Most of us are aware that a clean and clutter-free living space can do wonders for our emotional well-being. Still, it can be hard to actually clear out the junk.
And now that I’m two years into my sobriety, among the many things I’ve learned is that a lot of the internal chaos we feel finds a way to reflect itself in our external environment. This realization served as a signal that I needed to pay close attention to something much deeper.
In November of last year, it became impossible for me to ignore the feeling I had of being owned by my stuff—I began to see that I was using my accumulation of clothing, trinkets, stationary and other material things as a crutch. For the first time as a sober adult, I saw just how much stuff I had—and the anxiety it was giving me. When I took note of the excess in my attic—the rows and piles of unread books, the items purchased based on ‘potential’, and even more of it waiting in the wings for the ‘right’ occasion—I finally realized that they served no purpose aside from feeding the emotional attachment I had to them.
I knew that something had to change, and on this day, I embarked on what I call my ‘Journey of Less’—a commitment to intentional living and mindfulness in all areas of my life, my belongings being no exception.
It took me six consecutive hours to carefully sift through everything in my possession. I knew that this had to be a brutal process, so I only had 3 piles: keep, donate, trash—I didn’t give myself the option of ‘maybe.’ And in releasing what I no longer needed, I started the process of letting go of an identity I had created before sobriety. I had to let go of the aspect of myself that felt the need to own everything.
I started the process of letting go of an identity I had created before sobriety. I had to let go of the aspect of myself that felt the need to own everything.
Purging my tiny one-bedroom house of all 7 ginormous bin-bags has not only given me literal space to enjoy what I already have, but it’s done wonders for my mental health and overall well-being. But it’s been especially rewarding for my recovery. Here’s how, exactly:
1. I’m less anxious and stressed
I no longer feel tied down or overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff I own. I no longer feel guilty for being surrounded by so many costly things I hardly ever (read: never) use. The unworn and disregarded items around me were a daily reminder that I could have spent that money on more fulfilling experiences, which did nothing but keep me in a constant state of stress.
No longer feeling the negative overwhelm means I can finally see my home as a sanctuary, somewhere I can sit comfortably and do the things that bring me calm—be it journaling or meditation.
2. I gave up false beliefs
In letting go of the physical items that had started to overwhelm me, I gave up the idea that the more things I have, the happier I’ll be—and the less I have, the emptier my life is. In the last year of my active alcoholism, I bought a lot of pricey items and knick-knacks to fill the ever-expanding void within me and give myself a temporary jolt of gratification. That never really worked, of course.
Two years later, even though I knew that nothing, not alcohol, or stuff would fill that void, I found myself still holding on to these things under the guise of sentimentality. It was so important for me to wade through the initial discomfort of letting go of these things, because now I know firsthand that less is not lack.
3. I finally feel at home, at home
Decluttering my space and making the commitment to show it the love and respect it deserves makes me feel more connected to the idea of home—instead of just seeing my house as a place to store my things and sleep.
This shift in perspective inspires me to begin redefining what home means to me and what it looks like. I finally have the mental clarity to understand that for me, “home” is comfortable, it’s welcoming, it’s spacious—and it’s not filled to the brim with things I don’t use or dislike.
4. I said goodbye to the symbols of my past drinking identity
I got rid of my party clothes and at the same time bid farewell to a part of me that caused so much chaos. As someone who bore the Party Girl title fiercely and proudly, this was a big step for me. Although I hadn’t worn the thigh high boots, sparkly shorts, and sequin bralettes since getting sober, I was keeping them ‘just in case’ I’d feel the urge to wear them again. This never happened.
I realize now that I just didn’t want to accept that I didn’t enjoy clubbing and socializing in that way anymore. But by noticing this unhealthy attachment, I was then able to say goodbye to the remaining parts of my drinking identity. Letting go of those items also means I don’t have to deal with constant reminders of a life once lived, a life I have no intention of returning to.
5. I chose myself
When I decided that I was never going to drink again, what I was doing was choosing myself. This decluttering process is an extension of that. Through all of it, I felt as though I was finally speaking up for myself after being silenced for so many years.
Being intentional about the possessions that I keep and allowing myself to let go of what no longer serves me reminds me of the power that lies in choosing myself. Being in my new, peaceful, uncluttered space connects me to that power.
Decluttering your space isn’t just a physical act—it can be a spiritual experience, too. And the goodness can trickle into other aspects of our lives. It’s given me the focus to make clearer goals, form intentional, non-toxic relationships, financial stability (because I’m no longer buying things to fill a void), and the added benefit of a finally feeling at peace in my own home.