at least not the whole cause). We decided that the clutter, or at least the sense of clutter, in our home was putting a drag on our minds and blocking vital energy from its natural flow.
Just to clarify, our home is no pig sty and neither of us have any sort of hoarding disorder. We don’t store old newspapers in a huge pile (like an old roommate of mine used to do), I promptly bin (recycle!) the random junk mail and catalogs we get daily, and there are no file cabinets or junk piles to be found. But, clutter has a way of creeping up on you if you drop your guard, and I guess we were guilty of doing just that. Now it was our turn to fight back.
I started by clearing my desk, which immediately made working a lot easier. I got rid of stuff that I didn’t need or would never actually use. Then I rearranged a few pieces of furniture, a move which turned out to give the apartment a larger, more open, and neater look (and much more baby safe). It only took me a couple of hours, but what a change. My wife didn’t recognize the place. We both felt a lot happier and energized. We could actually think again!
It’s no coincidence that my decluttering endeavor corresponded with the period of time preceding the holiday of Passover. The Hebrew month of Nisan, which begins two weeks before Passover represents rebirth and redemption, and therefore always falls at the beginning of spring. Before we can be fully reborn and redeemed, Judaism commands us to get rid of all of our chometz, or leavened products. One way of viewing this divinely mandated search and destroy mission is like a massive decluttering project. We’re so weighed down with the physical and emotional baggage we accumulate throughout the year that we actually become blocked. We get lethargic, apathetic, nervous, anxious, stubborn, and irritable, capable of snapping at any moment. We’re in no condition to be able to accept redemption.
Only when we free ourselves from all the stuff bogging us down and holding us back can we be spiritually and emotionally reborn and redeemed. Our physical actions and surroundings effect our spiritual and emotional well-being, so a good place to start is by getting our physical stuff in order. You don’t have to do everything at once. Don’t. You’ll get overwhelmed and give up. Take baby steps.
Here are some areas to work on:
Declutter your house, and I don’t just mean trash. Every inch of empty furniture surface shouldn’t be covered with photos, nicknacks, and chachkas. Read up on the principles of Fung Shui. Create some space. Not only will your home look nicer, your head will be clearer too.
Clear that desk already. Get rid of the papers you don’t need, file away the ones that you will at some point, and give yourself some room to produce.
Get your desktop in order so you can find what you need and not get overwhelmed when you look at your screen. That’s what folders are for. Use them.
If you’ve got more than 25 unread emails, you need to start opening and/or deleting.
Go through your closet. If you haven’t worn something in a year or two, you probably never will. Get rid of it. Give it to charity. If it’s worn out or has holes, throw it out. It will feel liberating and make you feel good. It’ll also give you room to buy new stuff!
If you’ve got a list of people you’re deliberating whether to go out with or not, it’s time to decide. Indecisiveness is debilitating. It’s also annoying and potentially rude. Get on with your life.
If you’re in a dead end relationship that you’re sure isn’t going anywhere and you’re just procrastinating the inevitable, it’s time to cut the cord and get on with life. You’ll be doing the other person a huge favor, even if it might hurt at the beginning.
If you’re in a satisfying relationship (including marriage) but have been stewing on one or more things that you feel your partner has done to hurt or anger you, either get over it or bring it out into the open and discuss it with your partner. The longer you keep it inside, the more powerful it will get and the more damage it will cause. One of the commandments in the Torah is, “Do not hate your brother in your heart.” It’s a good one to follow.
Declutter your life ASAP. You’ll feel happier, freer, and energized.