Keep It or Sweep It: The Litmus Test for a Life of Less Stress

By Georgia


Last Updated: July 16, 2021

Almost everyone could use a little less stress in their lives. And after 18 months of being stuck inside we've gotten an intimate look at our spaces and place in the world. Four walls can feel really tiny really quickly, and the depressing distance or inescapable closeness of our relationships tipped many of us over the emotional edge. So clearing out some physical and emotional clutter may be in order now that life is getting back to some semblance of normalcy. So here's how to know what to keep and what to sweep to simplify and brighten your life.


For Your Consideration

When it comes to deciding what stays and what goes in your life, the options are not limited to purchases, possessions and other inanimate objects. What adds stress to your life can go so far beyond things. It is important to consider all of the interests, activities and hobbies you still have that might be adding to your stress instead of alleviating it. You should also critique any ideas, values, beliefs, rituals, behaviors and patterns that may be problematic for your life.

It is difficult to contend with cultural norms that compete with your peace, but at a point you may need to decide your life comes before social expectations. Lastly, it may be time to take an inventory of the problematic people in your life who don't exactly “spark joy” for you anymore. It can seem cruel and impersonal to scrutinize your relationships like this, but your brain and body will thank you in the long run.


Need or Want

The first filter is the easiest to assign. Just ask yourself if you need or want what you're examining. You don't have to shed anything at this point, and just because you want something doesn't mean it's automatically slated to go. This is a quick and virtually painless list to fill out. You will be shocked to discover just how much in your life is a comfort or desire rather than a real necessity.

This means your wants list will be much longer than your needs list. And most of your needs will be basic, bottom of the hierarchy of needs requirements for life and survival. If you're confused as to how to parse a deep desire from an inalienable need you may have to ask yourself what your life would look like without it. If you would struggle to survive or stay safe it is likely a need; think of a home, utilities, or perhaps even your smartphone in some cases. If you would be devastated and uncomfortable but ultimately would live, it's a want.


Going Without

What would life be like without it? If your life would get harder immediately and in the long run

it might be time to let it go. It can feel confusing when your life could become harder now but be better later, or would be better now but would leave you struggling long-term. But there are other ways to evaluate the things in your life that could be hurting you. Would you miss it? Would you be relieved? Would your friends and family be happy for you? Would it contribute to your success? If life is basically the same or worse with it you can do without it.


For Better or For Worse

Ask yourself if having something makes your life better or worse, and how so. This is where things start to become complex and sticky. Sometimes what you hold on to makes things better in some areas of your life and worse in others. They may have a long history of making things better but could make things worse in the present or future. They could make you feel better in the moment but are bad for your health or mental well-being. Here you'll have to decide what is important to you and what exceptions you're willing to make. But it is essential you understand why you make those exceptions or you will end up keeping things in your life to your detriment and won't understand why your life is still stressful.


If You're Happy and You Know It

Find out if keeping things adds to or subtracts from your happiness, and how. This is typically easier to determine than whether something is better or worse for you. You know when you're happy and you know when you're not. The trouble is defending keeping something that makes you unhappy and scrapping things that bring you joy. What sacrifices are you willing to make for your own happiness? This may challenge your values, beliefs, culture, and in some ways your responsibilities.


The Easy Button

Do the people and things in your life make life easier or harder, and how. It may get complex here again because some things can make your life both easier and harder. For example, certain people in your life may make, for example, childcare or paying bills easier while trampling your boundaries and making your personal life and peace of mind harder. Again, you will have to think about what you're willing to sacrifice to make your life easier or keep your life simple.


Healthy Living

Also ask yourself if the things in your life make you healthier or unhealthy. This means the physical effects as well as the impact on your mental and emotional well-being. This is usually more cut and dry, with exceptions for rich foods, alcohol and other intoxicants. But keeping everything in moderation and understanding the consequences of your consumption and indulgence will help you make better calls in this area.


Keep the things you need or deeply desire that are also meaningful and make your life better, easier, happier and healthier. The more you hold what and who stays in your life up to these standards the richer, fuller and less stressful your life will be.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels


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