When did you last clean out your cupboards?

There is a wardrobe in my bedroom that is full to bursting with more than just clothes.

The day I moved in to my current home I found that, after carefully putting away all the practical stuff in sensible, accessible places, I had several boxes that contained, well, ‘memorabilia’. These were the things that I had accumulated over the years and held dear, without really knowing what to do with them. There were a few things, such as pictures and photos, that I was able to put up on display around the house.

A few things I disposed of because the associations they held had become painful to me (I had recently had a break-up). The rest of the stuff I had put carefully away on the top shelf of my wardrobe…and at the bottom.

And with a very small number of exceptions they have remained there ever since, and been added to, so that the older memories and the less used have crept backwards and become a bit compressed and screwed up, while the new memories are at the front and tend to tumble out every time I open the door and try to find a clean shirt.

Anybody feel a metaphor coming on?

In my wardrobe some of the things I have are:

* thick wads of family and holiday photos, still in their original packaging
* chess sets, which I once had a notion of collecting, now mostly slightly damaged
* china ornaments that I received as presents
* a sand picture (and some sand)
* old birthday cards (very old, some would say)
* letters I can’t bring myself to read any more
* wires (yes I know)

My wardrobe is suffering from depression.

In a depressed state (and I have been there myself), our minds have often become so full of memories and experiences that they prevent us from moving forward. These memories seem to reinforce the messages we are giving ourselves, that nothing can change and there is no way out. All the bad thoughts get compressed and muddled and distorted over time and it is quite hard to find the better memories and the happier times. In that situation it can be incredibly difficult to feel that life is worth living and that you have possibilities.

Timeline therapy can be an excellent way to spring clean your mental wardrobe. The therapy works on the basis that the memories we hold, both remembered and buried are held in a ‘timeline’ and by finding the root cause of a particular mental state such as anger, fear or guilt, it is possible to let go of that and all similar experiences, through time.

I am reminded of the fairies in the Disney Cinderella, waving their wands and magicking away the dirt and grime.

It is a painless and powerful experience that can make change easy and life affirming. I have personally overcome the pain and sadness of some deeply unhappy experiences. The memories are still there, but they are in the past and I no longer feel the need to re-experience them.

The irony is – getting back to my wardrobe – that every six months I systematically go through the clothing that I keep in there and dispose of any that I haven’t worn in a year, or that are becoming shabby, or that I simply don’t ‘love’ to wear. Yet it has never occurred to me to do this with my memorabilia.

What about you. Do you have drawers full of stuff you never look at? Do you have memories that drag you down and hold you back. If you do, it may be time for a spring-clean.

Imagine how good life would be if you didn’t know anything was stopping you from enjoying it!

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Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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