Ever since Marie Kondo published Tidying Up, clearing the clutter has become a popular wellness trend and powerful act of self care. To unclutter means to get rid of the things that are no longer of use. It means weeding out items so that you can make space for something new to arrive. Clearing clutter often starts with the physical stuff of our lives but can quickly reveal what's going on in our hearts and minds.
Your outer world reflects your inner state. As a declutter specialist once described, "Your environment is a direct reflection of what you are saying yes to." Often times we are saying yes to fear, shame, anger, or some form of hiding our true, beautiful selves from the world. These deeper, often subconscious, inner beliefs and emotions can manifest outwardly in the form of stacks of papers and magazines on the floor, pictures that never seem to get hung on walls, unopened boxes, areas of neglect, avoidance or excess. "Piles of shame", "disaster zones", and "my office is such a mess" may appear to be benign pockets of clutter and accumulation in our homes, but they are embedded with hidden messages. Do I deserve to be comfortable? Is it safe for me to be me? Do I believe in my abilities? Am I afraid of change? Do I feel good about myself? Am I avoiding taking responsibility? Even the meticulous absence of clutter, like living room that feels like a museum, can communicate, too, a need to loosen the reigns and let life in.
Clearing the clutter is an apt metaphor for what I do as a coach. I help others identify and clear the obstacles that are holding people back from their dreams and desires. It can start with the physical environment, but it almost always comes back to clearing the path of thoughts, beliefs and behavior patterns that trip you up and keep you stuck.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, try my metal detector trick. Imagine you are that guy combing the beach with a metal detector looking for treasure. Take your own wand or detector in your mind and run it over your life. Where do you pick up a signal? Is there a particular hot spot? If you notice a lot of resistance showing up, notice that, then keep waving the wand. What shows up next? Can you start there?
Here are a few other strategies to help get you started, one area at a time.
- We tend to focus on the obvious for decluttering the home -- home office, garage, under the sink -- but I encourage starting with your wardrobe. You'd be surprised how much shame and negative self belief can hang in the closet. Sift through your clothes (hanging and in drawers) and pull out anything that makes you feel bad about your body or yourself. Are there items that, every time you put them on, make you feel unattractive, frumpy and less than your best? Do you say, "I can't get rid of them because they were a great deal or they seem like something I should own"? Donate them immediately. They will make someone else feel fabulous.
- Clearing the clutter in your financial life can involve getting honest about your debt (eliminating the shame and fear), paying closer attention to your investments, or getting an app to help you budget. What about the state of your wallet? What clues does it give you about your relationship with money? Try some wallet feng shui: put bills in their right place rather than cramming them in. Remove unnecessary receipts, tickets, or cards and put them in the file or trash. Put "like" items together so you know what you have for easy reference (i.e. gift cards, punch cards, etc).
- Yes, you can have relationship clutter. These are the people in your life who are stealing your energy and blocking your light. What steps can you take to set up better boundaries or let people go that no longer serve your higher self? People, like things, can block you from reaching the next level of your life because of the tough emotions and beliefs we have associated with them.
- There are many ways to "clean up" your diet. Similar to the wardrobe exercise, take an inventory of your pantry and fridge and eliminate all items that you already know will lead you down a path of shame, guilty or being angry with yourself. Are your cupboards overstuffed with excess snack foods and junk? (Ask yourself why they are there.) Keep and appreciate the foods that make you feel awesome. Conversely, are you being too rigid and controlled in your eating and need to let some deliciousness back in?
The great part about decluttering is that once you get started (and get a few successes under your belt), you won't want to stop! It's like buying a new couch. Suddenly the rest of the furniture looks old and outdated and everything needs to change. As you become more aware of your limiting beliefs attached to the object of your life -- things dragging on your energy and holding you back -- your threshold of tolerance lowers. You become more protective of the good feelings and positive momentum. You become more open to seeing what has been blocking you...and what you are ready to invite in.