From the archives: This post was originally published on May 12, 2011. Since it’s proved so popular, and since I’m in the midst of a fierce passionate round of decluttering myself, I thought I’d update this story and send it out again for those of you who might not have seen it yet.
—Love and light, Sue
What’s spiritual about decluttering, anyway?
Yes, decluttering as spiritual practice is a thing!
There’s a tangible relationship between decluttering and manifesting the life we desire. When we’re blocked by too much *stuff* we get stuck. Ideas and visions remain wishful and theoretical. We can’t see a clear path to what we want. We may not even be able to clearly define what we want, let alone go after it. Decluttering—cleaning up our act physically, mentally, and emotionally—frees us from those stuck places and helps us get into action.
Maybe you think clutter is just the physical things that pile up around us. It’s more than that. The *stuff* is simply the external, easy-to-see manifestation of how we’ve become cluttered in other areas of life.
What else can clutter look like?
- projects and dreams swirling about in your head, unstarted or incomplete
- tolerations in your life (a promotion promised and postponed, a leaky faucet, physical pain…)
- unhealthy, unfulfilling relationships
- addictive behaviors
- victim thoughts and mental chaos
Clutter, in any of its manifestations, has a negative impact on our energy, our attitude and our effectiveness. Piled-up desks, closets full of clothes you don’t wear, an unsatisfying career, unopened mail and unpaid bills—all of these create blockages that keep us from living into our greatness.
In my personal practice and with my clients, I’ve seen amazing results from regular decluttering; it’s a delicious way to accelerate the change you want in your life. I have also found that releasing clutter is a powerful invitation to what’s needed. I don’t know if it’s true that nature abhors a vacuum (there are plenty of empty spaces in our universe, after all, and nature seems to be just fine with them). But .
Let’s take a more detailed look at the some of the areas of life in which clutter can manifest:
Your stuff is everything in your environment: where you live, where you work, where you store stuff, your car. All the places stuff piles up. Here’s a weekly practice to begin now: The Decluttering Hour. You’ll need three boxes. Label one Donate. The second one Trash. The third Give to a Friend. Set a timer for an hour and pick a section of a room. Most of my clients like to begin in the kitchen or bathroom, I guess because they’re easiest (food stuffs, tools, toiletries are all easier to evaluate, it seems, than mementos, artwork, furniture and clothing).
Here’s what you do. Pick up everything, one thing at a time, and ask yourself: Do I use this? Have I used it in the past year? Will I use it again in the next three months? Do I love it? Does it have meaning for me? If the answer is No, pick a box and let it go. I’ve heard that some people sing “Please release me, let me go…” from the item’s point of view. Repeat the Decluttering Hour once a week until you are complete with all the spaces in your life. Take a month off, then repeat. Clutter repopulates quickly!
As you review everything, keep an eye on what’s not working, needs repair, needs maintenance. As you’re decluttering your closet, in addition to releasing what no longer fits or makes you happy to wear, you’re also going to notice what needs a button sewn on, a hem repaired. Do it. Don’t put anything back in its place until it’s in working order.
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
Decluttering is an inside job, as well. Ask yourself: Am I eating right? Am I getting the exercise I want? Am I getting enough rest? Do I take time for a regular spiritual practice? Am I indulging in addictive behaviors? Do I have a medical professional involved in my care? Am I addressing health issues? How am I managing stress and achieving work/life balance? What needs to be eliminated so that I can live into my fully realized life? What needs to be added?
Take a look at your thoughts and emotions: What are you doing to stay positive? Are you setting aside time for creative expression? Are you taking on learning new things, staying curious? Are you expressing generosity? Passion? Gratitude? All of these things create an internal glow that’s visible from the outside. Your friends will notice!
How many things are there which I do not want?
How are you relating with the people you care about and the people with whom you work? Are you showing up for the issues and conflicts that may arise? Are you practicing compassion and telling the truth? Are you taking responsibility for the part you play? Are you active in your relationships? Do you reach out regularly and let the people you care about it know they are loved?
Have you lovingly released the people and situations that hold you back from your highest good? Have you taken responsibility for forgiving those who have harmed you? Have you given up gossip? A decluttered relational life is one that allows you to freely and openly greet everyone you may meet (no ducking out of sight to avoid someone headed your way).
The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling.
How are you living your financial life? Here’s a useful decluttering practice: Go through the mail every day standing over your paper recycling basket. Immediately dump (unopened) all junk mail. Make your inbox one that contains only pertinent pieces of mail, and empty it regularly. You can use this same practice with your email inbox as well. There’s nothing like a good spam filtering tool to help you separate the junk from the real.
Are you handling money in a balanced way? Are you intentional about your earning, spending, investing and saving? Do you pay your bills on time? Are you free from using consumer debt? Have you created a will that provides for your assets after your death? Do you have a generosity practice? Are you giving freely of your time, treasure and talents?
The greatest step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.
Outcomes—the good stuff
Decluttering in one area makes it easier to declutter in all areas. The space you clear by throwing out stuff that no longer serves you creates space for clarity in other areas of life. The simple act of beginning a decluttering process starts a new set of habits that you’ll find are transferable to other areas of your life. The secret is simply to begin!
Update Summer 2013: I circled back to this topic again recently on the blog (August 2013), and there was a lot of juicy conversation in that post as well. Check it out!
I’d love to hear from you! Is decluttering something new to you? Have you been in the decluttering energy for a while now? Tell me about your experience and what you are learning. Talk to me in the comments.