The past is a slippery and ever-changing thing. We never remember events quite like they actually happened and our interpretations vary from year to year, with each new telling of the story. We mold past events into digestible shapes, trying to make sense of them, but our memories are more creation than reality. And sometimes the memories overpower us and our mindset becomes stuck in the past, not allowing us to live fully in the present and progress to the future. This can be especially true of the bad memories. As humans, we are hardwired to focus on the negative as a means of survival, but we aren’t being chased by tigers anymore. We can allow ourselves joy.
One of my biggest challenges—and also one of my biggest motivations to practice a minimalist lifestyle—comes from dealing with emotional clutter. Letting go of the past and clearing or making sense of the emotional clutter that I struggle to let go of and fully move on from. The past can be heavy, and its exhausting to carry it around every day. Once you clear the physical stuff crowding your life, the focus turns to the mental, emotional, and spiritual. And its uncomfortable. And not easy to face. I’d rather clear out a thousand closets. But its important and I believe part of the necessary process to finding peace within yourself. Perhaps thats why it’s so hard for many of us to get rid of our stuff and stop accumulating new things because they act as barriers against the emotions we don't want to face and deal with. If we focus on our stuff, we don't have to focus on what is really bothering us.
Unlike stuff, you can never really get rid of emotional baggage and mental scars, but you (I hope) can learn to accept them, make peace with them, and let them go, so they don't control your present and future. This is a struggle I go through everyday—some days its apparent to me and some days it affects me subconsciously. But I refuse to let past hurts and mistakes win out. This isn’t easy and don’t think you have to do this alone. Talk to a friend, family member, or counselor, especially if you can’t find a way out from under the emotional weight. Like stuff, you can unbury those old wounds from the past and let them go. You can fill your life with love, purpose, and meaning through relationships, connections, and self acceptance. You can engage in changes that bring you peace.
I have discovered peace in creativity and expression. In art, writing, learning new things, and exploring new places and new ways of doing things. Discovery is powerful. It helps the mind see more clearly, relieves negative anxiety and replaces it with excitement and hope. We can learn from children in this way. They are so full of imagination because everything is so new to them and they aren't jaded by prior knowledge. As adults, I think we can try and capture this through creative expression, learning new things, and having new experiences. Give yourself permission to explore who you are and what your interests are. Your past may have helped shape you but it does not need to define you indefinitely. By letting the old stuff go—moving on from the emotional clutter—you make room for the new, and experience deeper, more meaningful growth.