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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 4 months ago

Don't stress — declutter

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Is your ‘stuff’ weighing you down? Follow these practical steps to lighten your load.
by: Kristine Nickel Contributor

Declutter. Downsize. Downshift. The media is full of “D” words of late.

What they all boil down to is the process of reinventing the way that you live. People are tired of all their stuff. And stuff can range from too many pairs of shoes to too many cars to too many fake relationships to too many things to think about and remember and do. It can be endless. And here was the tipping point. Hurricane Irma. That storm made us all examine what was important in our lives. What stuff did we really need?

“People tell me all of the time that they want simplicity in their lives,” says Osprey psychotherapist Gretchen White. “They want time in their life that brings them joy, not more stress. At some point, all of the ‘stuff’ can turn on you and become too much.”

White goes on to say that she heard the same refrain from many of her clients following Irma. “I heard clients say some version of, ‘If this hurricane had come and flattened this house, it would have been a relief.’ That’s really a big statement about how people are tired of our consumer culture that just makes you hungry for more.”

Simplify. A Little Walden Sounds Swell

Who hasn’t longed for a simpler life — to work less, stress less and spend more time with family and friends? Our world — especially this one where we have a “season” of special events, galas, lectures, concerts, theater, preparing to see and be seen — has a double-edged sword. On one side is the allure of engaging in so many interesting and entertaining activities. On the other is the enchantment of drawing inward to pursue more personal passions. Throw work on top of that pile and the going can get tough.

In a survey by the American Psychological Association, more than half of those surveyed reported feeling significantly stressed from work, financial and family obligations. Another study found 54% of workers often use their vacation days not for rest and relaxation, but for running errands and taking care of children and other family members. I recall reading a story about Martha Stewart (pre-prison sentence Martha) that — I’m a bit ashamed to say — inspired me. She ran a multimedia empire, reportedly did her own gardening, decorated for every holiday in her charming vintage home, and got up pre-dawn to groom her cats and bathe her dogs. Oh, yes — she canned vegetables, too.

Martha Stewart Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

So what’s an ex-wannabe Martha Stewart to do, especially with the big holiday season around the corner? Here are some ideas to help you on your own journey to simpler.

1. Slow down

You can’t, despite your best efforts, be in constant motion and be at your best. You need to know when to take your foot off the gas and just rest a little. Surprisingly, slowing down can also mean more gets done.

2. Declutter

Every organizational expert will tell you that physical clutter begets mental clutter. How much do you really need? If you don’t need it or it doesn’t serve a positive purpose, give it up.

3. Limit Choices

Think about it: We have so many choices available to us that often we struggle to make any choice at all. Counter this by purposefully limiting your options at times. Explore the power in limiting choices to those that serve you.

4. Embrace your own version of simple living

Living simpler offers many advantages. It means we are focused on the priorities. Hopefully, we want for less overall. But my version of simpler is not yours. So, work at what feels right. Acquaintances are downsizing from an enormous historic house on St. Armands filled with antiques, artwork and collections of things from their travels around the globe to a nice sized condo. But certainly a lot of those things will not make the trip across town. Contemplating their move, I began the process of thinking about what did and didn’t serve me in my house, room by room. It was a very interesting exercise and one I would recommend as a starting point. And while you’re at it, ponder this: Educator, poet and Zionist pioneer Jessie Sampter once said, “Simplicity is the peak of civilization.”

Kristine Nickel is a marketing communications consultant and former marketing and public relations executive. For more than 30 years, she has relieved her stress by writing features for publications across the country.

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