Ah clutter, that old chestnut. It weighs us down, stresses us out, and makes us anxious. Oprah’s clutter organiser Peter Walsh says: “Clutter overwhelms and paralyses us.” And of course he’s right.
I think clutter is one of the biggest crushers of calm in our homes, hearts and heads. And if we’re trying to choose calm over chaos, then clutter has got to go on the list of big things to look at first.
If you’re searching for ways to cut your clutter, ironically there’s a mountain of information to help you. I think these are some of the best:
- Breathing room by medical doctor and holistic healer Dr Melva Green and spiritual intuitive Lauren Rosenfeld
- This hefty ‘how to’ guide on The Minimalist Vegan blog
- Down to Earth blog by Rhonda Hetzel and her book by the same name
- Organized simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider
- Leo Babauta from Zen Habit’s articles
- Peter Walsh’s books and apps, including his latest book, Lose the clutter, lose the weight
- The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organising by Marie Kondo
- Oprah’s lists.
But even with the best how-to guides, it can be really hard to get started on decluttering. Unfortunately, the only way out is through. But along the way, you can keep these five ‘a-ha’ moments of mine in mind and hopefully feel better about your mess:
On trying to create perfection in our home organisation:
Peter Walsh says: “If you think ‘I can’t do it perfectly’ then you’ll never do it at all … I hate the word ‘perfect’ so much. It’s the most destructive, crushing, wrong idea to have. Perfection in my view should never be the goal. Happiness, stress-free, usable, family-friendly—they’re the goals.”
“… We think everyone is achieving perfection except us. We think everyone is getting more except us. We think everyone is doing better than we are. But when you talk about it, you discover that so many people are struggling with this need to appear better, this illusion that if only we can keep up this front of success, people will like us more. The truth is, you peel back the curtain just a little bit—and I say this about myself and the people I work with too—everyone is a struggling, frail eight-year old trying to make sense of the world … everyone, everyone. This idea that we can be perfect—if we can just be perfect; if we buy more we’ll be better—is total crap.”
On the only sane way to approach decluttering:
Peter Walsh says: “It’s all a process. With business, so often we hear people say to keep the big picture in mind; it’s all about the big picture. Screw the big picture! Just look at one shelf, look at one little corner …
“All you have to do is commit to 10 minutes a day and it might be tidy up the remotes or get rid of the bath towels you don’t use or do under one sink or just do one little cupboard … There’s kind of a guerrilla tactic involved. You just think ‘This will take two minutes’ and suddenly two is 10 and 10 is 20 and you’ve achieved massive success … Easy steps, a set amount of time, less is more, wow I can achieve this victory!”
Peter has the ‘31 Days to Get Organised Challenge’ every January on his Facebook page. You can see all of 2015’s challenges here.
On how awesome you’ll feel if you declutter (even a little bit):
Peter Walsh says: “In every single case, when children come back into a decluttered, organised, space-full space—in every case, they spontaneously start to dance. It’s amazing … and I think it’s because within them there is this sense that open space creates joy and kind of a liberty and a freedom that children in their innocence just tap into instinctively.”
“You know that feeling, that moment when you’re on holidays somewhere and you’re in the forest or standing on the shore of a beach or on a cliff somewhere staring at a vista … and suddenly in that moment, the awesomeness of that moment, the awesomeness of where you are just flows over you. That moment never occurs in a cluttered, disorganised space. But it can in an uncluttered, organised space. That moment can permeate that space 24/7, I guarantee it.”
Dr Melva Green and Lauren Rosenfeld say: “We humans have a deep-seated need to fill empty spaces. We believe that the only things that are real are the ones we can lay our hands on. But what we fail to see is that empty spaces are full—full of pure potential, a vast openness into which we can invite any energy we desire … in the light of the spirit, emptiness is precious. It is the space into which we can breathe. It is the clarity into which intuition shines. It is what Zen Buddhists call ‘beginner’s mind’: a mind (and heart) free of the preconceptions that block wonder.”
On how decluttering is a spiritual exercise:
Green and Rosenfeld say: “This spiritual method of decluttering can be summarised in one word: SLICE. This is an acronym for Stop and Listen. Intend. Clear the Energy … The SLICE method is a holistic approach to decluttering. If you declutter your home without doing the same for your heart, you are carrying around emotional clutter and will not be able to be present in your decluttered home. If you declutter your heart without decluttering your relationships, you will quickly find yourself drawn into conflict (or conflict avoidance) that will fill your heart back up with anger, guilt, and resentment. If you declutter your home, your heart and your relationships without attending to your roles and responsibilities, you will find yourself so exhausted and burned out that you can’t find the energy to enjoy your life.”
On how emotional clutter can be some of the worst:
Green and Rosenfeld say: “… consuming emotions [like fear, resentment, worry, guilt, anxiety, despair, disappointment, envy, bitterness] do not just [exist to shield us]; they also become the clutter that blocks our heart. We keep them around because we think they will be useful to us. We are afraid to let go of them—on some level we feel we are going to be in trouble without them. So we stash our resentments, just in case someone wants to harm us in the future. We collect our worries, in case we need to be reminded of what might go wrong. We hoard our guilt in the event we need to remember the time we could have been a better and more upstanding person. Our anxieties gather like dust and become so thick we can barely see through them. With all of this junk lying around in the sacred space of your heart, how can light and air move through?”
Let’s get to it then, hey? But as Peter Walsh says: only one drawer at a time! Promise me you’ll do no more than that and be happy for having done it?
All the Peter Walsh quotes are from the ‘How She Really Does It’ podcast. There’s some good stuff from other interviews too.