Secrets to Eliminating Emotional Clutter

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Are you plagued by clutter in your personal or professional life? Is there someone in your family or your work who is? Based on my experience, the answer is probably "Yes!"

As a professional organizing consultant for more than 20 years, I have discovered that eight out of ten people are bogged down in life with physical clutter somewhere in their lives. Ironically, most of them suffer in silence. In many cases, you would never know it just by seeing them, or even working with them, because they are frequently some of the smartest and most successful people in the world. In far more cases than most people believe, the clutter actually drives them to do or not to do the very things they want most or want not to do. In some cases, it causes emotional paralysis, even mental illness. The only thing stronger that their desire to get of the clutter is their desire to hang on to it, and a vicious cycle results.

My consulting business has been built on the concept "Clutter is Postponed Decisions?." In the beginning, I was referring to the physical clutter that plagues so many people in our increasingly materialist society. When I began to explore this issue, it became evident that the physical clutter was an outgrowth of another kind of clutter: emotional clutter ? internal beliefs that control our behavior and our results.

If I just get organized, I will be able to do it all. I, or someone else I know, might need it someday If I keep it long enough, I can justify the fact that I bought it. I can't get rid of it because someone else gave it to me.

You can keep everything you want if you are willing to pay the price: time, space, money, and energy.

It suddenly occurred to me that decision-making about our emotional environment is just as important as decision-making about our physical environment. Deciding what thoughts to keep determine whether we just "keep on keeping on" or learn from our experiences, move on to even better things, and help others to learn by our example.

I once interviewed an extremely talented and prolific painter in her home studio. It was filled with beautiful paintings. "Do you ever like something you create so much that you can't let go of it," I asked. "On, no," she immediately responded. "I have to. Otherwise nothing new would come."

? Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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