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How do we even approach the topic of clearing baggage from our lives? For most people, it is extremely difficult. I have been a counselor for half my adult life and found that most people cling to their mental and emotional baggage, because the thought of being free is just too frightening. After all, we tend to get comfortable with the “devil we know” rather than venturing into the unknown.

One way to start is to clear some of the physical “stuff” from our lives. We tend to accumulate things over a lifetime and the “stuff” starts to own us rather than the other way around. What I mean is, we spend time worrying about it, cleaning it all, storing it (at great cost, for those who rent storage) and generally hanging on to it thinking it might be useful in some imagined future.

My mantra is: if I haven’t used an item in over a year, I ditch it — it clearly wasn’t important enough to hold on to, unless it was truly a keepsake from someone important. If it is a keepsake, only save one from that person, not half a dozen or more. Really! You may find, as I did, that getting rid of stuff by either selling or giving it away, is very freeing. Have I regretted some things I’ve got rid of? Yes, of course, but only for a moment or two and then I move on with living my “now.”

I once talked to a lady in her 80s who gave great advice. She admonished me and my husband to let all our furniture and “stuff” go when we decided to live full-time in an RV. She said that she and her husband had stored their things for 10 years when they went on the road, at a cost of thousands of dollars over all those years. When they finally stopped traveling they ended up getting rid of it all and bought new things. Just think how much they could have saved if only they had let it go when they first set out.

Once we start letting go of physical items, it becomes easier to recognize things that are essential versus things that are weighing us down. That includes perceptions, ideas, dogmas, and yes, even other people. One thing to ask yourself with any of these is, “How is this item, idea, perception or person serving my being my best self?” If it is not serving you, let it go. For instance we may perceive the world as hostile and feel we have to defend ourselves at every turn. Ask if this is really helping to bring you a creative, purposeful life that you enjoy. If not…well, you know the answer.

It always surprises me that some people are so negative or angry all the time. How does that serve their best self? Wouldn’t it be better to loosen up and enjoy life more? I know that not everyone has had good experiences in their life and maybe that has produced these ways of being. To change that, you have to study people who are the way you want to be so that you can also act the same way. Eventually you will find it becomes more and more natural to you. I learned that lesson from my NLP teachers (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) years ago and learned to emulate people I admire to become more of the person I want to be. It works!

As for clearing people out of our lives, it’s possible but not easy. I used to work in women’s shelters years ago and was always surprised by how many times women returned to abusers. Again, it’s that “better the devil you know” idea versus the scary thought of starting out alone. The same question applies though. “How is this person and situation serving my being the best person I can be?” And don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is a lesson in being selfless and loving. It’s not! Your first loving action is to love yourself and your higher being. You cannot truly love another person until you learn to love yourself unconditionally. That sometimes means cutting negative people out of your life.

These are the best approaches I have learned over many years of personal growth courses and pragmatic education. I hope they help you to look at what is truly serving you to live a happy, productive, great life that we all deserve.

Ruth Cooper
Ruth Cooper is a retired Canadian counselor who holds a Bachelor of Social Work from King's College, London. She spent the last 10 years of her career working with dementia clients and their families in a mental health hospital. She has also worked in the women's shelter system and private practice. Ruth is a lifetime member of the Spiritualist Church of London, Canada, where she learned a great deal from the Rev. Irene Perkins and other teachers with whom she sat in meditation circles twice weekly. She has been on a spiritual path all her life. She lives full-time in her 5th wheel with husband, Ralph Hooper, dividing her year between Canada in summer and the southern U.S. in winter. Contact her at ruthhacooper@gmail.com.

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