Decluttering Is A Deep Dive
Decluttering can and will change your life.Many people have read and followed the methods of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. When I heard about this book, I was compelled to read it. Not because I wasn’t familiar with the process…but because decluttering is the first “directive” of Feng Shui, I wanted to see if this book had additional insights into the process. Unfortunately, I found it shallow and fairly useless as a tool for what is truly a spiritual journey.
Holding or touching a possession to see if it “sparks joy” is a superficial, one-dimensional approach to the life-changing process of editing one’s belongings and life. When I work with clients to help them through this process, they have to dig deep to uncover the meaning and obstacles of the things, people, and paradigms in their lives. Yes, the first layer generally involves clearing away the immediate excess around them, but that clutter is indicative of other superfluities…which ultimately hold them back from being the best version of themselves. The things, people, and paradigms with which you surround yourself are a mirror and metaphor for what’s going on within you and your life. Once people begin a process of editing their things, they create momentum…and eventually, realize their lives taking on an entirely new meaning and purpose. Why? Because as they are not just clearing away the physical clutter, they are participating in a deep understanding of what the clutter represents. In doing so, they hold space for new life experiences. Think about that. If both of your hands are full, how can you possibly accept something more?
How you begin the decluttering process depends on each individual. Some people relish the idea of upending a room and sorting through it all. But most people need to begin on a smaller scale. Often, that means first sorting through the obvious excess that’s in plain view. I’ve been in homes and businesses where every surface was covered up…where there was no reprieve, no space for the eye to rest. Some even ran out of surfaces and began piling things on the floors. This visual noise or “sha” becomes just as distracting as dissonant audible noise. The process of reducing excess begins by acknowledging that space has become saturated and that the chaos of it is affecting the focus, creativity, and is creating a block against fresh energy from entering. The process of reducing the clutter is inevitably fraught with emotional landmines.
The things we acquire are often touchstones of experiences. We collect items from our travels…from art pieces to shot glasses. Some items fill walls and shelves while others occupy storage boxes. There’s a misconception that collections must be displayed in their entirety. But I have been in the homes of serious art collectors who have storage closets and facilities to house their collections while displaying only those items that fit comfortably within their decor…and they rotate pieces for a fresh display or to make room for a new acquisition. Museums and galleries do this regularly to keep people coming back. So if you have a large collection, consider minimizing the number of items on display and rotate the remainder every few months to bring fresh energy into your space.
Once you’ve completed this first phase, you’ll become more energized to continue as you open space for fresh ideas, new people, and new adventures. Offices that reduce the clutter and bring order to their spaces also find that working relationships improve, new business and opportunities present themselves, and employees are healthier and happier to be there. Working in clutter and disorganization is mentally depressing and physically taxing.
Out of Sight…
The next phase is hidden from sight: drawers, closets, and storage rooms. Tackling this clutter and disarray is taxing on your personal energy and patience. Look for the meaning in that. Use each drawer as a meditation. Get into the “zen” of releasing what’s unimportant and surrendering to the process. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you’re the type of person who loves the challenge of dumping everything out and sorting through it, that’s great…but many people are overwhelmed by that approach. That’s how we build up clutter in the first place. Taking the time to sort and organize falls low on our list of priorities in our busy daily lives. Put on some music and settle in. It may be a 1-hr project or you may need to spend several hours. Just put the time aside and get into the flow.
