What Moving Teaches You About Mental and Physical Clutter
I’ve lived around clutter for much of my life growing up. My father was something of a handyman, whose years of working as an electrician instilled in him the habit of never throwing anything out, no matter how obscure or defective.
As a kid, it was normal for me to see chunks of VCR’s laying around and drawers full of capacitors and screws. There was always some unidentifiable chunk of electronic crap dotting my childhood landscape.
In more recent years, his house had become a graveyard for any number of bass amps, old cassette players, cheap power tools, and all manner of other gadgets and trinkets. I only learned the full extent of this upon his passing two months ago, as it has been my brother and I’s task to clean up the place and prepare it for sale.
I admit I have something of a hoarder’s instinct myself. I love to collect memories, and oddities from nature. I am also an artist and an avid writer, so you can understand, I have my fair share of “stuff.”
But nowhere near the magnitude of sheer clutter as my father possessed. Over the past month I have reevaluated my training on the understanding and importance of minimalism and controlling your physical space.
There’s a reason why this is so harped upon in self-mastery traditions, including martial arts, yoga, feng shui, Taoism, and similar paths. Physical clutter is almost always representative of mental clutter. Likewise, physical clutter can influence the mind, leading to confusion and attachments.
An extensive amount of physical clutter in a household is almost always a sign of an unhealthy ego. It screams confusion and attachment.
In every case where I have personally seen clutter of this sort, this was confirmed.
Not only this, but it’s pretty well proven at this point that getting rid of clutter will literally make you happier.
If you don’t understand the link between clutter and your well-being, you need to stick around. What I’m about to explain might change your life.
Origins of Subconscious Stress
The basic idea behind people hoarding junk and keeping stuff around is that they like it or it serves some purpose, usually in reference to an unlikely future event.
The reality is that junk is hoarded out of a combination of fear (feeling the possibility of lack), misplaced desire, misplaced sense of responsibility, and a proclivity toward frugality.
Mostly, however, it is fear. This fear spins numerous “what if” scenarios, that deem junk worthy of keeping because it fills some kind of perceived role.
The problem is, in the vast majority of situations, that role doesn’t exist and will never exist.
You won’t need that seventeenth flat-head screwdriver. You aren’t going to re-read that random magazine from 1991. You aren’t going to unbox and use the “good china” that’s in your attic. You are never going to find a home for 115 screws that are littering the bottom of your tool box. These are all fantasies concocted by your ego to give you a false sense of duty and responsibility.
In other words, it’s attachment.
And what the mind is attached to, it gives energy to.
What most people fail to realize is, when you have thousands of pieces of junk in your home, your subconscious is effectively being pulled in a thousand different directions. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you are running all of those doomsday scenarios on endless loop, feeding your ego. This causes the body to be put in a constant state of stress.
Whether or not you believe you are, every time you look at these objects, your mind is pulled toward them. Every one of them is a distraction.
To make matters worse, we often understand on some level that it is clutter, which also creates subconscious guilt. There’s crap in every home we know we have to get rid of. “Oh I’ll get to cleaning the garage out one of these days.” You wouldn’t feel that impulse if you didn’t believe, on some level, that it needed cleaning.
The truth is, what may seem menial to your conscious mind isn’t always interpreted the same by your subconscious.
For example, you may look at a pile of old used tires in your garage and barely acknowledge them, but in the deeper recesses of your mind, your attention is being pulled toward them, and stress responses are being created.
You have to remember, it is not in our natural state to hoard things. The impulse to surround ourselves with useless junk and objects of the past is all borne out of fear.
The idea of “doing without,” the uncertainty, the attachment we have to physical value. These are all artificial limitations that stunt your mind and act as footholds for the ego to burgeon and get out of control.
Another related aspect to this is the fact that nearly all unchecked egos equate possession of “things” to personal value, meaning the more stuff one owns, the more successful they are. In this manner, physical objects are almost like an “accomplishment counter.” It’s almost like a way of the ego proving to itself that it has “made it.”
As you can see, all of these mental stances are issues that can, if left unchecked, impede mental health and actually hinder your well-being.
This can be seen most obviously in extreme cases like the ones featured in “hoarder” TV shows. These programs make a big show of how these kinds of people are rare, and are extreme.
The reality is that many “normal” people are exhibiting some if not most of the same behaviors. Think about the average person in America and how much useless garbage is stacked in their garages, attics, and basements, and tell me with a straight face that they aren’t hoarding.
We can see that in these “extreme” hoarding cases, the individuals are usually undergoing some kind of full-blown psychosis, and often fall apart or lash out at the mere thought of parting with the objects and throwing them out.
This is because what the ego obsesses over and gives energy (attention) to, it “becomes.”
It is called Quantum Entanglement, and happens all the time with everything around us.
With enough interaction and “existence” in a person’s space, an object and the object’s observer quite literally join on a quantum level. This of course is the precursor to obsession and mental derangement.
The notion that a person might break down because of throwing out some old newspapers or dolls might seem absurd to you and me, but when you understand what is happening behind the scenes, the picture becomes clearer.
These people cultivate an entangled relationship with junk. It becomes a part of them, symbolically, mentally, and on the subatomic.
It is for this reason that “spring cleaning” often makes people feel fantastic. Physical clutter is mental clutter. It is bogging you down on the subatomic level and infecting your mind.
The more junk you have around you, the more objects you are potentially entangled with.
Now, it’s not an issue if you are aware and in control of your mind, and have a healthy “relationship” with a handful of important, useful, or powerful objects.
For example, the relationship between a martial artist and his weapon of choice is said to be one of the strongest possible bonds between human and inanimate object. The two become entangled on the subatomic level to the point where they metaphysically become “one.”
