Several years ago, I never missed an episode of Clean House starring comedienne Niecy Nash. Ms. Nash helped homeowners recognize the benefit of parting with excess and useless possessions. She endowed them with a modern, efficient, and attractive living space which more closely reflected their personalities and lifestyles.
As counselors, we have similar roles in our clients’ lives. We facilitate their examination and assessment of thoughts, relationships, emotions, and actions which contribute negatively to their growth. Consequently, healing can begin when toxic issues are replaced by healthier lifestyles, nurturing support systems, and a more resourceful, positive sense of self.
But what happens when we are the ones who need to take stock of our lives? What if our workload is too demanding or our dance card is too full? Are we ready and willing to offload some of our activities to enjoy a more balanced lifestyle? That was my reality as I prepared to return to the classroom in just over two weeks. I realized that it was time to apply a Clean House intervention and rid myself of excess and useless activities that I had accumulated.
Letting go is not easy, especially when the relationship seems to be both harmless and enjoyable. The tendency is to hold on and try to make it work. This is akin to hoarding. The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) introduces hoarding as a distinct disorder. While hoarding usually refers to objects, if we were to focus on the “distress” factor, we may see similarities in a lifestyle that keeps us tired, under-performing, and unbalanced.
How do we determine which activities we wish to continue or suspend? In my case, I asked the question, is it purposeful? Does this activity contribute in a meaningful way to my lifestyle or goals? Can I allocate the time I spend on it to something more important or necessary? I tried to respond objectively to determine what I would keep and what I would let go, and although in some cases it was heart-wrenching to release an activity, I realized that it was necessary.
When I finally decided what should be eliminated, it was liberating, and I experienced a discharge of tension that I had not previously felt. This reflected Eckhart Tolle’s statement that “sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” I can now look forward to enjoying a sense of balance as I allocate my time to meaningful and purposeful projects, and focus on excellence in fewer goals, rather than mediocrity in many.