Fear Busters for Clutter

               Ruth's living room

               Ruth's living room

More and more it looks to me like our clutter is a result of fear. Fear that we might need that box of doorknobs, fear that we are giving away something that has monetary value, and fear that we're going to forget the sweet memories that seem to be attached to particular items. Here are the top 3 statements I hear from people that keep them stuck in fear and clutter.

1. “I might need this someday.”

This is the rallying cry that keeps us overwhelmed and mired in our stuff. This is the statement that keeps towers of margarine tubs and stacks of unread magazines in homes. If you are ready to shed some stuff, rather than “I might need this someday”, consider the question “If I let this go, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

2. “This might be worth some money.”

This can be true, but the majority of the time we assume items have a monetary value that they don’t.  Even when there is potential cash to be made, we never get around to researching the value and then finding the best marketplace. If you really believe the record albums are worth some money then you have to put the time and energy into selling them. Obviously, you won't get the payoff if you continue to leave them in the basement.

3. “I feel guilty about letting this go.”

We develop emotional attachments to stuff and that can make it hard to let go of even when we don’t really want them anymore. Maybe you have your grandmother's china hutch, an expensive pair of shoes that don't fit, or boxes of your children's art projects. If you are ready to consider letting these items go, here are some helpful strategies:

  • re-gift the set of dishes to someone you know will want them
  • take a photo of the dining room table as a proxy for the table
  • write about how you feel when you see the vases
  • make a quick piece of art to honor the emotions you feel when you look at the painting
  • my personal favorite, wear the dress one last time and savor its farewell tour


Noticing the fear chatter in your head while you're sorting through your clutter can be interesting, but you don't need to believe it... just because you think it. Simply continue to deal with your clutter, soon the sense of relief and peace will feel stronger than the fear. Keep moving forward and let me know if you want help.


The Next Trip

As I peek into the openness of next year, I wonder which of my habits served me well enough in 2015, to help me create the life I want in 2016? Are there some I should leave behind?

These are the kinds of questions I asked Leah as we looked into her den. Leah asked me to help her create a room where she could peacefully read. Standing in the doorway I saw that all of the corners were packed with stuff. The couch was used as a large storage bin and every horizontal surface held deep piles of things.  I helped Leah mindfully consider how she wanted this room to feel, what it would look like if it were exactly the way she wanted. We talked about the stuff in the den that made sense to keep and the items that just didn’t fit with her intention of a reading room. At the core of this process was a focus on what Leah wanted to create, a focus on creation rather than blame. It is not helpful to spend time talking about how this den got so cluttered; lots more engaging and energizing to focus on what’s next.

This week I am going through a similar process. I am taking the time to thoughtfully consider how I want to feel as a walk through the days and months of the new year. When I focus on what I want to create for myself I consider the habits that are helpful, and which are inconsistent with my intention. Which enlivening habits will I tuck into my purse for the 2016 trip?

Wonder about the clutter

Some people comfortably live among stacks of books, weeks of newspapers and old coffee cups.  For me, the tidiness and aesthetics of my surroundings has a big impact on how I feel.  Walking down an old road in Tuscany I feel open and calm.  Drop me in a cramped, worn-out, motel in the boot heel of Missouri and I don’t feel quite so expansive or clear. I prefer to make my surroundings beautiful without too much stuff. I find it easier to appreciate lovely things when there aren’t so darned many of them. What’s going on here, are some of us more sensitive to our surroundings? If so, why? And perhaps more interestingly, where do you fit into this continuum? Let’s explore how you are impacted by your physical surrounding.

Take a moment to get settled in your chair and take a few deep, relaxed breaths.

Now, imagine a time when you felt completely comfortable and relaxed.

What were the physical characteristics of this place?

Describe the sights, sounds, smells and other sensory details.

Stay with the pleasantness for a few minutes and enjoy the feelings you experience.

You may have remembered a place that was akin to walking in the country or maybe closer to the boot heel motel, and either is perfect. I don’t think it is helpful to judge ourselves to be right or wrong...we are creatures continually in the process of changing our preferences and even habits. But it is good to be aware of the relationship between how we feel and the specifics of our surroundings.

Let me know what you think!