Art by Munkyeong Kim: New York

The Power of Release

By Natalie Shell

Stuff only becomes clutter when it stresses us out.

I don’t always remember my dreams. One thing I do remember, however, is the dreamlike state I experience while in the shower. With the water rushing and my eyes closed, the moment a little thought pops into my head with great fervor, I have no choice but to listen.


Perhaps it’s the water that turns all the other noise off, or the soothing trickle against my back that allows my mind to ease into an uninhibited state.


Last year, in the midst of one such moment, I received the message, ‘release your mental clutter.’


My business partner Tip and I know that our physical spaces have an impact on our mental spaces and vice versa. We believe in the idea that it’s easier to change your space than it is to change your head, and I’ve been practicing and teaching the benefits of decluttering for years. I live lightly and maintain a good handle on the use of my personal space. So when I got the message ‘release your mental clutter’ my answer was, ‘but I don’t have any clutter left.’


The message was relentless. ‘Release your mental clutter’ reverberated in my mind.


It was only after I had left the shower and began walking around my apartment that I realized that I did in fact have ‘clutter,’ and plenty of it. It just wasn’t the kind of clutter you would normally think of.


Hiding in the entrance closet, on a small shelf, were 2 folders, neatly organized and filled with my writing.
Finished but unedited. Inside was the book I had said I would finish writing when I quit my day job two years ago, but had abandoned while I tended to my family, friends and a multitude of other projects.


All around us there is baggage that we’ve closed the door on (or locked in the closet) – leftover internalizations that are so small or so inconspicuous that they go almost unnoticed. These are the problems that are often taking up the most emotional and mental space.


For many of us, when we think of clutter, we think of rooms piled high with junk, wardrobes stuffed-to-the-brim and offices that look more like storage units. Alternatively, we think of uncluttered rooms as minimal and perfectly tidied spaces. However, our perception of messiness and tidiness doesn’t fairly represent clutter. Stuff only becomes clutter when it stresses us out. It’s not about minimalism as a style, but rather, about having items in our spaces that make us feel good rather than anxious.


I’ve visited homes that are happily filled with goodies and trinkets. I’ve also visited homes that feel empty and barren. They may be minimal but they are void of spirit – these spaces can be emotionally cluttered. Physical minimalism does not equate to emotional health.


Little things in our environments can take up big spaces in our heads.


The amazing thing is, we can shift the weight in our heads from feeling bogged down by our junk, to actualizing the creative potential in each piece of lingering clutter. Every folder filled with words has a space in the world outside of the closet, we just need to find it.


To release my mental clutter I had to go to my neat organized little corner, pull out my folder and start dealing with it.


Six months has passed since I found my folder of words, I’ve just released my book The Wedding Virus & Other Snippets – I found a space in the world outside of the closet to free clutter.


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