Whenever I want to invite new changes into my life, I turn to decluttering—making space to invite new opportunities and experiences.
When we change our inner world, it impacts on our outer world. And when we change our outer world, it impacts on our inner world—because everything and everyone that exists is inter-connected, despite the illusion of separation we live under.
And so, regardless of what resolutions we’ve set (or not), a “clear-out” is a great way to start the new year—or a new phase of our lives. By clearing up our physical environments, we can give ourselves a mental, spiritual or emotional boost—as well as creating a calm space to relax in.
Not just for hoarders, decluttering is something all of us can afford to do regularly. Because clutter extends beyond the physical. We also carry mental and emotional clutter, such as suppressed emotions and unfinished jobs that we’re procrastinating on.
Anything that takes up space in our hearts and minds is cluttering our lives, making it difficult for new things to come in.
“Visible or invisible, clutter is anything that gets in the way of experiencing your true nature and best life.” ~ Stephanie Bennett Vogt
Magically, by clearing up our physical spaces, we can also find ourselves letting go of the mental and emotional clutter too.
Whether it’s letting go of items that stir up painful memories or recycling our ideas file related to that project we know we’ll never get around to, physically letting go of our stuff can have an amazingly cathartic effect on our energy—at all levels.
And because it’s so effective, people are now making a living from helping the rest of us clear, declutter or organize our homes.
Marie Kondo may be the latest to earn her fame through her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but there are many others who preceded her. My first major clear-out happened while reading Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston—it enthused me so much, I was decluttering my home before I’d even finished the book.
That clear-out had a wholly unexpected result. Not only did I let go of all the things I was holding onto (just in case), but I also let go of my house. Without any sleepless nights or self-debate, I just woke up one morning with the decision complete in my mind. It wasn’t an idea I’d been toying with, so the decision came as a complete surprise to me–and it changed the course of my life (for the better).
Ever since, I’ve been a big believer in the power of clearing out our physical clutter in order to help show the mental and emotional clutter the door.
I have since shared Kingston’s book with friends many times, and I no longer know its whereabouts. However, I do have three rules for decluttering that are ingrained in my mind, which I presume were implanted by Kingston:
Or lose it.
I’ve read that Marie Kondo uses the question: Does this spark joy? So, it’s the same principle—outside of the items that we regularly use, when sorting through everything we own, we only get to keep it if our heart skips a little beat of delight when our eyes alight upon it.
Otherwise, it goes—even (especially!) those things we’re keeping because they were gifted to us by somebody close. Re-gift baby!
And definitely those things we’re holding onto in case we’ll need them again some day—that’s poverty consciousness. And I have found decluttering a very effective way of shaking off poverty consciousness whenever it (regularly) gets a grip on me.
The idea is that we pull that juicer out of the back of the cupboard and joyfully give it to the local charity shop, fully trusting that should we decide to give juicing another go in the future, we will be able to comfortably afford a replacement (the next generation juicer). Or (even better), someone will give us one (on foot of their own clear-out).
I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, but I have gleaned a few of her rules from various sources and I know she recommends clearing everything out in one go—or as quickly as possible. While I do love that idea, it often doesn’t work for me.
Instead, a little here and there is usually how I operate. When I start with that attitude, I can have a sense of accomplishment from doing something small in a short time frame. And without the pressure to complete a large task in one go, starting with something small sometimes ends in an enthusiastic rush that leads to a much bigger clear-out than anticipated—always a bonus.
That’s why I allowed myself the whole month of January to declutter. So far, I’ve done my clothes and my food containers—and the month is almost over. The idea of tackling everything else is still too overwhelming.
That’s a little depressing. My spirit may be willing, but my ego is highly resistant.
So, I’ve signed up for a year long e-course. Yep, we’re talking teeny-tiny baby steps. It was created by Stephanie Bennett Vogt, whose philosophy is more aligned with my “a little goes a long way” ethos.
What I love about it is that it’s designed to help us let go of our patterns—the reasons why we hold onto stuff in the first place. And as we release the patterns, we start to shift into physical clearing mode. It’s working on the inner first—the opposite of why I started decluttering in the first place. I worked on the outer in order to let go of the inner clutter.
I wanted to have a big January clear-out to (impatiently) make space in my life to draw in lots of exciting new experiences throughout the rest of the year—but if I can’t work through the resistance, that won’t happen.
Just over a week into this process, I’m learning that I need to be more patient with myself. Instead of being in a hurry, I need to be willing to invest more time in gently releasing what needs to go and trust that the timing will be perfect.
If the resistance suddenly melts, and I find myself clearing more enthusiastically, that will be amazing. But if not, as long as I keep taking baby steps, I’ll be moving in the right direction.
“Stress and stuff doesn’t grow overnight. Releasing it takes time: time to rewire the brain that goes into fight-or-flight; time to soften resistances; time to grow new habits that feel really good and create lasting change.” ~ Stephanie Bennett Vogt
There’s still 11 months to go—plenty of time to make space for what I want in my life, and maybe it will take a bit longer than that too. I’m remembering what it is to trust in the journey—to be curious about how things will unfold, instead of needing them to happen in a specific way.
So, although the physical clearing has been limited, I do see some mental clearing taking place already. And I’m (more patiently) looking forward to seeing where this year will take me.
First published on elephantjournal.com
Photo: Planete Sauvage/Flickr