The same would go for objects such as wedding rings, vehicles, computers, etc. Anyone who understands energy relationships has a basic grasp of what happens when you become healthily entangled with something. You get a “feel” for it, how it “behaves,” what it “likes,” etc.
It seems silly to speak of inanimate objects like this, but if you’re a computer person you know exactly what I mean. I bet car people can relate as well.
The point is, a few healthy entanglements are normal and even beneficial. You can be sure entanglements with weapons served our ancestors well, likewise our entanglements with the elements of nature. It’s an instinctual awareness of how energy systems behave, nothing more.
Which brings us to the point at hand, unhealthy entanglements are destroying your life.
Mental Health and Object Entanglement
Once you raise your awareness and actively participate in your own self-mastery, you become acutely aware of how much crap you accumulate. It’s important to do regular vetting of what you own, for your own sake. No good can come of keeping junk around.
While I’m critical of what I keep around, my father had no conception of what actually had value. Cleaning up his house has been an adventure to say the least, and it has revealed several blind spots in my own understanding of the issue since I am also packing my belongings as well.
In some instances I’ve noticed that I hold onto some of the same kinds of things my father did. This kind of behavior gets instilled and can be hard to break. Awareness of it is the first step.
One heartening similarity I noticed is that we both keep keys. I used to have a larger collection but I’ve periodically tossed and lost some.
My father on the other hand had dozens. The sheer amount and variety was staggering.
I knew by the sight of a few of them that they belonged to cars that hadn’t been in our family for decades. Some were of unrecognizable origin and one could only guess how old they were. I spotted a few that had distinct 60s vibes. Some were perhaps even older than that.
There were even a couple ornate, large keys that maybe belonged to furniture or old doors.
Needless to say, 99% of these keys hadn’t been used in over a decade, most of them longer than that.
They were not in any coherent collection, either. Just random keys, mixed in with baggies of screws, at the bottom of drawers, under dressers, in pockets, in jewelry boxes. Tons of useless keys.
Obviously this was a sign of unhealthy attachment. There was no point in owning them, no rhyme or reason as to where they belonged or to what end they served. They were junk in every sense of the word.
Monks and masters don’t teach their students to relinquish worldly possessions for the fun of it. These kinds of things produce all kinds of bizarre behaviors in us, and they occupy far too much space in our already too-crowded minds.
Your mental health is largely dependent on your capacity for awareness. If you are unaware and therefore attached to objects or ideas, your mental health will suffer.
People often wonder where their anxiety or depression comes from. You can ask them and they won’t have an answer for you.
It’s because the origin is the ego. Its problems are your problems. Its fears are your fears.
And the unfortunate truth is, the subconscious mind doesn’t miss a beat. Your eyes, ears, and other sensory organs collect a ton of data every second, but only a tiny fraction of it is acknowledged by the conscious mind. The subconscious however sees it all, and mulls over every little thing.
So while you go throughout the day, your mood and indeed your entire mindset can often be affected simply by what is around you, because your subconscious sees everything and deliberates over it. If there is a large amount of attachment, especially to useless relics of your past, heirlooms of loved ones, and trash, your subconscious will be sabotaging your daily life because of how weighed down it will be with regret, guilt, embarrassment, fear, longing, and anger.
These errant emotions seep into your actual mood and disposition, leaving you wondering why you feel disgruntled for no reason.
Well, it’s because you’re surrounded by distractions and emotional triggers. You’re in a toxic soup of energies and energy catalysts.
Minimalist spaces are the best spaces, because it frees the mind from attachment and distraction.
It’s interesting how you can own a piece of junk that has perceived value, stress over it and fear losing it, but as soon as you make the conscious discision to finally discard it, within days you’re completely free of it, you stop thinking about it, and more often than not, it completely leaves your sphere of relevancy.
This is because its perceived value is an illusion.
In other words, the idea of possessing the object and losing it is what the ego cares about. The object itself has no value or meaning whatsoever.
Your mental health may hinge on what you are surrounded by. If you choose to live among dusty relics and piles of crap, you are merely providing a comfort blanket for a fearful and damaged ego.
Get rid of it all. You’ll be amazed at how lighter you will feel.
Uncluttering Your Life
I did some of my best work and meditation when I lived in an efficiency apartment a decade ago. I spent my free time reading books, meditating for over an hour most days, performing yoga, and writing my heart out. No junk, no TV, no Internet, no distractions.
Since then I’ve been through various stages of minor clutter, only to come to the conclusion that a life with junk is a life I simply don’t want.
Stop holding onto things. Stop keeping tools and books you never read and piles of receipts and tax records around, stop collecting objects that have no power or real value.
I witnessed first hand how my father’s degrading health and quality of life mirrored this sort of mania and an increasing desire to hoard junk and not keep the house arranged properly.
It’s also no coincidence that the more he hoarded and the more his health collapsed, the more conservative he got. That’s another topic entirely, but from what I’ve seen, since fear is often the root of hoarding behavior, it often mirrors conservative thinking patterns as well.
Fearful, ego-based thinking and behavior is all connected.
Understand that to free yourself from the shackles of physical junk, you are also freeing yourself from the chains of mental junk as well. They are reflections of one another.
Never underestimate the power of tossing out half of what you own, if it no longer serves a purpose.
Be rigorous in how you clean your personal space. Dust and vacuum often, eliminate molds, try to keep paperwork to a minimum, and don’t put yourself in a complex living situation.
Physical complexity in this manner is just clutter. Which means it’s either a reflection of your current mental state, or has the power to reflect onto your mind in the future.
If you take the time to remove clutter from your life, it will greatly increase your ability to think, create, and enjoy life.