Kill Inner Clutter Before it Kills You

Kill Inner Clutter Before It Kills YouWhile physical clutter is not easy to get rid of, it is easy to identify. When you are ready, you can put it in a box and donate it or sell it. Digital clutter, seemingly invisible is also very evident. You see it when you open your email, jump into iTunes or sort through folders on your desktop.

What about your inner clutter? The emotional baggage? The what ifs and if onlys? The why mes? What can you do about that voice inside your head that never lets you fully move forward.

Let’s face it, stress kills. Stress causes or exacerbates disease. Stress makes us sad and anxious.

One of the greatest causes of stress is inner clutter. It’s hashing through things that have already passed or have yet to happen. The worry and angst that you put yourself through will kill you. If it doesn’t literally kill you, it will kill the person you want to be. The person you deserve to be. The person we deserve to know. The person you are.

The most obvious forms of inner clutter include guilt, regret, judgement, overwhelmedness, bitterness, fear and worry. There are others, but most come back to a form of these. They may be a part of life, but they don’t have to be an ongoing part of life. You can release yourself from this inner clutter.

How to Kill Inner Clutter

Isolate your inner clutter and take responsibility. If you live with daily guilt, ask why? Is there something you can do right now to apologize or fix what you’ve done? If you identify that you haven’t done anything wrong, perhaps guilt is not yours to feel after all. Will a note or call of apology change the past. No, but it can change the present. Accept responsibility for your fear and anxiety and admit that it’s been holding you back. Only then can you begin to work on a solution. If you are angry, sad, scattered or worried for no identifiable reason, accept that too, and ask for help.

You can accept responsibility, even for something you’ve been holding onto for years without the harsh words and critique that you think you deserve. You served your time. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past and revel in the idea that today you will change. Today you will do the right thing. Praise your progress.

When you are short tempered, or angry about something silly, pay attention. There is something behind that needless arguement or harsh word. What is it? It’s tempting to put the blame somewhere else but if you can be aware of your actions, you can begin to take responsibility.

Do it Anyway
Your feelings and emotions can stop you in your tracks. They’ll tell you that you aren’t good enough. They will tell you not to bother. They will tell you that it’s too hard and really scary. So what? Do it anyway. You can quiet your mind with action and purpose.

Let Go
You failed. You disapointed. You hurt someone. You can’t fix it. If that is the case, it’s time to recognize your mistakes and let them go. Holding onto the pain isn’t making anything better. Instead, it’s getting in the way of your lovely life. If you woke up today, you have an incredible opportunity to live a brand new day. Take it. Run with it. Make the very most of it.

We are a society of multi-taskers, but we can only really think one thought at a time. Find something you are amazingly interested in. Learn a new skill. Make new friends. Help people. Jump in and give it your energy and focus. Dismiss your past transgressions, not through denial but through purposeful attention to something meaningful. When you are thoughtfully engaged in something that matters, you don’t have time to judge and assume. You won’t have the energy to torment yourself for the things you did or didn’t do.

It’s time to stop thinking you can make up for what you did wrong by punishing yourself. It’s time to stop punishing others for what you think they might have done wrong. They are punishing themselves. Don’t ignore bad behavior. Don’t forget misguided actions but forgive them, let them go, and start living. If you need help, seek it.

You don’t need to be reminded that this life is a short one. It is short, but it is also glorious, lovely, deep and moving.

So go on, move and be moved.



  1. says

    Courtney, nice post. I like when I read something and never looked at it that way. Stress, inner turmoil, etc., is nothing more than clutter, but internalized. What a novel way of looking at it. Thank you.

  2. says

    Very nice. One thing that’s funny about inner clutter is the solution to it is the opposite of how you solve physical clutter. With physical clutter you take notice of something something and physically take action to put it out of your environment. With inner clutter it’s more like you’ve succeeded in eliminating it when you do NOT notice it and when you no longer feel a need to move it out of your environment. You just accept that it’s there (in the past) and stop worrying about it.

  3. says

    This is such a great post. It takes so much mental energy to hold onto things. Even things that we wish to forget – because instead of dealing with them, we try to avoid them, and constantly pushing unwanted thoughts and feelings back takes energy. Much better to acknowledge those feelings, and then move on. Yes, it’s hard, but once it’s done it’s done. Things that we are actively trying to avoid have power over us. Things that we have dealt with and laid to rest, don’t.

  4. says

    What a great post! I need to constantly remind myself of this. I’m so great at holding onto things and not forgiving myself. I haven’t buried my past ‘sins’ yet. Anytime things happen in the present that are upsetting, I find a way to connect them with my past big mistakes.
    I’m trying hard to Let Go, through meditation and lots of talking to myself, reading such things as you’ve written and just lots of inner work.
    Thank you for your wonderful postings. They are so right on.

  5. Luce says

    Thanks for this Courtney! I should write on the wall of my bedroom “Luce, please let go!” For years I have never let go anything and never dismissed a single trasgression…it is time to stop poisoning my lovely life, isn’t it???

