Most of us are surrounded by “stuff”, the physical possessions we own. In a recent post I wrote about The Comfort, The Promise and The Hope Of “Things” and suggested that it wasn’t actually our “stuff” that makes us feel happier, but the feelings we think consuming and owning this stuff will give us.
But this is nearly always only satisfies us in the very short term, if it satisfies us at all.
We soon realise it can’t be sustained, however much money we have, however much we buy.
A kind of counter logic takes over where the more we buy – the more we chase this material comfort – the more anxious and empty and unhappy we actually feel. Which is of course the opposite of our original intention!
So is there an alternative? Is there a way to get the kind of feelings we endlessly pursue through purchasing new things in other ways?
I believe there is. We have to go and get unstuffed.
What this means is reducing the clutter and false comfort that possessions give you, and looking more closely at what it is you’re trying to gain and bring into your life by buying these things in the first place.
Getting unstuffed begins in the mind before it begins in the physical world.
There’s no point just throwing out half your possessions if then a week later you wonder what on earth compelled you to do something so rash, and go out and buy even more stuff than you had originally to compensate and try to comfort yourself.
It’s not a simple equation, and it’s not for everyone.
But I believe we can all benefit from simplifying, from taking a little time to focus on what’s really important to us, and how we can bring more of that into our lives.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we can look at what makes us feel unhappy and unfulfilled, and consider the ways to reduce and eliminate these kind of things from our lives.
In an excellent article written by Everett Bogue, he encourages us to focus on the four areas of our lives that are most important.
Now as a someone who enjoys creating in a variety of different media, this seems a little too minimalist at first. I enjoy writing, dancing, and photography mainly, but also to a lesser extent music, graphic design, collage, film making, drawing and more.
The point though is to get focused and enjoy a few carefully chosen experiences, rather than try to do a dozen and never really get into any of them, because we don’t invest enough time, energy and focus.
How much of the time when you are making art are you already planning and plotting another project (or ten!) in your mind in various other media?
How does this compromise what you’re creating in that moment? How much more creative could you be if you eliminated all those other cluttering thoughts and gave your all to this one project here in front of you?
Getting unstuffed in your mind is of course at the core of this, the physical things are an extension.
If your mind was a dusty old loft, what kind of stuff has been up there for months or years and is of absolutely no possible use to you anymore?
What thoughts and beliefs are you holding on to from a former version of yourself that are completely outdated and no longer relevant to the person you are now?
What unfinished creative projects are you holding on to in your mind (and physically) that will never be completed, and only serve to feed feelings of failure or disappointment within you?
Getting unstuffed is about letting go.
Using the loft analogy, think about how useless and inhibiting all that moth eaten old stuff up there is. Once you clear that out, you can make space for a simple, calm, creative space where you’ll create so much more freely and easily without all that clutter. In the wider scope of your life this is just as relevant and valuable.
It won’t happen overnight. But you can start today with a small step.
Here’s a little challenge to help you get going.
Give away one possession that is no longer of any use to you. And, at the same time, identify one negative thought or belief that you hold on to about yourself, and replace it with the positive opposite.
The next step is of course to repeat the process, one item, one thought at a time.
Congratulations, you’re on your way to getting unstuffed…
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