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5 Tips to Clear Out the Old to Bring in the New

By Helga DeSousa, You can read more of her work at her website

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”- Seneca

A decade ago, I made a decision to quit my job, sell my place, and leave my friends and family to teach English as Second Language (ESL) in Japan for two years. I made a huge change in my career and even in my whole outlook on my life which has changed from spiritless routine to one full of possibilities and transformation. There have been no regrets. No turning back to the old way I was living.

Based on this experience, here are five tips to clearing out your path to success by making space for new growth:

  1. Clear away all physical clutter.

Having a lot of physical clutter in your closets and even in your surroundings affects you on both a mental and psychological level.

In two different studies at Princeton University and UCLA, it was discovered that physical clutter creates stress, lack of focus, and decreased productivity.

On a mental level, too much stuff around clogs our thinking and on an emotional level, we are afraid of getting rid of our stuff because of an old attachment. The irony is holding on to too much stuff will just hold you back from being productive and really honestly taking action into accomplishing your goals for your vision.

First thing is first. Book a time where you can clear out your closets. Ask yourself why you are holding to such and such item. Does it help you now? Be honest. Will you really need this item for the future? Do you have some emotional attachment here?

I found when I cleared my closets; I had to ask those important questions. If I kept anything at all, it was organized. I brought order to the physical chaos which gave me a lot more clarity and purpose to tasks that I needed to get done in order to move forward.

  1. Let Go of Negative Relationships

This one is very crucial to any one’s spirit and usually the most difficult one to tackle. I hung on to contacting a friend on and off for many years. We would be happy that we reconciled. We had bright hopes with our friendship and then it would sour.

I found that this individual was not trustworthy. He would lie and I did not feel good about myself when I kept in contact with him. He would never really be there for me and I would give my all for him. So I had to ask myself, why did I keep bringing him back into my life? What was I holding on to? The answer was that it was because we shared a past. Holding on to him made me doubt and question my own self- worth every time. As a result, I cut off all connection with him and am sticking now to my reason for not reconnecting with him. I am worthy of better friends.

Think about any other relationships that may be creating negativity in your life. Are there people who do not respect your boundaries? It is important to draw those clear lines. Let people know that your time is just as valuable as theirs. If anyone is grating on your self-esteem, then you should let them go. If you can’t cut them out of your life, then keep a respectable distance.

Are there people who have bad habits that are preventing you from making healthy choices for yourself? You need to let them go. Ask yourself the same question I asked myself. Are you holding on because of history? Does this relationship support your dreams and visions or does it hinder it?

It is not selfish to care for yourself. Your well being is paramount when it comes to contributing your gifts and vision to the world.

  1. Put Down Your Shield and Sword

I think one of the hardest things for me to do is to show vulnerability. The reason is that I have always thought it showed weakness. I have been bullied as a child for being too nice and too uncertain of myself.

So I have carried that into my adulthood thinking that the moment people see my soft side that they would come in for the kill. So instead, I would come across as fierce and aggressive to strangers. As a result, I missed out on some good friendships or even romantic relationships.

To attract clients or to network with others, you have to show your true skin. Don’t be afraid to talk about your journey or your own challenges. When you are authentic about who are you are, people will be able to relate to you more and identify with what you say. Oprah Winfrey is known for showing her soft side to the world and she has an amazing network due to her willingness to show the world who she really is.

  1. Practice Fearlessness

If you don’t follow through on your creative ideas, someone else will pick them up and use them. When you get an idea of this sort, you should jump in with both feet, not just stick your toe in the water…Be daring, be fearless, and don’t be afraid that somebody is going to criticize you or laugh at you. If your ego is not involved no one can hurt you.” Guru R.H.H

The hardest part of letting go of the old is that we fear the unknown, so we hold on to what it is familiar even when it does not do us any good.

I worked for a company for nine years. I knew my job like the back of my hand. I formed a lot of friendships and great working relationships. I took the same train route for nine years. I dealt with the same circumstances over and over again. I was afraid to leave because I could not do anything else. All along, I knew deep inside that I was not living my full potential. I was not using my gifts at all.

There was an incident with a co-worker of mine that was a wake up call for me. I saw a woman who gave twenty years of her life to the company, but was left standing on the curb to have a taxi take her home because she was one of the many people whose job was terminated that round. I decided then that I needed to do something for the sake of my soul.

The opportunity came in the form of an ad in a commuter paper. It said, “You can teach English overseas.” That was my ticket. I quit my job and took a chance of a lifetime. This was when I became fearless.

When I say fearless, I mean to be willing to take that chance towards your dream. My vision was teaching English and living in Japan. I made it a reality. I did it without knowing anyone and speaking the language. I somehow knew intuitively that all would be okay. And it was.

Letting go of the old in this case means letting go of old fears, old doubts, and old worries. Move forward to your goal and to your success.

  1. Be Open to New Opportunities

When I came back from Japan, I went to teacher’s college to become a high school teacher. When I got into teaching, I knew that it was not the end goal. I had envisioned myself to write and coach others. But I decided to get into teaching since I enjoyed very much the interaction with students in Japan and it felt natural for me.

I was given the opportunity to teach at an inner city school where the student body come from lower income families. They are not usually the best behaved, but are awesome human beings.

I learned to step out of my ego and truly be present for other people. I also learned that even the students with the worst reputations are really just kids that are in need of compassion. Teaching high school students stretched me. With time, I became a better speaker, motivator, and coach.

Often we need to take on any opportunities that will help us grow. Even if we make mistakes, we obviously learn from them and improve from there. I made my share of them reaching out to troubled teens. They were challenging times, but I didn’t quit. I just improved from there.

Even where you are now can be an opportunity for growth. Instead of focusing on the old and the negative, be open to any new ideas, new people, or new openings that may come into your life. If it is in line with what you want to do with your life, pursue it without fear.

I realized throughout the decade that it was important to clear out anything that may have been holding me back from living the life that I want to live. If you want to succeed in anything, you need to drop the old ways of thinking and doing things. You need that new space for focus, for clarity, and for the courage to inch towards your dream.

[1] Mikael Cho,”How Clutter Affects Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)”,, (July 5, 2013).

One thought on “5 Tips to Clear Out the Old to Bring in the New

  1. Helga, thank you for a wonderful article! You are “spot-on” with the five tips. Always respect yourself and improve your skills. I have accomplished a lot this year by incorporating all five of your tips. Removing clutter definitely gives you more energy. Never allow allow negative people (including gossipers) to zap your energy. If necessary, use snail mail for family relationships. Thank you again for sharing!!!

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