The Being & The Doing EPISODE 15:
Clearing the Clutter that Holds You Back
From Marie Kondo to the Minimalists everyone is looking for ways to declutter. In part one of a 3 part series on Clearing the Clutter I explore our addiction to stuff. How did we get to this place where clutter overwhelms us? Should we really be concerned about it? Maybe your thinking about clutter needs a little shift.
*A full transcript will be posted soon at the bottom of this page.
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Books about clutter
Learn about our crisis of consumption in John deGraaf’s book called Affluenza.
Declutter by choosing joy with Marie Kondo and the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Get inspired by Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus in their book Everything That Remains
This Episode’s Homework
Something to think about:
What’s the cost of clutter in your life?
Something to try:
Make a list of all the ways clutter holds you back in your life. Let yourself experience the full impact of the stuff you have piled up in your space and heart and mind. Remember before you can begin making sustainable changes, you have to wake up to the toll clutter takes .
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Intro: Welcome to The Being and The Doing, a podcast about well-being and the practices that help us have more calm, focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author, and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones, welcome to Episode 15 of The Being and The Doing. Before we get started on today’s topic, I want to respond to some inquiries I’ve been getting about how you can work with me, which I would love to do and there are actually lots of ways that we can work together; all of them are on my website stonecirclecoaching.com. So to start, there’s a ton of free resources on the website so when you go there, to the website stonecirclecoaching.com and click on the blog, you’re going to find all kinds of articles on topics that might be of interest.
Now, if you click on the ‘work with me’ button right on the homepage, you’re going to find some programs. So for example, if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person, there is a great do-it-yourself well-being toolkit that you can have instant access to or if you’re looking for daily inspiration, you’ll want to take a peek at ‘everyday mindfulness’ where you can have me popping into your inbox every single day with some inspiration or tips or strategies to try. And of course, we can always work together coaching. I have been a coach for 17 years and it is my great honor to partner with people, to help you get unstuck or achieve a goal or just figure some stuff out by gaining a little clarity. You’ll find info about how we can coach together on that ‘work with me’ page too.
On to today’s topic; clearing the clutter that holds you back. Today is Part 1 of a three-part series, this topic is huge. So many of you have said, “Laurel, please do a podcast on clutter.” So here we go. You know, clutter is kind of an obsession right now. If you Google how to declutter, you get almost 36 million responses to that question, how to declutter? And there’s some current kind of hot gurus of decluttering. You know, we have Marie Kondo and her Japanese art of tidying things up that went from a best-selling book to now, it’s a Netflix series where you can watch her do her thing. And there are those two cool minimalist guys, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus who have a completely different approach to dealing with clutter, but equally interesting because apparently, people want to talk about clutter.
I did a survey just recently with my community and dealing with clutter was number two on the list of topics people were interested in; living more mindfully was number one and then it was clutter. Now, I always like to define what we’re talking about so what is clutter? Well, if we go to our handy dandy friend Webster’s, clutter is defined as ‘to fill or cover with scattered or disorganized things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.’
So we think of clutter, usually, as the piles of stuff we have which it is. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when we say clutter. Like whatever the stuff that junk you have piled up, but it’s actually bigger than that. Sure, there’s the clutter that we can see, physical clutter stuff but there’s also clutter that we can’t see, mental clutter, the piles of stuff in our heads, the thoughts and the to-do lists and all of that. And there’s also emotional clutter, the stuff that’s in our heart, the clutter that we get from relationships that perhaps need to be decluttered a little bit.
So today, let’s focus on how we’ve gotten to this place where clutter is such an issue for us. And let’s also take a peek at why we should be concerned about it because let’s face it, as a culture, we have an addiction to stuff. So where did that come from? Back in 2001, author John de Graaff wrote a book called Affluenza and it’s all about society’s endless pursuit of material wealth. The original book in 2001, was a great book and he defined affluenza as a painful contagious socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste, resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. Now, the book is currently in its Third Edition. It was updated last in 2014 and it contains some really eye-opening statistics about this crisis of consumption that we have.
So for example by the 1980s, our garages had become so big that they were often larger than homes that entire families lived in during the 1950s so think about that. People’s garages are bigger than the homes that people raise their families in the 1950s. And even though our families are getting smaller, meaning that people are having fewer children, the average size of family homes are getting bigger.
So right after World War II, 750 square feet was just about the average size. By the 1950s, it was 950 square feet and by the 1960s, it was 1,100 square feet and by the 1970s, it was 1350 square feet and now it’s 2,500 square feet. So we have bigger houses, which means, we have more stuff. But even having these bigger houses isn’t apparently enough to contain the stuff. We now have the rise of self-storage units. So a self-storage unit, which is a place where you pay to store stuff that you can no longer fit into your house that is way bigger than houses when people were raising larger families.
