Linda Lewis Griffith

7 things you can do to clean out your emotional closet

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

We clean out our closets at home periodically, getting rid of items we don’t wear, that don’t fit or have long since gone out of style. That way, we make room for newer articles that better reflect our current tastes and needs.

It’s equally important to cleanse our emotional storehouses. That’s where we stockpile old relationships, activities, organizations and behaviors that may no longer have relevance in our lives.

As we move through time, our interests and activities change. They may reflect a region we once lived in. They follow our children’s stages and extracurricular activities. Choices can be heavily influenced by parents, friends or spouses.

But there comes a time when it feels right to move on. Perhaps you’re ready to leave the church you were raised in and join a different faith. Or you’ve recently divorced and are creating a different social circle.

Emotional cleansings can be small or massive, depending on the number and magnitude of the changes we need to make. One woman might be eager to move across the country and start a new business. Another simply wants to find a different yoga studio.

Sometimes the separation is swift and pain-free — we’re chomping at the bit to begin a new stage of our life. Other times it’s fraught with angst. Folks are sad to see us go. They may even feel threatened by our behavior. Deep down we know what’s best. When we listen to our hearts, the answer is usually clear.

Of course, certain activities are constant. They define who we are. We’ll never cast them aside. And other activities aren’t optional. We must do them whether we want to or not. That’s why it’s extra important to clear out what isn’t working and replace it with what we need now.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

How to clean out your emotional closet

  • Do a personal inventory. Make a list of your current activities, organizations and friends. Include items from various facets of your day: personal, professional, family and community.
  • Listen to your reactions about each item on your inventory. Be honest. Does this activity make you smile? Do you look forward to doing it? Or does it fill you with dread? Do you make up excuses not to do it? Let your gut reaction be your guide.
  • Make tough choices. Decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Your emotional closet doesn’t have room for it all.
  • Expect grief. Making changes and saying farewell can be gut-wrenching activities. Be patient with any sadness that arises.
  • Be kind. Others may be shocked and feel threatened by your plans. Be compassionate to their resistance. But be steadfast in your resolve.
  • Start small. You don’t have to make earth-shattering changes all at once. In fact, it may be wise to take baby steps toward an ultimate goal.
  • Accept change as a part of life. The choices you make today aren’t cast in concrete. You can clean out your emotional closet many more times. Decide what’s best for you now.