Sunday, 18 March 2018

Clearing the Clutter

During half term, as I sipped my coffee at a trampoline park an hour from home, it occurred to me that I had just committed the most heinous of household crimes: I had forgotten to put the recycling out. “Did you put the recycling out?” I interrogated my husband on the phone.  He hadn’t.

We are not a family of low recycling output.  To make matters worse, I had only that week seized the opportunity of a child-free morning to evict numerous craft creations that had long outstayed their welcome.  As a result, for two long weeks, there has been a grim sense of impending dread as the final drop has been drained from each milk bottle, or the last egg removed from each box.  I’ve gone to extreme lengths to try to eke out the capacity of my already-almost-full bin. My ageing grandparents, upon calling for a coffee, found themselves leaving, bemused, with a carrier of cardboard to add to their bin. Collecting the children from my parents’ care after work one day, I sneaked a bag of milk and lemonade bottles into their bin, casually abandoning the empty bag in the garage on the way in, to avoid detection (sorry Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this).

The night before recycling collection day was at last imminent, I had a tangible sense of relief. We had made it. I was mentally picturing the pleasure and relief of opening the bin lid, post collection, throwing in a bottle and hearing the pleasing thud as it hit the bottom of the empty bin (perhaps I need to get out more). Then the news came. The ‘Beast from the East’ had had its fill of cars on motorways and had now consumed a fleet of bin lorries. The collection was postponed. As I write this I am eyeing up my neighbours’ bins, wondering if I could sneak in some toilet rolls, under cover of darkness…

As I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking about recycling bins and clutter far more then I would in the average fortnight, it got me thinking and making links with what goes on in my mind when there is too much clutter and not enough space (we blog writers have to get our inspiration from somewhere). It struck me that, with busy chaotic lives, our minds can become like my recycling bin, full to bursting with no room to cram in another single thought. When trauma strikes, or difficulties arise we can feel the same anxiety I felt with the ever-increasing pile of recycling to fit into an ever-decreasing space. 

For me, cathartic writing is crucial to clearing out the junk and having space to think clearly again. If I find myself battling with thoughts that threaten to overwhelm, the simple act of putting pen to paper can have a hugely therapeutic effect. Letting it all pour out in any format or order, putting aside all thoughts about the standard of my writing, allows my mind to ‘clear the clutter’ and leaves room to start filling it afresh with the metaphorical discarded milk cartons and egg boxes my journey through life inevitably produces.

I have done this a few times, of late.  In a week where I was feeling less than enough I poured out my frustrations and fears onto paper and noticed, as I did, my mindset beginning to shift to a more positive place. More recently, as thoughts of my sister’s death and the last twelve months began to suffocate, I put aside some time to get it all out, get it all down. Though I can’t say it entirely stopped the thoughts ricocheting around in my head, it certainly slowed them a little, softened the thud of each bounce they made off the walls of my mind. 

David, in the Psalms, gives us a model for our cathartic writing: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God,” (Psalm 43 v 5). As he vents his frustrations, he moves from despair to hope, setting his wandering mind back on the God he knows he can trust with his life, in the valleys as well as the mountaintops, the dark as well as the light. 

If you have never tried cathartic writing, I encourage you to dust off your journal and give it a go; hope and healing could await you on the other side.

Georgina Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 9 and 7 who keep her exceptionally busy. She feels intimidated by having to provide an author-biography, when her writing only extends, currently, to attempting to blog, writing the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local paper occasionally, and having a poem published in a book from a National Poetry Competition. She feels a bit more like a real author now the ACW Lent Book is out and she has a piece in it! Her musings about life can be found on her blog:


  1. I love the way you make everyday life so profound!

  2. Excellent thoughts here. Thank you Georgina! Yes, writing is so cathartic, even when we put our angst into fictional form. But diary writing or prayer journalling is also a wonderful way of naming our pain and recording what we believe God is saying about it. Thanks for this reminder :)

  3. Thank you for this post. I do love a night in my journal as a way of decluttering my mind. But as I read your post I realise that I often put down what I’m feeling but not why I am feeling it. I might tell God I’m anxious but not really poor out what the anxiety is about. I think I perhaps need to do more cathartic writing then I already do. I do believe it would be very helpful. Thank you very much for the helpful post