Wednesday, March 17, 2010

De-Clutter Yourself, It's Spring


I’ve been doing quite a bit of de-cluttering over the past few months in preparation for my down-sizing move from a 4 bedroom suburban family home to a 2 bedroom city condo. Once we moved into the condo two weeks ago, I realized that there was still much to get rid of, and gradually I’ve been paring down even more.

Yes, it’s hard work: it’s physically exhausting.
My muscles hurt from moving heavy boxes. My hands hurt from unwrapping and rewrapping and unpacking and repacking. My back hurts from bending over deep boxes and retrieving items over and over again. Many days, I’ve felt like I was living the movie “Ground Hog Day” with Bill Murray. I got out of bed and dealt with boxes and wrapping paper all day only to collapse at the end of the day exhausted for a not-long-enough nights’ sleep, every day for days on end. I can honestly say it’s been a great experience. I feel lighter, freer. My mind feels clearer, sharper in this simplified more orderly space.

Something I realized many years ago is that hard does not equal bad. Hard is just hard. It is often a matter of perception that determines whether the particular difficult thing is “good” or “bad”. Many of us equate a huge portion of our identity with our belongings. However, holding on to, managing and caring for these things often becomes our lives rather than serving to enhance them. We become captive to the things that captivate us. I know of people who actually polish their grandma’s old silver on a regular basis. They don’t ever actually use Grandma’s silver, but they polish it. They plan to hand it down to their children who, in turn, will be expected to store it and invest time and resources (as well as expose themselves to toxic chemicals) keeping Grandma’s silver polished. And for what? Obligation? Memories? The hope that Grandma will come back and be thrilled with how the silver shines?
I think it is important to regularly examine why we do what we do. Sometimes we just keep doing what we’ve been doing because we think that is what we are supposed to do. Keeping stuff is like that.
Decluttering is hard work. It’s messy. You pull stuff out that’s been stuck away for a long time. For a few days, you might have trouble walking through a particular room you’re working on because everything is out and being sorted. It requires focus. That type of mess is a good mess. It’s a productive mess. It is a step in a process that is important to see through to the other end.

In the holistic health realm, spring is a popular time to detoxify. After months of eating foods that we naturally gravitate to for warmth and comfort during the cold, dark winter months, it is considered to be very beneficial to “declutter” our insides by eating really healthy clean foods, minimally prepared, with no sauces, gravies, or greasy coatings. According to most everything I’ve read, when you go through this type of detox, things will get a little messy. You might have some digestive “issues” as your body adjusts to the cleansing foods. Some people get coughs and colds as their bodies seek to eliminate the “yucky” stuff that has been sitting around stagnating inside of them for the past few months. You feel “bad” before you feel “good”. This too, is a good mess. It, too, is a productive one and also a step in a process that is important to see through to the other end.

I’ve been thinking about the parallels of decluttering and detoxing. As a holistic health counselor, I know that getting healthy will not occur simply because you are trying to do better about what you put on your dinner plate. Our mental, emotional and physical selves are all interconnected. There is no way to separate them. Getting truly healthy in one area requires getting healthy in all three areas. Getting healthy often involves changing patterns. Patterns are set based on ways of doing things for long periods of time. Some of the patterns we’ve set up for caring for ourselves (whether consciously or not) can parallel to the ones we’ve set up for our home environments, as well: we don’t want to deal with our stuff, so we keep it boxed up, stepping around it, watching it grow and grow; crowding out the space that is meant to provide life. We think we don’t have the time to deal with our stuff, so we ignore it; yet find that our stuff controls so much of what we do (or can’t do) that we really become captivated and controlled by it, yet simply think that it’s “just the way I am.” (reread this paragraph, substituting “health issues” for the word “stuff”)

Have you ever faced dinner time with a kitchen that was so cluttered and unorganized that you felt you just could not cook another meal in it so you decide to go out to eat for something quick and inexpensive, to then return home feeling bloated and lethargic lacking the energy or will-power to clean up your kitchen? Following that, you might feel frustrated with yourself for not “doing better”, and spend several sleepless hours in bed wondering why you can’t get it together enough to have a clean kitchen. Morning arrives and you find yourself functioning in a reactionary mode for the rest of the day: the kitchen is a mess, the kids are hungry, leaving you tired, discouraged and wondering how to get out of your rut.

How about exercise? Have you decided that you will join a gym once you lose a few pounds so you don’t feel self-conscious when you go to work out? Or take up running when your knees no longer hurt or your stomach doesn’t jiggle? Or will start swimming when you feel you look “good enough” for your bathing suit? In most cases, you’ll never get there, and since you’re not “an exerciser”, you chose to feed your body the way a “non-exerciser” would since you’re not working toward anything right now, anyway. I’ll try again next week, or next month, or next summer, you say to yourself, as you head to the drive-thru, or grab a cart-full of processed convenience foods (because, who has time to cook, anyway?). Eating poorly and being sedentary leaves you feeling bloated and lethargic. During the day, you might worry from time to time about different aches and pains and cramps; at night you might toss and turn with insomnia or restless leg syndrome or the aches and pains of fibromyalgia. Stress and fatigue causes us to crave sugars and simple carbs, which keep us in the cycle of low energy and poor eating habits.

Getting into a pattern of caring for yourself through physical activity and eating clean, whole, REAL foods can be difficult. It can feel like you are creating more work initially. It can be painful to break the cycle of your cravings and difficult to retrain your will. But it will leave you feeling lighter, freer. Your mind will be clearer and sharper, your emotions more even, in a more orderly body where your energy levels are more consistent and your body’s systems are functioning in an optimal manner.
There is no time like the present to break out of these ruts that many of us find ourselves in. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it gets messy. AND it absolutely IS hard! Remember: HARD does not equal BAD. Spring is a great time for spring cleaning – both inside and out. Many of us know what we should do differently, but for some reason, we just don’t do it. If that’s the case for you, consider hiring a professional to help you hold yourself accountable.

I am available for free initial health consultations no matter where you live! Email me (elly@elementalfit.com) for details or visit my website: www.elementalfit.com.
For help in getting organized and decluttered in the Pittsburgh area, contact my friend Jill Revitsky at Discover Organizing (jill@discoverorganizing.com), and for environmentally-friendly cleaning services check out Kim Shook's www.green-n-squeakyclean.com.

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