  6. says

    You nailed it Courtney.

    Stress, and generally most bad feelings are inner clutter.

    I sometimes catch myself not feeling well. In those cases I try to understand why, and then try some more (I get to the root cause after 2-3 whys), and only then I can let go of the inner clutter. Phew! :)

  7. says

    So glad you are addressing inner clutter! This is a huge item to address. It might be of interest to you to check out my blog post on “Decluttering Your Love” Would so appreciate your feedback!
    Thanks Courtney!

  8. says

    The gentleness one really resonated with me, especially “praise your progress”. It’s so easy to focus on what we havent achieved rather than what we have. I’m learning to celebrate getting things done or the small wins rather than always looking at the mountain of things left to do. That mountain will always be there, but its so much less stressful looking back at how far you’ve climbed rather than the peaks yet to be conquered.

    Great post, I never thought of clutter as being internal but I completely agree!

  9. says

    I’ve been alllll about the self-punishment for things that happened in my past. Things I did wrong, things I didn’t change but could have, things I said, things I didn’t say.

    It’s only been the last 12 months where I’ve really put time and effort into understanding the physical toll this punishment and living in the past has been taking. And let me tell you, the toll has been enormous.

    Through a lot of therapy and work I’ve learned how to let go, and I cannot tell you how alive it makes me feel.

    In fact, I think, for me, the process of physically simplifying, decluttering and minimising started because I saw the benefit of living in the present, rather than wallowing in the past, telling myself I wasn’t worthy.

    Now, I relish the wonderful life I have and I do things that I only ever dreamed of a year ago. I love my role as a mum and wife, I write every day, I’ve thrown myself into running and people are constantly telling me I look “lighter”.

    Which is exactly how I feel – lighter. Because the weight of my internal clutter is gone. Not to return.

    • says

      Wow Brooke – that’s a powerful comment right there. As someone who has burnt out from exhaustion at work and wrestled with “inner clutter” all my life, I find that really inspiring. I’m working really hard on living in the moment – Carpe Diem! – but it’s not as easy as I would like to let go of the baggage. Congrats on your achievement!

      • says

        Thanks, Buzz. It’s a long road, but absolutely worth the journey.

        If there was a phrase that could sum up the past three years of my life, it would be “burnt out”. So I hear you, completely!

        It is really hard, but the fact is you’re aware and actively changing. Don’t lose heart, as you’ve probably changed for the better so much more than you even know.

        And if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: “Don’t be so hard on yourself”! :)

  10. Sharon says

    Great post! I wonder if there is a link between inner clutter and physical clutter? Is our physical clutter a reflection of the inner? Physical clutter certainly is a distraction, I find it hard to deal with the inner stuff if I’m drowning in mess… do we put off dealing with our physical clutter because we don’t want to deal with what’s inside … not sure, but it is something to think about.

  11. Rebecca says

    This post really spoke to me this morning…I’ve been working on getting rid of physical and emotional clutter for a long time, and have actually been making good progress lately. Thank you for putting into words exactly what I needed today.

  12. says

    Thank you. I couldn’t read through this whole post in one sitting. It wasn’t too long or too hard to handle it was too hard to resist.
    “Do it anyway” stopped me in my tracks. I got up and started working on a little project I had been debating with myself about starting. The paint is drying and I came back to finish reading. Thanks again.

  13. says

    Thank you. I couldn’t read through this whole post in one sitting.
    It wasn’t too long or too hard to handle it was too hard to resist. “Do it anyway” stopped me in my tracks.
    I got up and started working on a little project I had been debating with myself about starting. Taking my ideas out of my head and giving them a life of their own. The paint is drying and I came back to finish reading. Thanks again.

  14. Karen says

    Very profound – I recommend meditation as another possible way to deal with ‘inner clutter’.

  15. says

    Great post. It’s amazing how much our baggage can hold us back. It can be hard to take the time to really stop and wrestle with our inner demons for a couple reasons.

    1. It’s not pleasant. It can be easier to avoid and bury our issues than confront them. But the consequences of not addressing our inner clutter are very real (as you describe)

    2. We don’t have time. In our go, go, go culture of constantly rushing around from one thing to the next it can be hard to find time to stop for thoughtful reflection/meditation. Another benefit to simple living/slowing down — giving us the space for self improvement.

  16. says

    I read an article in January that discussed resolution “not” to do things. It lined up with the decision I made in December as I addressed my Christmas cards and came across the names of family from whom, for many reasons, we’re estranged. I decided I would no longer participate in the hostilities, even tacitly. It made me feel terrible to ignore these people just because they dictated that we’re at war…right then and there, I addressed the envelopes, wrote out friendly cards, and put in the picture of my children into each and every one of them. It felt so good to truly, completely, live by my values, not theirs. It felt so right do send those cards and I will do it every year, even if I never hear from any of them. Why? Because I want ot be that person…it is just that simple.