I remember the first time I heard the word ‘cull.’ I was standing in the produce section of a specialty grocery store. The manager asked the clerks whether they had culled their section yet. I began imagining all the possible meanings the word meant. As my curious nature got the best of me, I looked the word up. According to Webster’s Dictionary, cull means “something rejected especially as being inferior or worthless.” I began to understand that the clerks were to sort through fruits and vegetables, separating the bruised and discolored produce from the attractive, fresh ones.
This practice is utilized in other facets as well. Livestock are culled to prevent undesirable genetic characteristics. Wildlife can be culled in order to control population. Culling shouldn’t be limited to produce or animals, though. Its dividends can also clearly be evident in our personal lives. Periodically taking inventory of possessions and cleaning house can do wonders for mental clarity. Everyone has a closet or drawer, or room for that matter, which produces angst. It can be your catch-all space or your quick remedy, but it continues to be the thorn aggravating your side.
I once had a stretch during my life when I moved six times in eight years. I adopted a personal philosophy as moving day approached. As I packed boxes, I would ask myself one single question, “Have I used this item in the past year?” If the answer was no, I either threw the item in the trash or it was donated. Not surprisingly, every move I continued to make got easier than the last. Sure, I still accumulated new items, but the massive amounts of clutter ceased to follow me around.
Culling your life also requires looking inward. What are you mentally holding onto that serves no purpose? What needs to be unpacked and disposed of? Does it constantly feel like you’re spinning your wheels in puddles of possessions? These personal questions need to be addressed. Taking inventory of both physical possessions and mental baggage are two components to transparent and unfettered thinking.
Navigating through life, it is natural to acquire possessions. As much as we’d all like to be minimalists, the simple truth is that we’re wired to accumulate. Society has served up a ‘possessions equal success’ Kool-Aid and most have happily gulped it down. We forget the ‘need’ versus ‘want’ clause and unnecessarily add to our collection. This mentality is the same winning combination that has successfully sustained credit card companies.
An unexpected caveat of accumulation is undue stress. Clutter and possessions become energy consuming vortexes, constantly cycling but leading nowhere. Ironically, the saying that, “The things you own end up owning you,” isn’t too terribly far off.
Yet, mass purging is not the answer. This frenzied reaction will only lead to a perpetual and disheartening cycle. If you want real change, it has to be slow and methodical. As the metaphor goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Culling works in our personal life because it causes us to make decisions. The clerks in the grocery store didn’t find the bruised apples and leave them next to the shiny, ripe ones. They actively searched out the ones that didn’t meet their criteria, separated, and then removed them. This process is a healthy exercise to conduct because it prevents one from becoming complacent. Take a conscious inventory and make some decisions.
Next time you walk by that closet of clutter that perpetually infuriates you, do something about it. When you attempt to open a drawer to retrieve a pair of scissors and it won’t open due to its crammed contents, it’s time you do something about it. Exercise the art of culling to untangle your mental stresses and physical obstacles. The freedoms accompanying the decisions you’re forced to make will undoubtedly remove layers of anxiety. At the end of the day, the process of culling is composed of two components—decisions and actions. Master these two elements and you’ll regain control over your possessions, and more importantly your precious sanity.