When people find out that I’m a Clutter Coach, they often assume that I live in a minimalist heaven, with nothing more than a straw mat to lie on, a buckwheat pillow to rest my head upon, a simple cushion to sit on and one bowl to eat out of (with my bare hands of course). Perhaps there’s one small decoration, such as a single orchid, rising like a ballerina out of its mossy bed. I don’t mean to shatter any illusions, but this is not my reality and if you want to follow a clutter-free life, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be yours either.
Clearing clutter is not about having nothing. Living clutter free is about surrounding yourself with things that you love and bringing a level of consciousness to the sleepy corners of your home and life. I invite you to do a little exercise right now. Close your eyes and mentally take a tour of your house or apartment. Imagine you are walking through every room, looking in every closet and visiting every dark corner. As you do this, are there areas that feel more present than others? Which areas feel forgotten, cluttered or blank? You can even do this exercise by walking through your space. You’ll notice the parts of your home that feel good, that feel warm, that feel like you and the parts that you gloss over, that leave you feeling tired or are forgotten as soon as you look away. It’s almost as if there’s a mental whiteout when it comes to certain closets and corners in your home.
It’s these blank, cluttered and sleepy areas that you really want to focus on when you engage the process of clearing clutter. How can you bring a sense of YOU to the quiet corners of your home? The first step, of course, is to clear your clutter. Now listen very carefully, it’s important that you start this process with a small space, not your whole house. Your perfectionist gremlin will try to convince you that it’s not worth starting if you can’t do it all (perfectly, right now), but I assure you it’s well worth starting small. In fact, for most of us, it’s the only way it will happen. I recommend choosing a specific area on which to work. For example, I recently decided to just focus on the corner where my bedside table lives, which consists of one small surface, two small drawers and a floor space that’s 3 feet by 3 feet.
When clearing clutter, the three most important questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I love it?
- Do I use it?
- How does it make me feel?
Once your chosen area is clear of clutter, it’s time to show it a little love. There’s something quite magical that can happen when you really take the time to clean a space that is usually forgotten. First of all, get your trusty vacuum cleaner and get rid of the dust bunnies and dead flies. Vacuuming is not just a chore when you really bring yourself along for the ride. Instead of blanking out, grumbling or thinking about what you’re going to do this weekend, see if you can really be present as you vacuum. Before you start, close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Feel your heart and feel your belly. As you vacuum, imagine you’re sucking up all the sleepy, stale energy along with the toenail clippings and dog hair. The vacuum cleaner is not just for floors: you can also use it to vacuum your bed, the curtains, the walls and pets. (OK, maybe just some pets, vacuuming your pet mouse or baby hedgehog is not recommended.) If you’ve never tried it before, it’s easier to start with just one small corner rather than doing the whole house. As beautiful as it is, it’s often difficult to stay present for extended periods of time.
After you’ve vacuumed, it’s time to bust out the bucket and rag. Note that I said rag, not mop. Although it’s possible to presence a space while mopping, it’s much more powerful if you get down on your knees and tackle it with your hands. Fill your bucket with warm water. If the corner you’re working on is especially dirty, you can add a small amount of natural cleanser to the water, but, if not, just plain water is fine. If you do use cleanser be sure to rinse it with plain water when you’re done. Whereas the vacuuming was to clear out old sticky energy, cleaning the space with water is a way of really bringing a loving sense of self to your space. As you wipe the floor/wall/bookcase, feel your heart and love your space. Do it slowly and deliberately, really paying attention to the nooks and crannies, loving every floorboard and every book.
Now that your space is clean, it’s time to spice it up. But, before you do, there’s one more exercise for you to try. As you’ll remember, clearing your clutter is not about living in an empty space. However, you might like to try leaving the space clear and clean for a little while, just to see how it feels. Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel the impulse to dump something, anything there, just so it doesn’t feel empty? As you sit with the space, rather than follow the instinct to either fill it up right away or become unconscious to the feelings it brings up, ask yourself what would feel good there. There’s a real opportunity to consciously decide what will live here and what will make the space feel most like you.
When you put items back in the space, once again ask yourself how they make you feel. You can consciously place items that not only make you feel warm and alive, but also items that represent the things that you want to cultivate in your life. Perhaps you would really enjoy spending more time in nature. Why not place something in your corner that reminds of the feeling you get when you’re standing in the middle of a forest? Your space can become a touchstone for the life you want to live, so have fun with it. And remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, just start one corner at a time.
If you would like to learn more about how to clear clutter and truly make your house a home, I invite you to attend a very special workshop that I will be facilitating on Sunday, October 16th at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener. It’s called Home is Where the Heart Is and, for more information, you can visit queenstreetyoga.com and go to the workshops page.
This article was originally written for the Healing Path Centre newsletter. To download the issue, visit their website here: http://healingpathcentre.com/resources-newsletter-articles.php