By Susan Deitz

January 29, 2016 3 min read

DEAR SUSAN: You write about clutter in our lives, but you include people in that. Isn't that a bit cruel? — From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: (Sigh.) There are times in life (especially single life) when you must be "cruel" to be kind to yourself. (The C-word is in quotes because I really don't believe it's cruelty.) The thing is that there is only so much time in your life and energy in your body; both need to be conserved and spent wisely and given thought and deliberation.

Clutter-people are there merely to fill the hours and keep you from being in your own company, aka (gasp) alone. These relationships add very little to your life — no interesting conversation, no deep feeling, no original thoughts to mull over. Consider them bodyguards, keeping watch on the space around you so that you don't come too close to (or familiar with) — you guessed it — yourself. The result of their watchfulness? Little time to do important things — such as putting your days in order, neatening your drawers, planning social and business togetherness.

Clutter saps your time to organize your life and make plans. How else can you grow if not according to priorities? Only you have the power to visualize your dreams. Look at it this way: If you don't sweep out the meaningless, no one else will. Yes, this is all about you — not as a narcissistic and self-absorbed you but as a well-organized, thoughtful, self-directed person. What's that wonderful line from "Cyrano de Bergerac"? "There are things in this world a man does well to carry to extremes." Managing one's own life has to be at or near the top of the list because virtually all else flows from that.

But — deep sigh — how many of us set priorities and honor them? How many of us have the internal fortitude to be with our selves comfortably, confidently? How many of us can sit quietly for 20 minutes each day and focus inward? When you think of what is keeping us from the inner life, fear pops up as the No. 1 obstacle. But what makes us fearful? Is it a person, a thing, God's wrath or our own thoughts? Why do we allow nameless fear to block our entry into our own soul?

Doesn't make sense, really, until you arrive at some formless, cloudy overhang in your mind (where fear is comfortably settled). But you can break things up, inserting your own healthy thoughts and replacing groundless fear. Once that boulder is removed from the entrance to your mind, you'll experience a freedom known to very few. Because it's fear that keeps us from living our dreams, fear that keeps us penned in with other dutiful sheep, and once you surmount its imaginary peaks, you're free to live your life. Live, not slog through your days. Once you shift into that gear, clutter won't stand a chance. Promise.

Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at [email protected]

Photo credit: Heather Harvey

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