I created my first online course in 2012 focused on decluttering your physical world. In all the years since, I’ve studied how clutter affects how we feel about our life and who we are in the world. Physical clutter affects not just our environment, but our mind and spirit. The most surprising discover was that size doesn’t matter, at least when it comes to clutter. Clutter in any size or form interfered with a sense of clarity and led to feeling overwhelmed more easily.
I understand how dealing with clutter can affect us because I struggle with it myself. I’ve talked about the turning point in my life, when I finally got that no amount of stuff will make you happy, and I’m betting when some of you hear the word “clutter,” you think of an episode of Hoarders or Clean House or crazy cat ladies. You envision closets stuffed with a century of clothes and “Mount Wash-More” in the laundry room. You imagine guests arriving, but being unable to walk into a room because of crap on the floor and piles of papers and dishes on the counters.
This is clutter in the big sense of the word.
And ten years ago, my world could be described in that way. If we were having guests, there was an hour of panic as things were stuffed into closets and under beds.
When I learned to love myself – the real me – I began to shed clutter and get the bulk of my physical world in order. As my physical world began to shape up, my doubts about my purpose on this planet began to shape up too.
Life crystallizes when your physical space is in order.
But that isn’t the only clutter I had in my mind’s eye when I was creating this course.
“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor—it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” — Peter Walsh
We live a pretty uncluttered life, in the big sense of the word. My bed is made daily. An unexpected visitor could pop over and I wouldn’t be embarrassed. In fact, I could quickly produce a snack and a beverage without needing to dig around for it.
Nevertheless, there is a reason I chose “streamline” as my bonus word for the first three months of 2012. My days are not as productive as they could be, and much of that productivity loss is due to clutter in the smaller sense of the word.
The last quarter of 2011 was busy for JB and I. We made three trips to Chicago, spent a week in New York, and a long weekend in DC. We went to holiday parties and had a houseguest. We also completely redecorated the dining room, the living room, the family room, and breakfast nook. In all that busy-ness, I fell out of many of the routines I have in place that keep me organized.
Papers didn’t get filed and new files weren’t set up for all the new purchases. When I went to pull a pair of scissors out of the “junk drawer” in the kitchen, I found receipts, pens, gum but no scissors. I baked four cakes and twelve dozen cookies in a week, but had to dig around for the cinnamon – a must in everything I bake.
And I don’t even want to mention the disorder in my closet.
Some folks may see these pockets of small clutter as no big deal and part of living an average life. Who cares, right? Everything I mentioned is in a place that can be hidden away if an unexpected visitor popped by.
But what if I told you that each pocket of clutter I am accepting as “normal” was what was really distracting me from my best work?
Our minds are creative creatures. That old lizard brain wants to keep us safe and unchanged, and clutter helps keep us from stepping into our best possible living.
Big clutter and small clutter – this is a case where size really doesn’t matter.
Everything has energy: the cup we drink our coffee out of, the outfit we wear to work, our beautifully made bed and the stack of laundry. We need the energy in our lives to focus on our work, for our dreams, for challenges and for staying healthy.
Every time we encounter something in our world that is undone, incomplete, or overdue, our energy to focus on what matters the most is drained.
We need to pay attention to what we are telling our subconscious minds when we hold on to clutter. Every time you open a drawer and have to look for something, your mind refocuses. It turns to the task of finding scissors and distracts you from writing that chapter of your book, that blog post, that sales letter or the perfect line of a song.
When energy is consistently flowing out to things that don’t really matter or to things that distract you, you have to play tricks in order to get by. You have to “get more” things to keep your energy up.
I could decide to “get organized” and to do it all NOW. I would start the day with a couple of back-to-back Venti Mochas from Starbucks, launch into hyper mode, and run around like a crazy woman clearing my spaces. I’ve done that before and ended up somewhat organized. I also end up exhausted and no clearer in my thinking beyond “clean”.
Or. I can do what I know works – and what 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting Edition can do for you: get things streamlined, de-cluttered, and organized in small, steady doses.
This approach allows us to slowly add routines and build a momentum of organization, without the exhaustion at the end.
It also adds to – instead of draining – that precious energy.
Getting clear in your life by dealing with your clutter – big clutter and small clutter – will allow you to direct your precious energy towards creating the clear path to a life lived in the zone.