Clutter. Why Have You Allowed It into Your Space and What Can You Learn from It?

Is your home and/or office filled with clutter? This includes the items that may be shoved in the closet out of sight. Items that you truly do use once and awhile are fine but what about all the items you never use? I have them. A lot less than I did a few months ago but I still have some. I do understand that it’s hard to let things go. What about that denim jacket I haven’t worn since high school? I might have some purpose for it, though that purpose has yet to crop up in the last ten years. What about those crystal candle stick holders my mother unloaded on me? I don’t even like the shape of them… but still, if I were to ever throw a really fancy dinner party, they might come in handy.

Okay, so it seems like life could be filled with a lot of what ifs. However, what if there is something deeper; below the what ifs? What if our clutter is actually a clue to understand more about ourselves and possibly even our next step? I remember once reading an interesting story in a book about a woman and her clutter (I would cite the book but it’s been too long to remember from where it came). Anyhow, this woman was a client of the author and the woman had stacks of paper EVE-RY-WHE-RE in her apartment. She had tried for years to tackle this problem yet the issue kept getting more and more out of hand. One day, the author asked the woman to go home in the evening, turn off the lights, light one candle and then just sit and be quite with herself. Given the chance to just be present, the woman might gain some insight into why these papers were such a persistent issue.

The woman took this advice and shortly into this process the answer came to her and she broke down sobbing. Among all the papers, the woman realized that she had notes on bits of paper here and there for a book she had been dreaming about for years. She was afraid to get rid of the papers because with it, she might lose her dream. Having this realization finally gave her the clarity and motivation she needed to clean up her apartment and start going after something she really cared about: her book. This woman then worked with the author to devise a plan and be held accountable to working on her book each week – in a much more organized manner. Once she began this process, the mounds of paper quickly dissipated. Naturally, this woman felt much more rejuvenated with a clear home, a clear mind, and a clear purpose.

So, let’s look at our own lives. Yes, the clutter isn’t nice and we have considered doing something about it many times. Maybe like me, you have made piles, put things in bags, even put those bags by the front door and then thought…but what if I really do need those items? I might regret it. And so the bags go back in the closet or under the bed. What if, instead of dropping the whole issue at that point, we instead considered whether or not there could be something deeper behind this issue. Why actually is this so difficult? What is it about this item that I am hoping might one day serve me?

Here is my personal example. I used to be a ballet dancer. I spent much of my childhood dancing and particularly dancing ballet. I continued some ballet in college and thus I had leotards, pink tights, hair nets, and a pair of ballet shoes. For years now, I have moved these items with me from one place to the next thinking that I might need them. Once I decided to get clear on why I still have these items here is the conclusion that came to me.

I love dancing. Dancing is extremely important to me and a vital part of my self-expression and happiness. Ballet however, is not a form of dance that I care to ever again formally pursue. With this level of clarity, it was easy to let go of the ballet gear and reassure myself that dancing will always be a part of my life. I already dance regularly but if I didn’t I would have begun to identify ways to incorporate it into my life. Having the clarity though that ballet was something I didn’t need to hold on to, even though it was once a significant part of my life, allowed me to clear my space and add to my mental clarity as well.

I hope this process becomes a tool that is useful for you and that you can use often.

Finally, it is important to be conscious about your choices moving forward. If your space is cluttered, that is because you let the clutter in. If you have taken the physical, mental and emotional energy to clear your space, are you going to allow the clutter to waltz right back into your life? It’s unfortunately much easier to fall into that trap than you might think.

For instance, I have a friend who is in the process of moving and gave me two of her items that she is getting rid of. My initial reaction was “These are cool items and they are free!” But then I realized, wait, she is getting of the exact same types of things I just got rid of in my own home. Items that could be useful or items that are pretty to have but items that I don’t really need and won’t actually enhance my life. It was with this realization that it was then easy to say “Thanks but no thanks.” I had a commitment to myself to keep and that resolve actually made me feel lighter and more in control of the life that I am actively creating.

So, if you remember to do so, always ask yourself before bringing something new into your home if it is in alignment with how you want your life to be. Try to be as conscious as possible with your choices. Will this item in question add to your joy or will it be in conflict with your personal resolve? Happy de-cluttering and inner gift finding!