The Mindful Path: Independence from Clutter
By Marilyn Halpern, LSW, ACSW ~
“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau
Independence Day offers an opportunity to reflect on how clutter is impacting our lives. Clutter in our homes can cause an increase in cognitive overload and can reduce our working memory. For good reason, home organizer, Teri Watson encourages her clients to “resist the tyranny of clutter.”
National Simplicity Day was founded to honor Henry David Thoreau, who was born on July 12, 1817. Thoreau was an author, naturalist and philosopher who advocated for a life of meaning, purpose and simplicity.
A home “clear and clean” can foster increased productivity, better sleep, decreased anxiety and improved overall health. Clutter, both physical and mental, can impede our life purpose and flow – both our ability to think clearly and move safely. As a society we are shifting our view of possessions. A 2014 Harris Poll found 78 percent of millennials and 59 percent of baby boomers would rather pay for an experience or event rather than purchase material goods.
Brooks Palmer, mindfulness practitioner, encourages individuals to begin the process of removing possessions that no longer bring joy or meaning to their lives. Many homes are crowded with items that have outlived their purpose. The mindfulness task for July is to actively begin sorting, purging and organizing possessions to move toward a home that is “clear and clean.” Research suggests decluttering is one of the healthiest tasks we can do for brain health and stress relief.
Dovetailing with National Simplicity Day is National Give Something Away Day on July 15. We can begin liberating ourselves from being bogged down with too much stuff. To get started, organize boxes or bags with labels for ease of sorting items: recycle, shred, trash, donate, gifts and items to sell. This system makes it easy to get rid of items quickly and efficiently.
Begin this process at a time during the day when you have the most energy and patience. As a starting point, you can gather household items, clothing and books to donate at your local ARC Thrift Store Donation Center. Collecting one box of items is a great start. Confidential papers, documents and mail can be securely shredded at any office supply store. Newspaper, junk mail and cardboard can be recycled. Expired and discontinued medication can safely be disposed of at drop boxes located throughout Colorado (https://takemedsseriously.org/safe-disposal/). Electronic equipment and computers can be sold or recycled (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/ewaste). When working through this process, be sure to take breaks to grab healthy food, snacks and something to drink. If assistance is needed, have a family member or friend help out. For many people, this is a process that may take weeks. Getting started is vitally important.
By clearing the clutter from our homes, we can become more intentional about our purpose, relationships and personal joy. Decluttering allows us to direct our attention and time to what matters to us most. Independence from clutter can be achieved one box at a time.
Marilyn Halpern is a medical power of attorney, care manager and professional guardian in the Denver Metro area. For more information www.aspencareservices.com.