Apparently, the most common size for a self-storage unit is a 10 by 10-foot unit and priced at about $199 a month, that’s almost $2400 a year just to store your stuff. So, obviously, people are beginning to realize that there’s a problem with stuff because they’re Googling it, obviously, and there is a bit of a push back on ‘the more is better’ philosophy.
Yes, we’re seeing this rapid rise in the self-storage business, but there’s also a rise in people looking at tiny homes. And what’s interesting about that tiny home thing is, for people who are trying to build those tiny little homes, they’re about what? 750 square feet, which is the size of houses that were back, post World War II. So something is starting to happen. Maybe what we all really need to do is to get a little more clear about what the impact of all of this clutter actually is in our lives because it does have a huge impact. It’s not just, I’m annoyed because I can’t find my keys or that my inbox is overflowing or I’m feeling the weight of too many commitments that my schedule is really cluttered. I mean, that’s all bad enough but a cluttered up life – physical, mental, emotional -that clutter takes its toll in other ways too.
So first and most practically, too much stuff in your head or on your desk or on your kitchen counter gets in the way of your success because it drains your time and that makes you less effective and less efficient. So you’re not as effective and you’re not as efficient, which means, it takes more time and everybody wants to have more time or certainly feels like they don’t have enough time. And you know, yeah, yeah, I know, some of you are going to say, “But I know where everything is in the midst of the clutter, there’s an order to my clutter,” or you know, “I’m a creative person so I can’t be constrained by organization.” Yeah, got it but there’s this tipping point.
Now, everyone doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart organized, all great respect to Martha Stewart, but your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Let me say that again; your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. So maybe ponder on that for a little bit; that when you see the Clutter that is going on, that is somehow representative of what is going on inside in your heart and your mind.
Now, there’s another toll, a second toll that clutter takes. Clutter has an energetic drag on your life. You know, all things, all people, all stuff, share the same energy field and no, that is not some new-age thing, that’s just physics. We all share the same energetic field and so there’s stagnant energy that stocks up around clutter and it makes us feel tired and it makes us feel lethargic. And when we clear it up, it frees up the energy in the space and it frees up the energy within us and makes us feel a little more, vital, alive.
So here’s a good example. Think about the most cluttered space in your house. Think about like what room that is, or maybe, think about the clutter on your desk or wherever it is. Think about the most cluttered space that you have and how does it make you feel when you step into that space or when you sit down at your desk? What does it feel like? Now, think about the last time that you went on a cleaning spree? And you know, maybe it wasn’t for a while but think about the last time that you went on a big cleaning spree and you tidied something up or a space up; I bet you had a real renewed sense of energy and possibility. It just feels like whoa! And that’s because you’ve shifted the energy around you.
I think about at Christmas time, I don’t put a lot of decorations and things out but at Christmas time, you pack them up, right at the beginning of the new year and it just feels so open because now we’ve taken stuff out of the space. And there is, for me, this energetic sense of wow, it’s really open which is kind of nice happening at the beginning of the year. So there is this energetic field that is attached to clutter.
Here’s another toll; there’s a financial aspect to clutter. You’ve spent money, perhaps, people pleasing; buying gifts for them that, perhaps, is replacing something else. You may be buy things that you already have but you have forgotten that you have them because you can’t really find them in the midst of the clutter. Or you buy things that you really don’t need or you spend money on what’s become to be called retail therapy; thinking that stuff can sort of momentarily make you feel better about something. So there is a financial impact to clutter too.
And here’s another thing that happens; when there’s too much clutter, there’s also a feeling of stuckness that leads to procrastination so you don’t actually make any progress. Like when it’s really a lot of stuff, you just feel like you’re mired down in it and you don’t take the next step. And in the end, that clutter all creates a sense of overwhelm. But that’s often how people feel when their lives have been too cluttered up, whether it’s in your basement or in your mind or in your heart and it seems like you kind of can’t keep your head above water or there’s not really room to breathe and all of that just adds to more stress, right? It adds to the stress of an already stressful and busy life that most people have.
Feels like we need an exhale. It’s kind of a wow! Yes, there is a weight of clutter. So maybe you’re feeling that a little bit in that wanting to exhale right now the actual weight of the clutter in your life, and that’s okay because we have to acknowledge the impact that before we might actually be motivated to want to do something about it, you have to feel the weight of it. So, inhale and exhale and remember, you’re human, you are not the only person who’s got clutter. You’re not the only person that has stuff stacked up or things that you ‘yeah, I need to clear that out’ or ‘I need to organize that’, you’re not the only person.
