Can you ‘do an Oprah’ and let go of claustrophobic clutter?

davanti clutter“Knowing what you need is more than knowing what you want,” says Oprah Winfrey in an article about clearing her clutter. Big words, big aim – but not making anyone immune to the anxiety that goes with clearing out the clutter of our lives that can keep us stuck.

Even Oprah admits to feeling some anxiety – and wanting to buy back some of her stuff – when dealing with the emotional impact of saying goodbye to some of her most prized possessions. Ultimately, her instincts were that “instead of feeling walled in by stuff, [she] want[ed] to feel surrounded by calm”.

Having a vision for a cleared space is admirable. Many of us want to feel less ‘walled in’ by our clutter, but there can be so much invested in the objects we hold dear – especially if those objects belonged to someone who is no longer in our lives.

Oprah’s point is that our stuff doesn’t have to own us, but it can be so hard to let go. Who’s to say when it’s time to let go of a particular object?

Experience of letting go shows that you more you’re able to release to the world, the more the world is able to release to you. Hold onto the objects that you’ve paid a fortune for, but you have no further need of, and work out what you will get in return. Release objects to people who really need them, instead of hoarding them yourself, surely has to be the opportunity we’ve been given: to bestow on others the gifts that we have been given ourselves.

In Oprah’s words – assuming we’re not wanting for our basic needs – then “less actually is so much more”.

Why everyone needs a ‘Beckham Lego’ moment

Lego and games are more than child's play: they can help calm stress and anxiety

Lego and games are more than child’s play: they can help calm stress and anxiety

Footballer David Beckham’s admission that he plays with Lego to calm him down has received widespread coverage in the press. He finds it ‘therapeutic’ to do complicated builds, and it helps him cope with anxiety. He says it helps calm him down.

Anyone who has watched children playing with building bricks will see the look of concentration on their faces: they won’t be distracted from their creation until it is absolutely finished. They are committed and completely absorbed in what they are doing.

There is a school of thought that proves this kind of mind-absorbing, relaxing activity is not confined to children and ex-footballers.

Happiness experts and positive psychologists say that people can feel more fulfilled when they discover an activity through which they feel ‘flow’. Positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has posted a video on Ted contributing to the body of evidence that happiness comes from “a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work”.

So, how can you achieve flow? I think it can depend on where you were as a child, and what helped you feel free, safe and exuberant. Or it can be an activity where you are so absorbed in the monotony or repetition of it that it makes you forget all your troubles. It uses another part of the brain that isn’t engaged in worrying, thinking or planning.

Examples? Cooking. DIY. Jigsaws. Painting (walls as well as canvases). Board games. Writing. Dancing. Gardening. Flower arranging. Knitting. Stitching. Golfing. Swimming. Reading.

The common denominator? As well as being a switch-off, these activities can be satisfying as well as creative. There can be an exciting and tangible outcome as a result of being in ‘flow’. And for anxiety management, anything that takes the mind off what is troubling you has to be of benefit to how you manage anxious or stressful thoughts and feelings.

What’s your secret pleasure – which you are perhaps not indulging currently – that helps transport you to more creative and fulfilling realms…?