A real estate agent dropped off the flier announcing plans for the annual neighborhood garage sale. "Join us to make this the biggest sale ever!" the flyer read.

We have never participated in this spring ritual and this year would be no exception. I've learned the hard way that for a compulsive shopper it doesn't matter much if it's new or "gently used." The last thing we need are the neighbors' cast-offs clamoring for space in our home.

As I dropped the flyer in the trash while trying to think of a good excuse to get out of town on that particular weekend, I couldn't help but visualize one family down the street. They have so much stuff in their garage they can barely close the door. Forget finding room for a car. Each Spring just in time for the one-day big event, they roll all of it out onto the front lawn for the day. Then as the sun sets they turn into human shoehorns to complete the ritual as they push, cram and squeeze everything back into place where it will remain until the same time next year.

Don Aslett, author of Clutter's Last Stand, says that extraneous stuff robs us of freedom because it requires so much of our time to tend. Our houses, drawers, closets and vehicles are so crowded we can't breathe. But it's more than that. Stuff crowds our minds, our emotions and relationships, too, into dullness and immobility.

As I poured a cup of tea, my mind was stuck in garage sale mode. Wouldn't it be nice, I pondered, if every Spring we could unload everything that clutters our lives -- not just the stuff that clutters our homes.

Worry

Worry is not always a bad thing. It can spark action if you worry and recognize that a plan of action is necessary-and you act. But worry can spark your imagination with every manner of fearful possibility complete with all of the damaging chemical and physical changes of an actual trauma.

Experts tell us that most of what we worry about never happens. That means we are better off getting rid of harmful worries as a way to clear our minds and souls, in the same way that getting rid of stuff we never use clears our homes.

Yearning

In our gotta-have-it-now society, seasons of longing have been replaced by instant gratification. And that's too bad, because yearning builds character. Having to wait makes us strong and resilient. It teaches us patience.

It is good for children to yearn with limitation -- to long and wish for their birthdays or for Christmas to come. But in the extreme yearning can be terribly destructive. It can turn to covetousness and envy.

Focusing on what you do not have or what you want more than anything in the whole world steals contentment. Your heart and mind are stuck in the future always trying to get what you do not have.

So what is it that you are yearning for today? Do you have healthy anticipation or debilitating desire? If you are so consumed by wanting what you do not have that you're sacrificing the joy you should be enjoying in the present, that's a problem. That's clutter you need to remove from your life.

Approval

The desire to do well and receive approval from other people is not a bad thing. In fact it can be gratifying and character-building to receive positive recognition for a job well done. But when your life becomes based on the expectations of others and you do things just to be perceived as nice, you've crossed the line. Getting other's approval is messing up your life; it's creating emotional clutter.

I don't know what form clutter takes in your life. But I do know this: It's Spring -- a perfect time to pack it up, haul it out and get rid of it once and for all!

© 2004 The Cheapskate Monthly. All rights reserved. Used with permission.