Dig out from under your clutter

It's nearly spring — the traditional season of taxes, renewal and cleaning up your living space. If you really want to make a dent this year, author and inspirational speaker Barry Dennis suggests getting rid of the "chotchky" — a term from his book "The Chotchky Challenge," referring to all the things you acquire, yet don't really need. Dennis — who uses a phonetic spelling of the Yiddish word "tchotchke" — said we need to change our way of thinking in order to let go of our excess.

"Our society tells us we need more to be happy," Dennis said. "We're so blessed it's become a burden. Excess literally is a drug. We get high on it. We buy something, we are excited for about a day or two, and then we need another fix."

It was after Dennis lost his temper with his kids that he realized it was time to remove the excess in his family's lives, which included everything from toiletries to video games.

"It started in the shower—I wanted to wash my hair, and there were so many shampoos to choose from that I got stressed. I wanted to brush my teeth and there were four toothbrushes, and this went on and on. I went to eat a bowl of cereal. We had eight different boxes. Are you kidding me? Who needs eight cereals? My son was playing video games and I couldn't get him to put the games down so we could leave.

"So when I dropped my son off to school and I was late for an appointment, I yelled and I felt awful," he said. "But I did all this. I bought all this stuff. I projected my stress onto the people I love and it was hurting my relationships."

Once Dennis removed the excess, he saw a decrease in stress and an improvement in his family connectivity.

"We just don't realize how we are held hostage — either by things or by certain people," Dennis said. "It's time to take a hard look at what and who we have in our lives and get rid of the things that weigh us down."

Here are some of Dennis' tips to removing your excess:

Bag it up. "Grab three bags — one to donate, one for recycling, and one to throw away. A lot of our stuff is simply worthless. You don't need seven shampoos or 10 facial lotions. Start with the bathroom and work your way through every room. How many socks do you really need?."

Ungift. "How much unwanted stuff have you received as gifts? We get a gift that we hate, but we keep it out of guilt, so every time we see it, we are reminded of this and we are exhausted. Instead of acquiring more, tell them that you're trying to let go of things, and you'd prefer a gift that doesn't take up space ... . Then when you give a gift, try to make it a gift that gives back."

Hold a storage unit sale. "This is one of the easiest ways to lighten your load. If you're actually paying someone to store your unused junk, you don't need it. Throw a sale and use the money for something that will add to the quality of your life, like a nice dinner out with your family."

Avoid toxic people. "They support our self-destructive behavior and they're moving through life unaware. It might be hard to distance yourself from these people if they've been a part of your life for a long time but if you make the choice to do so, you will notice a difference."

Pause before you consume. "Whether it's dessert, a relationship, a pair of jeans on sale, or a mindless TV show, ask yourself: 'Does my heart truly desire this? Will it make my life better? More fulfilled?' Do a gut check. Pausing before you acquire or consume can prevent every type of clutter from overtaking your life ...."

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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