You’re not the only person whose head is cluttered up with a million thoughts and lists and organizing details. You’re not the only person who’s cluttered up with relationships that maybe is stuck or stagnant. So you’re human, that’s okay. If we know there’s this impact and whether we knew it in that list that I just went through, we knew it on some level that is clutter that we have has an impact, why don’t we clear it out? Let’s just get rid of that; why don’t we? What are the obstacles that keep us from doing it?
Well, there’s a few. It feels hard to let go, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s just really hard to let go of the clutter and maybe that’s because we’re afraid of what’s going to happen if we let go of it, you know, “Here are these things if I let go of it, I’ll maybe lose the memories that are attached to those things” or “oh, maybe I’m going to need that thing” or whatever, we just don’t want to let go of it. And sometimes we don’t tackle the clutter because maybe we don’t really realize the toll. We don’t really see how much impact that this is actually having. You know, “That it’s okay, it doesn’t matter that this all clutter, I know where everything is.” Yeah, I bet you don’t really understand the toll that that’s taking. Maybe you’re not starting because you just feel overwhelmed.
It’s like, “Oh, that’s like kind of the black hole if I go into that room and start trying to organize. It’s like I don’t even know where to begin.” And there’s also part of that overwhelm where we know on some level it’s going to get worse before it gets better if we begin to tackle it.
And humans, we don’t like change very much. So sometimes it’s that idea that “Oh, I’m going to clear this all out,” and that will create a change and then what will that actually be like. And sometimes I think we don’t clear the clutter because we’re really stuck with some kind of old idea or perspective or attitude towards the clutter. There’s a lot of truth in that saying that, you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that got you into it. So you have to have a different way of thinking about clearing the Clutter.
Because it’s not the current circumstances that are holding you back, it is never the circumstances. It’s always how you’re thinking about the circumstances that are getting in your way. Have you ever said, “Well, that’s just the way it is,” about anything; whether it’s about your clutter or anything else, that’s just the way it is. Well, just the way it is is simply a way of thinking about a set of circumstances but if you switch to a different way of thinking about it, perhaps a ‘how’ question, not ‘well that’s just the way it is’ to ‘how could I make this different?’ Well, now there’s some possibilities or some opportunities. And that’s true about clutter or anything else in your life that how you’re thinking about it is perhaps what’s holding you back.
There’s another way that we think about clutter; I’ll get to it someday. Well, you know what they say, someday is not a day on the calendar. But when we say ‘I’ll get to that someday’ really what we’re saying is ‘I’m not going to get to it’. It’s ‘I’ve stuck that off in the future in some place that I’ll probably never get to’. So why bother? Why bother doing this clutter thing because yeah, it’s going to take maybe a shift in thinking, it’s going to take some focus, it’s gonna perhaps be challenging at points; why bother? As if seeing the negative impact of clutter isn’t enough motivation for you, then how about a couple of these positive things that might happen when you declutter your stuff and your heart and your mind.
One, you are going to create more space; when you declutter you make more space. So what are you making space for? Well, one you can make space for abundant thinking. The thinking that I actually have enough; I have enough, I am enough, this is enough. That is a powerful place. You don’t need more because you have enough, you are enough. And that only gets created when we have space to allow that kind of thinking to come in. Maybe you’re going to create some more space for opportunity to actually become visible. Because I guarantee that there are opportunities right in front of your face, this minute that you can’t see because of the clutter. And maybe you’re going to create some space for taking a risk or stretching a little bit because when you feel stuck or overwhelmed, there’s no space for something new. So if the negative stuff isn’t motivating than maybe some of that positive stuff is motivating about when you have more space, what might happen.
So for now, as always, let me leave you with a little ‘being and doing’ homework; something to think about and something to try. Grab a pen write it down. It’s always in the show notes. We like to do some homework because it’s great that you’re listening but now you need to work with this in some way. So here goes, something to think about. Your reflection question for today is, what’s the cost of clutter in my life? And be honest with yourself.
And something to try, let yourself experience the full impact of the stuff that you’ve got piled up in your space and in your heart and in your mind and make a list of all the way that clutter is holding you back in your life. And that will help you wake up to the toll that maybe it’s taking and that needs to happen before you can begin to make some sustainable changes. So something to do or something to try is to just make this list of what is all of the impacts of the different kinds of clutter that I have?
Now, next time we’re going to tackle invisible clutter in your life. Not the physical stuff yet. Yeah, I know you all want to get to the stuff. That’s coming in Part 3, I promise you. I believe that the clutter that you have in your mind and your heart just might be the biggest obstacle to getting rid of the physical clutter in your life. So be sure to tune in to learn about the clutter that you can’t see and why it has such a powerful effect. And you’re going to want to stick with me all the way to Part 3 of this series because, at the end of it, I’m going to share my Ultimate Guide to Clearing the Clutter as my gift to you. So, until then, lovely ones, pause, breathe and enjoy your day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.