How to Know When to Throw Something Away
Healer and counselor Peggy Fitzsimmons, who has been helping people clear junk out of their life for fifteen years, suggests decluttering isn’t ultimately about making space—it’s a spiritual pursuit all on its own.
Fitzsimmons’s new book, Release: Create a Clutter Free and Soul Driven Life, is a guide to letting stuff go, whether that’s physical belongings, mental and emotional buildup, stagnant energy, or sour relationships. By inspecting each area of our lives and making decisions about what stays and what goes, Fitzsimmons says, we can rediscover what’s most true to us. The excerpt below, from chapter five of Release, offers seven questions to ask ourselves to determine whether something is worth holding on to.
The questions below are the roadmap for your decluttering journey. Ask them about everything in your life and listen very closely to the answers. If you follow this map, the things in your life that are in alignment with your soul, and the things that aren’t, will begin to reveal themselves. And you’ll be on the road to freedom.
Does it contribute to my soul intention?
Does this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession contribute to your soul intention? For example, does it help you feel spacious, or live with ease and efficiency, or feel light, bright, relaxed and engaged? This question cuts directly to what’s essential. It’s really the only question you need to declutter. A no answer to this question indicates it’s time to let something go. Easy enough, but your ego mind will make it complicated. It will examine and refute and fret and fuss. It will do its best to keep you holding onto things that don’t contribute to your soul intention. The rest of the questions will help you make decisions that support your soul’s knowing.
Is it beautiful?
Is this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession beautiful? This is simple enough, but one caveat here. You may be able to say, “Yes, that is a beautiful abstract painting,” but if you prefer realist paintings, it would be a candidate for release. As would anything else that isn’t in alignment with your soul’s preference for beauty. If it isn’t beautiful to you, let it go.
Is it useful?
Is this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession useful? You’re looking for the things that contribute to your effectiveness in life and empower you to do the things your soul wants to do. This question seems self-explanatory, but be aware when answering. You may say, “Well, this belief that I need everyone’s approval has helped me stay safe in my life, so yes, it is useful,” but the truth is it keeps you from living life your way. Or you may say, “Yes, these ski poles are very useful,” but the truth is you stopped skiing years ago. Be clear that whatever it is, it’s truly useful to live your soul’s intention now. If it’s not useful to you, let it go.
Does it love me back?
Does this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession love you back? The things you love and that love you back make your heart sing. They feel good. In their presence, your energy lights up and you say, “Oh, I LOVE that!”
Get curious if the things in your life evoke that kind of feeling. Or are they more like the vase your ex-husband’s parents gave you: the ugly yellow one with the little red hummingbirds that makes you cringe each time you see it? Or the feeling of shame that comes over you when you compare your body to the airbrushed models in the magazines? Or your frustration when the random stuff jammed in the hall closet falls every time you take out the vacuum? These are examples of things that don’t love you back. They hit you with an energy current that isn’t true to you. It’s not wise to subject yourself to that repeatedly. If it doesn’t love you back, let it go.
Is it in present time?
Is this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession in present time? Most of us don’t live in present time. We either locate in past time, which is the land of memories, outdated beliefs, or charged emotions from other times and places; or in future time, which is the land of fear and planning. If you hang out in past time, you’ll notice yourself thinking and talking a lot about the days of yore. You might glorify old relationships, or lament how you used to be a size six, or repeatedly tell stories of the trials and tribulations of your life. You’ll have skinny clothes in your closet, a file cabinet that barely opens, and regret that you didn’t say yes to that job offer five years ago. You’ll feel guilty or sad or angry more often than you care to admit.
If you hang out in future time, you’ll find yourself focusing on what might happen. You’ll plan ahead to the point of missing the moment or be hypervigilant about everything so you can manage any impending disasters. You’ll helicopter everyone in your life and pride yourself on anticipating “their” needs. You’ll have fat clothes in your closet, an overabundance of worry, and lots of brown grocery bags stuffed in the space between the refrigerator and kitchen cabinet. You’ll be prepared for any eventuality, and hear yourself saying things like “I have to keep this, just in case,” or “I might need that someday,” or “What if …?”
Remember, the ego does its best to keep us in past and future time. But our soul is at home in present time, dancing with life as it is, moment by moment. When we live in present time, our physical environments reflect who we are now, and what our life is now. We’re willing to experience moments as they come, without rushing ahead or holding on. We trust that everything we truly need comes to us in the perfect time and the best way, and that we have, and have always had, the flexibility and capacity to respond to whatever happens in our life. If something is not in present time, let it go.
Does it have a sacred place to live?
Does this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession have a sacred place to live? Think of it this way. Of all the things in this great big world, you’ve chosen this particular thing to filler your inner and outer spaces. The fact that you’ve chosen it automatically makes it sacred. Therefore, you must honor it and appreciate its service to you. You must ensure that it has a sacred place to live. If it is a possession, treat it with respect by keeping it and the place it lives clean and neat. Even if it’s relegated to a drawer or a closet or a cabinet in the garage, be sure it’s easy to see, easy to get to, and easy to find. If it’s a thought, feeling, energy, or relationship you choose to keep, it too should be given a place of honor. It must be visible, accessible, and appreciated. A decluttered soul lives transparently, with everything in its right place. If you can’t find a sacred place for something to live, let it go.
Does it help me serve my love to the world?
Does this thought, feeling, energy, way of relating, or possession help you serve your love to the world? We are here to be of service by sharing our love. Your soul knows the unique ways you are meant to love. You’ve always had a certain way, certain skills, certain gifts, and certain dreams about who you wanted to be and what you wanted to do. When you’re sharing your love with the world, you know it. Your heart is open, alive with intention and purpose. You’re in your natural flow, with nothing damming up the river of your focus and energy. You’re receiving more than you could ever give. If something in your inner or outer spaces doesn’t help you serve your love to the world, it no longer serves you. Let it go.
Excerpted by permission of Waterside Productions.
Peggy Fitzsimmons is a counselor, a healer, and an author focused on intensive decluttering. For twenty-five years, she helped people recovering from mental health issues and addiction in clinical settings and through wilderness therapy. Fitzsimmons has a PhD in counseling psychology from Arizona State University, and she is trained in Hakomi somatic therapy and intuitive energy healing. Her first book is Release: Create a Clutter Free and Soul Driven Life.
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