Clearing the Clutter

For the last several weeks, I’ve worked on cleaning out drawers and closets. I’m a little surprised and embarrassed to admit some of the items I parted with have been around for 25-30 years! How does that happen?

Clutter accumulation occurs not only with things, but also with thoughts, perspectives, and emotional wounds. And like overflowing closets, it’s sometimes easier to sidestep than take the time to access and decide to take action.

Following are some thoughts on clearing the clutter:

The Cumulative Effect

My father had a straightforward, practical saying about clutter: “If you’re going to haul stuff in, you’ve got to haul stuff out.” My mother’s approach was different, an unexpressed mindset of let’s keep everything.

When I cleaned out my parents’ house after their deaths, it was obvious my mother’s philosophy won. Sixty years in the same house equals an accumulation of massive amounts of things. Granted, not all clutter, but lots of sorting and mental processes in deciding what goes, what stays, and where to put what remains.

While you may not totally realize it, events, hurts, disappointments, and heartaches have a cumulative effect on your life as well. They combine to change perspectives, alter decisions, and slow forward motion. And unlike donating closet clutter, mind and heart clutter help no one. That’s why it’s important to deal with mental and emotional clutter before the task becomes too gargantuan to tackle. It’s tough, as gut-wrenching as the nostalgia of sorting and disposing of the contents of a childhood home, but necessary to moving forward.

The Time Element

Time is always a factor in any type of decluttering whether mental, emotional, or “possessional.” Demands on our time are many and jockey for a position of prominence. The only way to give decluttering priority is to force it to the top of the time-demands list. It’s much easier to rationalize some other task is of greater urgency, but clearing mind and heart clutter is important to propelling forward motion.

The Process

It’s interesting how, after hauling out ten large bags of closet contents, my closet still looks cluttered. While rearranging will help, getting to the point I hoped for will probably require another round of closet purging. And therein lies the problem. I remember what I wore on various occasions, significant events in my life, or the lives of family members. Disengaging nostalgia and emotions from those items of clothing, and parting with them, feels a little like deleting memories or diminishing their importance.

Cleaning out mental and emotional clutter is similar. One sweep of mind and heart debris likely won’t be enough because decluttering is a slow process. You have to untangle hurts, rearrange them, admit your misperceptions or the role you played in misunderstandings, decide to forgive, and then move on.

The Shifting Importance

Over time, various elements in our lives are fluid, changing in level of priority. Relationships, areas of focus, and possessions that once held great importance shift with circumstances, maturity, and wisdom. By taking the time to re-assess, re-prioritize, and let go, you free yourself of clutter that may be holding you back in multiple areas of your life.

The Promise of Something New

Despite the time element and difficulty of decluttering, there is something infinitely refreshing about having done it. Decluttering makes room for something new—creative ideas, different perspectives, and a fresh approach. Old entanglements are swept away and replaced with bright tomorrows, unencumbered by baggage of the past.

While there is always an element of uncertainty in letting go of the familiar and embracing something new, the promise of possibilities outweighs fears and propels you forward with confidence.

“Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.” Isaiah 43:18-19 GNT


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including:,,,,, Focus on the Family,,, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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