A is for Clutter Clearing? The Three A's of Change

I'll be honest with you.  I can't wait until the Winter Solstice.  I can't wait for the days to start getting longer, only 18 more to go. 

Yay sun! 

This time of year has me thinking of the new year, the new sun, what I want for my life and how I want things to be different. 

It makes me think of change.

And I was reminded me of a sweet little concept I learned from a participant in a group at Sheena's Place a few years ago (a centre for people with eating disorders where I've been facilitating groups for 8 years).

It's the Three A's of Change, and it's brilliant!

(Or for us Canadians, the three Eh's of Change. Hardy har har! ;)

If change was easy, you wouldn't stress and sweat over it, you'd just do it. 

But it's not.  Change is hard.

What needs to happen in order for you to change?

"I'm sorry, what needs to change?  I'm fine. Thank you."

Ah yes...  Well then, I guess we'll start at the beginning. 

The first A of change is... 



In order to change something, you need to be aware that it exists! 

You can't change something you can't see, just like you can't get that piece of spinach out of your teeth unless you look in a mirror (that is unless you're hanging around a gaggle of Germans, but that's a story for another time). 

Awareness can be a bit of a challenge.  Why?  Blinders. 

We are very good at only seeing what we want to see in ourselves, in our homes, in our lives. 

Why?  Because awareness can be painful and maddening.  There's nothing more frustrating than being aware of something but having no idea what to do about it. 

It totally sucks.

Like the other day I saw a picture of the back of my head and could see very clearly that I was long overdue for a haircut.  The days between seeing the picture and getting my haircut were annoying because I was walking around knowing that the back of my head looked like a discarded pile of Movember moustaches. 

Now imagine if I didn't know I could get my haircut...

Let's apply this to clutter.  You can't clear your clutter if you don't see it as clutter, or if you don't see it at all.

Only when you can SEE your clutter and recognize it as such can you do something about it. 

Your storage locker full of stuff, that closet you never open, the room you pretend isn't there. 

Ignorance is bliss...

Once you know it's there, you can't pretend that you don't.  You can't unsee it.  But it's hard, especially if you have no idea how you're going to deal with it and you're caught up in feeling bad about it.


Which bring us to the second A of change...


This A of change is simple and it's not. 

See that chair over there?  It's a chair.  It is what it is, just a chair.  Accept it.

Acceptance is about being with what is. 

I have clutter. 

It's not a judgement.  It's not a right or a wrong.  It just is.

Again, not always easy. 

I may have told this story before, but it's worth mentioning again. 

It reminds me of the first time I listened to the audio cassette (yes, cassette) Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame by Tara Brach. 

I listened to it on a bus ride from Toronto to Kingston to visit my friend Kate.

When I picked it up I was hopeful that it contained the secret ingredient, the secret handshake, the secret something that would help me to feel good enough. 

The secret that would allow me to accept myself.

Well...  It didn't. 

The radical notion Tara shares, is that you, me, all of us are worthy of acceptance right now.

I can't tell you how devastated I was to hear that there was no secret.  And I was confused.  If I accept myself, then it must mean that I don't want to change.  Right?

That night, I woke up at 4am crying. 

At the time, I didn't even know why I was crying (poor Kate, she didn't know what to do!), but it's obvious now.  My foundation had been shaken.

This idea that I had to accept myself FIRST, that I had to accept myself before I could change went against everything I believed.  

Acceptance.  It is what it is.

Or as Popeye says, "I yam what i yam and that's all that I yam"


The third A of change is...


Of course, in order for something to truly change, you have to take action. 

Action is the doing, it's the movement. 

It's signing up and going to that dance class.  It's bravely taking the garbage bag and facing your closet. It's making the appointment with your naturopath.

Can you act if you don't know it's there?  No.

Can you act if you don't accept it for what it is?  Well...  You may act, but it probably won't stick. 

When you act from a place of hate or dissatisfaction, it doesn't always work.  You need compassion.  You need acceptance.

One more little story. 

I used to smoke.  *gasp*  I know!  Nobody believes me when I tell them. 

In fact, I didn't really believe that I smoked half of the time.  I didn't like to think of myself as a smoker.

I tried quitting many times, but it never stuck.  I'd throw my cigarettes into the garbage after a night of too many and swear that I would never smoke again. 

But I did.  I always smoked again and then I would feel so guilty.  A cycle of guilt and shame, not a great place to change from. 

One day I came home and my roommate put a book on the kitchen table and told me I could borrow it if I wanted.  It was called The Only Way To Stop Smoking Permanently by Allen Carr. 

I read the book.  I haven't had a cigarette since.  The book is a beautiful combination of awareness and acceptance that leads to action, but you don't stop smoking at the beginning of the book, you stop at the end.

It's only through Awareness and Acceptance that you can take Action.  Action that sticks. 

I have to be aware of the box in my basement.

I have to accept that the box in my basement is what it is.  A box with stuff in it.  It's not a box of shame or of guilt.  I'm not a bad person for having it.  It's just a box.

Then I can take action and sort through the box. 


I totally heart the Three A's of Change. 

I like to remind myself of them when I'm at the beginning, when I'm at awareness.  When I feel frustrated and uncertain.  When I'm annoyed that things aren't moving.  When I have no idea how to change. 

I remind myself that I'm already on my way, I'm on the first A.  I remind myself that from the first A you can't see the third.  And I trust that I'll get there. 

Awareness, Acceptance, Action.

How about you?  Have you noticed the three A's of change at work in your life?  Is there something that you would like to change but you're not sure how?

What area of your life could use a little bit of the three A's of change?

I'd love to hear about it in the comments below and please pass this along to your friend whose always beating herself up for not changing fast enough. 

Take care,



p.s. If you're reading this and you're not on my list, you should really get yourself on it!  I send out a fun and useful email just about every week on clearing clutter and living life.  Just pop on over here to get on!  All the cool kids are doing it!