Some items occupying storage boxes in the tops of closets, garage, basement, or attic were gifts from a loved one or were items that a child or grandchild crafted. Over time, these items become space holders for the past…decaying in a box. I love these items myself, but because I’ve moved so often, I’ve learned that it’s not only impractical to keep these pieces, but I’d have run out of space for them long ago, especially as I’ve downsized and simplified my living space. I hereby give you permission (as I gave myself) to give away or sell gifted items that are not useful to you. Making space for items you don’t use is a waste of space and energetically holds energy that’s not supportive. Deep down, you are at least a little annoyed by having to keep something that you don’t really want or like. Other items hold special memories but we can’t justify the space they require. How do we preserve the precious memories of these items without taking up physical space? A practical solution is to digitize these memories. Take photos of 3-dimensional items, such as those cute clay handprints or the birdhouse your son/daughter made at camp. Flat items can be scanned or photographed. These digital files can be safely kept and organized on digital media or even printed out in smaller formats for a photo album. Think of how lovely a gift this collection would be for your grown child or grandchild? The physical items can then be recycled (paper, wood, etc), or otherwise disposed of. Yes, that physical item does carry the energy of the person who produced it but the love of that person will always live within you…that cannot be diminished long after the item has decayed or broken. That will be forever captured in a digital reference to it.
The Psychology of Clutter
The psychology of clutter often runs deep into a person’s past and present life. Some people have always lived with the belief that there’s not enough. They live with an attitude of scarcity, in spite of personal success and comfort. This can be traced to our parents’ attitude regarding abundance or the lack thereof. If you were raised in a home where you heard “scarcity” talk regularly, it tends to follow you into your adult life. Even when there is obviously plenty, there is a deep-rooted impression of never having enough. This is why people buy things they don’t really need or use, or buy in excess. This runs the gamut from books they don’t read to clothes they don’t wear to vacation tchotchke & memorabilia that serve no purpose. We keep items because we think we might need them in the future. My mother collected zippers and buttons in case she could use them again. I can say with conviction that we rarely found any purpose for the buttons and NEVER used any of the zippers. But she’d been raised during the Depression, and had a scarcity mentality regarding what she viewed as “wasteful.”
We collect items that fill bookshelves, closets, and boxes…often never to be touched again. I know people whose closets are bulging with clothes with the tags still on them…purchased 5, 10 and even 20 years prior! They keep them in case they might wear them. Nonsense. If you haven’t worn it in 2 years, the likelihood that you will ever wear it is monumentally slim. Open up space by selling or donating clothes that you don’t use. Share what you don’t wear with someone who will be grateful to receive it. Donate new or gently worn clothing to shelters and programs that help the underserved.
Books also hold deep attachments. I love books myself, don’t get me wrong. I crave knowledge like someone in the Sahara craves water, and books have always been the mother lode. But several years ago, after lugging around 45+ boxes of books for years, many of which hadn’t been unpacked for 4 years, I realized it was time to sort and edit my collection. Why was I holding onto textbooks like they were the Holy Grail when I knew they were dinosaurs and I could find most of the information online and in libraries? Why do you suppose textbooks are updated every couple of years? Unless you’re going to read your fiction books again and again, what is the point of keeping those decaying, dusty pages on a shelf? I don’t collect first editions and some of my favorite literature was available in a digital format, so I made the decision to keep only the resources I needed for my work and replace the other literature in a digital format. I ended up selling 4 large bookshelves and a few books, but I recycled obsolete textbooks and donated the rest to the city library. Children’s books can also be donated to afterschool programs and children’s wards or other programs for the underserved.
An Attitude of Abundance
I have a rule in my home that whenever I bring in something new, I look for at least 1 item that I can release. In most cases, I find more than 1 item lurking in a closet, drawer or cupboard that I need to release. I am perpetually editing my environment and I find that whenever I release this “stagnant” energy, I open space for new people, ideas, and experiences. The truth of the matter is that when you feel your life lacks in any way, you’ll never have enough. An attitude of scarcity brings more scarcity. But an attitude of abundance brings more abundance. If you’re always holding onto yesterday there’s no room for what tomorrow can bring. Dig in, do the deep dive into what is holding you back. Remove the energetic barriers of “stuff” so you can move into the future, unburdened by emotional attachments, old paradigms, and ideas. Clear out the cobwebs of stagnant energy to raise your vibration and that of your environment. Once you begin this process, you’ll learn a lot about who you are and how your attitude about your possessions blocks your progress. I’d love to hear from you regarding your progress!
If you want a personal assessment of your space and/or to coach you through the process of decluttering and organizing, contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (619-793-4812)