I LOVED this article on getting rid of mind clutter at Becoming Minimalist. It seems as hard as it might be sometimes to get rid of physical clutter in our lives, it’s even harder to let go of mental clutter. And I’d dare say that it is far more influential to our state of contentment. Simplifying what we choose to keep in our heads goes a long way towards our being satisfied in this exact moment.
We have a tendency (or at least I do) to hang on to negative things from our past and allow them to have far too much influence on who we are in the present. It’s hard to let go of the hurts from an unfaithful ex, an abusive parent, an untrustworthy friend. It’s hard not to fret about all the things that could go wrong in the future, or dreams that might remain unfulfilled. If we really could apply the idea of packing up our mind clutter to move into a small, cozy apartment, would we really want to hold on to hurts, disappointments, dashed dreams, and other negative thoughts from our past? Would we want to bring all those worries, fears, and anxieties about the future?
I like how the article says that it’s OK to choose some of those negative things. Sometimes you just can’t let go of them right away. But choose them knowingly, and don’t be in denial about it. Acknowledge that they’re negative, and eventually you’ll be ready to send them packing. Just remember that the more negative thoughts you allow to take up space in your head, the less room you have for the positive stuff. Carefully consider what deserves the privilege of that prime real estate.
I’d like to add something here. I’m a pretty optimistic person, and I’d say I have a lot of hope for the future. But there is a VERY fine line between having hope for a better future and being constantly dissatisfied with the present because you haven’t reached your ideal future yet. From the time you are born until you die, your life is a work in progress. Don’t be discouraged that you haven’t yet reached the pinnacle of your life. This seems to be a common issue with young adults who want to have the dream house/car/job/family RIGHT NOW that their parents and grandparents had to work for decades to acquire. I think that’s the biggest allure of credit. Borrowed affluence is not the same as owning your stuff. Make sure you work toward your goals with the idea of OWNING what you have, not borrowing. If that means owning less, so be it.
And I know I keep saying this, but it’s so important: try to spend more time dwelling on the positives than on the negatives. Obviously you can’t get rid of every negative thought that might pop into your head, but try not to let it to take up any more time than it takes to chase it out the door. Try to imagine sweeping them out of your head with an old-fashioned straw broom. The longer you let these mental freeloaders hang around, the more they suck the life and happiness out of you. Those negative thoughts are roaches in your kitchen, leeches sucking your blood, whatever makes you most want to eradicate them. Make a conscious decision to think about something more positive instead. And not in an artificial, Pollyanna, “starving-kids-in-Africa-have-it-worse-off-than-you” kind of way. Make it real. Seriously, there ARE people who have it far worse. And chances are, you can even think of moments in your OWN life that have been worse than this bad moment right now. Cling to the idea that it’s going to get better instead of how bad it is.
I too, am a work in progress. But I have noticed how my overall attitude has improved immensely since I’ve started trying to be conscious about the thoughts I dwell on. Those negatives still visit me, sure; I am a bit of a worrywort. But I am getting better and better at chasing those thoughts away and replacing them with something positive. Keep plugging away, and you’ll start to see a definite improvement! And even if you feel you’ve taken a step backward, just move forward from where you are right now. The important thing is that you’re going in the right overall direction. Try to take a step back and see how far you’ve come. Work towards the person that you’d like to be in the future, and your “now” will benefit from it.