The Power of Release: Getting Rid of “Stuff”

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.

5 thoughts on “The Power of Release: Getting Rid of “Stuff”

  1. Glenda — your words here are very powerful. My life has been so packed with things to do I don’t know that I have time to enjoy the depth of my experiences. I am just skimming the surface when I need to stop and go deep, and find my excellence in the few.

  2. thank you for this little gem! After dropping off our youngest for his freshman year @ Loyola, my wife and I were stifling our tears by thinking of the time we’ll have now to dispose of our material dreck, but your piece (and the book on happiness by the Dali Lama that we read aloud on the way back to Boston!) reminded me that this is also time to rid myself of emotional baggage as well! Thanks!

  3. Glenda thank you. I never could quite understand why I was always so drawn to “Clean House”. The act of letting go of years of emotional and physical baggage is oh so necessary, yet difficult. I sometimes would be provoked to tears by the episodes, and I rarely ever cry while watching movies. I understand now……I enjoyed rejoicing the victory of watching them let go.

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