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More and more people are finding themselves literally buried under mountains of possessions.   Beyond the paper and junk mail that arrive in our mailboxes automatically and regularly, many of us unwittingly construct our own personal avalanche of "things":  items from the past, things that belonged to our grandmother, things we haven't used in years, but never know when we'll need  again... a dress that is too small, slacks that are too loose.  All those things we picked up at that yard sale, but didn't  really have a place for.  We all do it.  Or at least many of us do.  We overbuy and then we hold on to things way past their expiration date.  The reasons for this behavior are many and fascinating.  If you are one of millions who are challenged by the thought of parting with your possessions, or don't quite know where to begin, these 5 tips may ease the pain.  5 Approaches to Radical De-Cluttering:  (as featured in The Montclair Times, July 31, 2008.

1.  Use It Or Choose To Lose It.
Don't wait until you're in a crisis situation, like divorce, the death of a loved one, or a move.  If you make de-cluttering part of your regular psychological or spiritual "practice", you will gradually and systematically avoid being buried under an avalanche.

2.  You Really Can Take It With You.
Remember, it's the memories behind the things, rather than the things themselves.  Memories and experiences are internalized, and therefore, portable.  They go anywhere you go.  Fewer boxes, a lighter load.

3.  Look At Life From Both Sides Now.
If you're holding on to things that once belonged to loved ones who have departed, try to imagine that wherever they are now, they are probably lass concerned than you are with that lace tablecloth that adorned the the dining room table from your childhood.  Think, instead, of the wonderful times around that table, and smile to yourself, knowing that those memorable experiences can still nourish you.

Cry If You Must.
Letting go can be painful.  Parting with things to which one is attached can often lead to feelings of heartache, regret, lost opportunities, fear or emptiness.  It is often useful to allow yourself to acknowledge these emotions.  Cry, feel a bit queasy if necessary, but give yourself permission to experience whatever emotion is surfacing.  Stop to consider what it is about the object that feels so difficult to say good bye to.

5.  Slow And Steady.
Don't pressure yourself.  Rather, see this as an opportunity to "practice."  Let precious items sit out in the open, away from their storage place, where you can begin the process of visualizing letting go.  Different from an experience that is black/white or all/nothing, letting go is similar to grieving, and is therefore more of a gentle process.

Finally, try not to fill up on the "empty calories" of stuff.  In our consumer driven society, it may feel as though you're going against the tide of happiness if you use restraint when purchasing.  The belief that happiness can be found in that new purse or expensive refrigerator will tend to leave you with hunger pangs when the novelty wears off, and likely, back at the store.  There is never enough of enough.  This (unfortunately), is the bedrock of our shopping mentality.  Full closets do not make for full lives.  Instead, try using more of your energy and budget for connecting with friends and loved ones and making meaningful contributions.  Mentor a child, walk a shelter animal, visit residents at an assisted living facility and ask how you can be of help.  Write a check, get on your feet, get in your car and see how good it feels to make a contribution of your resources and gifts.  It's something you won't outgrow, get tired of or store in a box in the basement.  You may actually feel really good (and happy).

Finally, if you continue to feel overwhelmed by your stuff, be it emotional or physical clutter, consider getting some help to identify the underlying reason(s) for the accumulation and why you are having difficulty letting things go.

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